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Chicago's Hidden Gems: Lincoln Square shop offers a taste of gelato with sideshow

Chicago's Hidden Gems: Sideshow Gelato in Lincoln Square
Chicago's Hidden Gems: Sideshow Gelato in Lincoln Square 05:10

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Where can you get great gelato and a sideshow worthy of a circus - jugglers, a contortionist, and all? We found a place in Lincoln Square; it's one of Chicago's hidden gems.

There's juggling, a table that floats in mid-air thanks to a ghost named George, and acts that will keep you on pins and needles; and, oh yes, gelato!

Sideshow Gelato in Lincoln Square is just what the name says, gelato with a show.

"We'll do a magic trick for you, or two. We'll juggle for you. We have a contortionist on staff," owner owner Jay Bliznick said.

How did Bliznick come up with the idea?

"I'm nuts. I'm completely out of my mind. I mean, who in their right mind would serve ice cream and have a Fiji mermaid in the same place?" he said.

Bliznick said, aside from the fun, there's history in these walls.

"It used to be every carnival in the circus had the sideshow on the midway, where you could see fabulous people doing amazing things, and unusual things you can't see anywhere else," he said.

But back to the gelato. Bliznick took us to where the other magic happens.

"This is the kitchen. This is where I make all the gelato," he said. "I make everything myself."

With flavors like dark chocolate with blueberry jam and cayenne pepper, the exact recipes are secret. CBS 2's Joe Donlon saw them, but our cameraman couldn't, and the operation is pretty low maintenance.

"Yes, I wash my own stuff, folks. What; and give up show biz?" Bliznick said.

A former restaurant chef, Bliznick said he fell in love with gelato on a family trip to Italy. He took lessons from a master gelato maker, but it as a hard start.

"I messed up so many times that at one point I found myself standing ankle deep in gelato, just bawling my eyes out, going 'I don't know how I'm going to do this,'" he said.

But he's done it well enough to attract the attention of magic and gelato lover Penn Gillette, of Penn and Teller.

Bliznick sent Gillette samples of his vegan gelato, and not only did he like it, he became an investor, and wants to visit.

"Penn wants to get behind the counter and scoop gelato," Bliznick said. "There's going to be gelato everywhere, I just know it."

Out front, juggler Professor Pinkerton is wowing a very tough crowd.

"This, in itself, would entertain most people, but I know you guys are sophisticated, refined, and have the internet," he told a group of kids visiting the shop.

What makes this all work?

"A lot of willingness to make the world a little wackier, a little goofier; the belief if you do something that's a little off-kilter, and take a chance on your dreams, people respond well to that energy," Pinkerton said.

Gelato scooper and magician Dylan Snow said he took a chance on his dream, and it was an easy choice.

"This is my dream; I mean, to entertain you is my passion," Snow said.

For the savvy customers, the most difficult choice is which of the nearly two-dozen flavors to try first. But Eliza knows what she wants.

"I want the surprise one," she said. "I already had it before."

"We're not doing burlesque. We're not doing an adult magic show. We're doing stuff for the family," Bliznick said. "I think I thought that's probably what would make it work. Ice cream and a show."

Sideshow Gelato is located at 4819 N. Western Av. in Lincoln Square.

Bliznick said it's important for him to give back to the community. Every month, a different charity is featured, and he hopes his scoopers will one day move on from the shop to take their experiences here on road for their performing careers.

If you know about a hidden gem, a person who's doing great things for others or a cool place off the beaten path, let us know by sending us a tip.

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