Hidden custard and gelato stands make for a sweet surprise

You'd expect to find ice cream at an ice cream shop, or custard at a custard stand. But there are a few hidden treats downtown in places you might not expect at first. From made-from-scratch gelato to a custard operation in a hospital, you just have to know where to look.

While the kitchen makes its pasta, passersby are probably racing down Ohio Street on the way to somewhere else, making Sapori Antichi is practically invisible. Even more surprising, there's a serious gelateria tucked inside, in the middle of the dining room.

"Bought a machine, I invested in ingredients. I was given a small base recipe which I could build my own from. I said anywhere that I go, I have to have gelato," said Chef Michael Meranda.

Meranda makes about a dozen flavors. One of them - frutti di bosco - is made from all kinds of seasonal berries, water and sugar combined in a giant immersion blender.

15 minutes after the mixture is poured into his machine, it emerges as a creamy, satisfying dessert. Gelato is sandwiched between brioche here, heated for 13 seconds, then dusted with powdered sugar.

Meranda also roasts coffee beans in-house, transforming them from green to deep brown. He uses them to create a smooth, creamy coffee gelato. Guests can watch as it's made right in front of them, thanks to his unique machine.

"I wanted to give them the opportunity to be a part of what's important to me. So I wanted the guests to have the opportunity to see how it's made," he said.

Up on the second floor of the Feinberg Pavilion at Northwestern Hospital, hidden away in a Burrito Beach outpost, is a custard shop where whole milk, cream and eggs are combined throughout the day.

"Burrito Beach was founded here in Chicago, and we have Midwestern roots," said owner Greg Schulson. "And even though we are Chicago-based and have a beach theme, we felt that the custard concept would work well with us."

Schulson says they typically make one flavor - in this case, vanilla - which can be served in cones and dressed up, or placed into cups with mix-ins to be churned and blended into a concrete.

The location of this dessert option may come as a surprise, but the locals don't seem to mind.

"We have a lot of folks from the neighborhood that come into the hospital now who say they're going to the hospital to get some ice cream," he said.

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Sapori Antichi
22 W. Ohio St., Chicago


Burrito Beach
251 E. Huron St., Chicago
Feinberg Pavilion, 2nd Floor
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