Since The Bear became a surprise hit in June, the TV drama series about a struggling Chicago Italian beef stand has sparked a fervent interest in this regional sandwich nationwide. Demand for Italian beef is up by a lot, both here in Chicago and at beef stands as far away as California, and for anyone out there in a beefless neighborhood, our local spots want you to know that they deliver. Buona, a Chicago-area chain specializing in beef, announced this week that it’s rolling out a new franchise program to expand its presence nationwide—but perhaps even more exciting is that these restaurants are bringing Chicago’s best dessert, Rainbow Cone, along with them.
Where is Buona expanding to?
According to a press release sent to The Takeout, Buona has created a new franchise partner program under Chicago’s Original Italian Beef Franchising LLC, the best name any LLC could ever hope to have. The idea is to bring new Buona locations to “high-growth markets in the Midwest, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Tennessee and Arizona.” While the announcement is timed perfectly with The Bear’s success and the spike in interest in Italian beef sandwiches, it was a move already in the works for some time.
The new locations (which, presumably, will also serve the excellent plant-based Italian Beefless) will have drive-thru options, and most exciting of all, “the potential to add an Original Rainbow Cone ice cream kiosk to complete the authentic Windy City experience.” Non-Chicagoans, it’s time we take you on a journey.
What is The Original Rainbow Cone?
Open since 1926, The Original Rainbow Cone is one of Chicago’s quieter dessert traditions, in spite of how loud the product itself appears to be. It’s as if founder Joe Sapp anticipated the Instagram era, designing a towering ice cream cone with squarish scoops of chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, orange sherbet, and Palmer House (a combination of vanilla and cherry with walnuts). If it sounds like a chaotic combination, it’s also a crowd-pleaser. Where else can you taste a time capsule of 96-year-old flavors?
Buona and Rainbow Cone have maintained a business partnership since 2019, one that has allowed the ice cream shop to expand beyond its original location with new shops connected to Buona restaurants in the Chicagoland area, as well as a kiosk at both Navy Pier and Guaranteed Rate Field where the White Sox play. (It’s well worth it to go to the original location for a cone, though—the charm is off the charts.) Now that Buona is eyeing opportunities in several more US states, Rainbow Cone is poised to grow along with it, both as a kiosk within Buona locations and as a freestanding shop in select locations.
According to a press release, one confirmed location for a new Rainbow Cone outlet is Sarasota, Florida, where the shop is slated to open in Spring 2023. “The company’s franchise program will open additional locations across Florida, including Tampa, Fort Myers, Keys and Naples,” reads the release. Floridians, you’re about to experience some of the most unique ice cream of your life.
And to all you greater Midwesterners, Texans, Coloradans, Tennesseans, and Arizonians out there: when a Buona announces plans to come to your area, make sure to harangue them about including a Rainbow Cone kiosk in the newest franchise locations. You might fall even harder for Chicago’s ice cream than for its Italian beef.