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in Lakeview or Belmont on the Red line

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Cloud 9

View Map604 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Tel: (773) 857-1255
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Editorial Review of Cloud 9

Interested in joining the Mile High Club? Forget the plane ticket, becoming a member just got simpler. Lakeview residents so far enjoy life in the stratosphere, even after just one visit to the spontaneous snow-ice shop dubbed Cloud 9. Oh, you'll be floating, all right.

Family duo Gawin and Kenny Tsai took their love of the treat, bringing it over an entire ocean and half the country all the way from Taiwan. Xue-hua-bing (the official translation for snow-ice) composes a hybrid of shaved ice and ice cream. Hear one checkout girl chant, "So it's creamy like ice cream, made with non-fat dairy and we only use real fruit for the flavor." Another one cherry-tops her speech, saying, "Each bowl is only 140 calories and point-five grams of fat."

Flavors include mango, strawberry and vanilla and come drizzled with syrups made of real fruit. An additional 69 cents gets one a preferred topping. Choose from crunchy peanuts, crumbled cookies, or stick with fresh-cut fruits like kiwi and banana. To keep within the 140-calorie promise, go for the snack size, $3.79 (regular $4.79).

The colorful arrangements flatter the surrounding floor plan with multi-colored orbs blobbing from the ceiling and lighting up the room. Golden hardwood serves as a coaster for the many glass-topped tables linked with orange plastic seating throughout an ample space. And walls of buttery vanilla, white and plum seal the bubbly appeal.

The verdict? Being one of three venues in the country (and Chicago's first) whipping up these fluffy concoctions, we praise them for innovation. While the shop's name should've tipped us off, we weren't expecting such an airy quality; you hear ice cream, you think ice cream. We went for the mango drizzled in strawberry sprinkled with chopped strawberries. The feathery texture (think cotton candy) distracted us from the flavor, making the mango only distinguishable once melted.

Service-wise, Cloud 9 earns an A+ for a friendly and educational crew.

Average cost: <$10

Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez

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noon-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Directions to Cloud 9

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chicago, metromix