I have a confession to make. I like soft serve ice cream. I love frozen custard. But my heart really belongs to regular, traditional ice cream. Preferably in a sugar cone.
So that makes Graham’s Fine Chocolates & Ice Cream one of my favorite spots in the Fox Valley. Many of you have probably already been there, but for the few who have not, it’s a spot to put on your must-do list before summer ends. Although Graham’s remains open year round, your first visit should really involve humidity, ice cream, napkins and one of the shop’s signature white Adirondack chairs.
Graham’s is located in a 140-year-old house on Geneva’s Third Street, a short walk from the Metra station. It’s been in the current location for about 20 years, but actually opened in 1987 kiddie-corner across the street, in the Berry Shops.
The store is owned by Robert Untiedt, a former music teacher, and his wife Beckie, a musician. Their backgrounds probably explain why you’ll often seen flyers for cultural and music-related events hanging in the store, which is decorated with antiques and memorabilia.
Graham’s also has a small retail shop in Wheaton where ice cream and chocolates are sold. And just a few houses down from the Geneva Graham’s is Graham’s 318, a coffeehouse where you’ll also find sandwiches, soups, gelato, baked goods and chocolate fondue. Yes, chocolate fondue.
But back to the original location. What was likely once a front porch is now a glass-encased candy kitchen where you can often see workers creating delights like caramel-covered apples, toffee, pretzel twists, chocolate-covered strawberries and skalies. (Skalies are roasted, salted pecans smothered in caramel and chocolate and named after a Swedish cartoon turtle called Skalman.) When you step inside the shop, you can either head to the left for ice cream or to the right to check out the cases filled with chocolate goodies like the ones you saw being made in the window.
As much as I love chocolate, I admit I usually step to the left. Graham’s ice cream is handmade, and the available flavors are written in marker on an erasable whiteboard. The standards like green mint chip, oreo and butter pecan are present of course, but some of the more unique offerings include double dark bitter chip, banana chip, coconut almond and of course, skalie. I think their strawberry ice cream might be the best ice cream I have ever had in my life – the strawberry flavors seem to leap into your mouth
A “tiny” sized cone costs $1.98. It’s just one scoop, but usually plenty big enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. The regular-size scoop is $2.75. The store also offers milkshakes and Italian sodas.
Graham’s is often quite busy, the area where the ice cream and candy is served is quite small and there never really is a place for a true line to form. So it’s easy for that space to get crowded. Here’s my tip if you arrive at a time that seems a bit chaotic: When you go inside, check out your fellow customers and try to remember the people who are already there ahead of you. As the store’s (usually quite friendly and young) staff becomes available, they make it a point to offer to serve the next group – instead of the next person in line, a system I personally like. But the staff members often don’t know who that next group is – so just make sure to speak up when you know it’s your turn. That’s better than silently seething that someone butted ahead, right? And even if someone does get ahead of you, it will just give you more time to decide if you really want a scoop of the wild cherry, or the brownie, or the chocolate peanut butter chip.
After you get your ice cream, you can sit at one of the small tables or on the bench in what was the entryway to the house. But a much better option when the weather is decent is to go outside and snag one of wooden Adirondack chairs that are spread out in front of the house and on the sides.
There you can sit back, hopefully relax and engage in some great people watching while your children enjoy their treats.
I love Graham’s not only for its ice cream, but for the whole experience it offers. The owners have found a unique way to use a very old house, and its popularity lends a vibrancy to downtown Geneva at night. All the boutiques and shops might be closed, but you often will see a crowd outside Graham’s, with neighbors and friends running into each other and catching up.
And lucky for us, Graham’s is open year-round, usually until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday.