Just in time for summer: the best local ice cream shops

After months of freezing temperatures, anything above 30 degrees feels like springtime. So while you consider rolling your windows down despite the threat of cold weather bleeding into April, consider taking a moment to visit some local ice cream shops to convince you of the false sense of security this deceptively warm weather provides. 

The staff of The Trojan Times took the liberty of taste-testing ice cream from Julie Ann’s in Crystal Lake, Peacetime in Fox River Grove, and Cary Dairy (in Cary — duh) so you wouldn’t have to. We scored each ice cream on flavor and texture, and provided our consensus tasting notes below.

We started out with just the basics — each store’s vanilla. By blind taste-testing the same flavor we were able to give the most direct comparison. After that, we tried another flavor from each that was available in a pint to go.


Vanilla – Peacetime

Peacetime’s vanilla ice cream was smooth and creamy, but tended to have a lingering aftertaste that stuck to the teeth. It’s like tasting ice cream all day long. If you happen to enjoy eating cold milk with a heavy splash of vanilla, this is your go-to. 


Vanilla – Julie Ann’s

Julie Ann’s custard may have lacked in the traditional texture that ice cream has, but made up for it in other ways. The custard melts in the mouth, which strategically distracts you from the lack of vanilla, but if the underwhelming flavor of vanilla entices you, by all means try Julie Ann’s. 


Vanilla – Cary Dairy

Opening an ice cream shop in the dead of winter during a global pandemic was a bold move, but Cary Dairy does not disappoint. The novelty of being the new kid in town may have boosted initial revenue, but the blind taste-testing of all three shops proved that the newest shop in Cary can hold its own against its more seasoned competitors. Its vanilla ice cream scored highest for both texture and flavor, making it the winner for the first round. It had the subtle and complex vanilla flavor of Julie Ann’s custard, but with the creamy texture we enjoyed from Peacetime.


Caramel Collision – Peacetime

Like its vanilla counterpart, Peacetime’s caramel collision is a slap to the face with its nearly overpowering flavor. Like an overexcited child desperate to belt out a song off-key, the taste of caramel was enough to drown out literally anything else. 


Dark Chocolate Avocado – Julie Ann’s

Yes, you read that correctly. Julie Ann’s put their heads together and created exactly what we don’t need. I am an avocado enthusiast by all means, but the rich cocoa powder taste combined with the texture of an avocado gifted us with a sense of betrayal nearly as bitter as cocoa itself. Like a mom who hides spinach in brownies, this flavor of ice cream provided a fresh reminder of the trust issues you didn’t know you still harbored. 


“This $&@! Just Got Serious” – Cary Dairy 

If the implied vulgarity of the name caught your attention, then the taste will surely rope you in. Similar to Peacetime’s caramel collision, the caramel establishes itself upfront. Unlike caramel collision, however, serious had a few more elements to it, such as sea salt fudge and salted cashews. 



Our clear preference in terms of the actual ice cream was Cary Dairy, but there’s more than just the product to consider when you go out for ice cream. If you want to hang out at the store for a while with your friends or a date, you should consider the atmosphere, too.

Cary Dairy, though it earns high marks for its ice cream, is basically just a grab-and-go ice cream shop with no seating areas (at least during the pandemic).

Julie Ann’s has about 15 diner-style seats in the store under normal circumstances, but for now you have to take your ice cream outside or to go. They have a few tables and benches outside that fill up fast on warm nights.

Peacetime has the largest seating area, and it’s filled with vintage (read: heavily used) furniture and decorations. The store aims for a hippie vibe, and it definitely delivers on that, with all the positives and negatives that come with it. It’s super casual, but like most things to do with hippies, it doesn’t strike you as super clean, either.



As with many things in life, you get what you pay for with our local ice cream. Cary Dairy’s scoops will cost you about a dollar more than they do at Julie Ann’s, which is slightly more expensive than at Peacetime. It’s not a huge difference, but if you have a serious ice-cream dependency and plan to make a habit of this, it might add up over time.


Overall rankings

  1. Cary Dairy
  2. Julie Ann’s
  3. Peacetime