Snowball fight! With dog-days of summer are nipping at our heels, finding a frozen refreshment that tickles our fancy while quenching our thirst is a home run. Shave ice is hardly a new invention, yet it’s gaining popularity with kids for its flavor versatility. Grownups love it for its compact preparation, easy-on-the-hips caloric content, and overall fun factor. But this is not your father’s Sno-Cone. Large blocks of deeply-frozen ice are lightly shaved to create a flaky, soft-packed base for an endless variety of flavored syrups and fruit; concoctions of toppings are limited only by the imagination. While mobile service dominates the offerings in So Cal, a few notable brick and mortar mainstays are worth the trip. And come prepared with cold, hard cash, as plastic payment is generally prohibited.
Bin Bin Konjac
The display counter at Bin Bin Konjac (named for the chewy, zero-calorie high-fiber jelly derived from Konjac root) offers little visual enticement to its authentic Taiwanese ‘snow ice.’ This Asian specialty is traditionally prepared with fruit choices such as lychee, mango and pineapple generously covering the bottom of the bowl, topped with freshly shaved ice, drizzled with brown sugar syrup; for the full sugar-alert, add a little sweetened condensed milk to balance the molasses. The bowls are big enough to feed at least two grown adults or three little ones. Purely takeout, though the nearby strip mall stores are fun to window-shop while finishing off every bit of liquid.
651 W. Duarte Road, Suite E
Opened by three childhood friends in the Japanese neighborhood off Sawtelle, Blockheads brings Taiwanese snow cream to the Westside. Lines can be long at peak evening hours, so bring a book for the kiddies to color while waiting. Different in texture and taste to the icier versions of this confection, Blockheads uses frozen flavored low fat ice milk, shaved into feathery light ribbons that look as delicate as they taste. Choose a base – original (creamy vanilla) green tea, black sesame, taro or kid-friendly strawberry – then top with choices ranging from rainbow sprinkles and brownie bites to egg pudding or grass jelly. Drizzles complete the creation, with fresh coconut puree and smooth caramel sauce as samplings. The regular size is enough for a parent & child to share, while the large will satisfy a family of four. Indoor-outdoor seating with large picture windows allow a firsthand view of the lively street scene.
11311 Mississippi Avenue
photo courtesy of edenpictures on Flickr
Brian’s Shave Ice
As anyone who’s visited Hawaii knows, shave ice is serious business, and Brian’s has recreated the beachside shack in this Sawtelle storefront. Their easy-to handle kid’s size lets everyone concoct his/her own unique creation. Pick a filling for the bottom of the bowl – mochi is a fave, as it hardens and becomes a chewy candy-like treat. Then choose three flavor syrups; extras added for just 25 cents each – with over three dozen choices at any given time, multiple visits may be mandatory. Add a ‘snow cap’ of sweetened condensed milk or Ghirardelli chocolate. The family-friendly atmosphere with in-store seating makes Brian’s an instant classic.
11301 Olympic Blvd #103 (entrance on Sawtelle)
A local franchise based in Chatsworth, Frootsii is best known for its cupcakes and boba. Their shaved ice is distinct from Hawaiian shave ice in its texture, as they use chunkier pieces of ice, much like the snow cones nostalgic of school carnivals. The island-inspired flavors include combos such as Sour Maui (Sour Apple, Lemon Deelite, Lime) and Aruba Affair (Passion Fruit, Mango, Orange Pineapple). Tiger’s Blood is a Hawaiian mainstay favored by the younger set, with its hints of strawberry and coconut, much like a virgin colada. If the ice doesn’t please, there’s self-serve fro-yo as Plan B.
9843 Topanga Canyon Blvd
14318 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, 91423
One of the first Hawaiian shave ice establishments in the area, Get Shaved serves both the North Valley and South Bay. It started as a food truck back in 2008, but now you can queue up early at any of the 3 bustling locations for the popular treats, available in 4 sizes – UFO, small, medium, and large. Each has ice cream goodies on the bottom, with 3 flavors (sugar-free is available too!) and a topping. Pico de gallo powder adds a surprisingly pleasant counterpoint to the typical sweetness. Blue bubblegum and watermelon make kiddos smile, while sophisticated foodies may favor Lilikoi (passion fruit) or Li Hing Mui (salted dried plum). Either way, there are plenty of choices – and seats. Mobile whereabouts are updated on Twitter.
18641 Devonshire St
Northridge, CA 91324
9255 Reseda Blvd
Northridge, CA 91324
A relative newcomer on the mobile scene, Halei’iwa brings the North Shore of Hawaii to the streets of LA. Currently offering 32 flavors, made in the islands, including the juicy POG (passion-orange-guava) that pairs perfectly with almost every fruit flavor. Specializing in events, their truck can be booked for a birthday party at the park or a backyard BBQ at reasonable rates. Check their website for the truck’s weekly schedule.
Ice Ice Shavie
The brainchild of an events coordinator of a liqueur brand and a top local mixologist, Ice Ice Shavie uses kid-friendly 100% natural flavors sure to please the parental palate. Their single-size artisanal fluffy mixtures bear whimsical monikers like sweet Bananarama (banana, tamarind, vanilla) and Funky Cold Orangina (orange, Lemon Verbena & Malt) or savory such as Fresh Prince of Bel Pear (poached pear, allspice, nutmeg) and Slim Shavie (pineapple, cilantro & jalepeno). Now solely on the streets, Ice Ice Shavie can be found at local events and farmers’ markets all over town. Follow their tweets for their current location.
A traditional Chinese snack shop in Arcadia, SinBaLa is a great stop before or after a visit to the nearby LA Arboretum. Their slush drinks are refreshingly light, with the consistency of snow melting mixed with fruit flavors like kiwi and honey lemon. The shave ice is of the chunky variety and comes in one size which will feed a basketball team after practice. Create your own with up to five items in the dish – a recent visit mixed pineapple with flan, boba, rice balls and peanuts – topped with a mound of icy pellets and brown sugar syrup poured over it. This restaurant setting offers a full menu of noodles, soups and snacks as well.
651 W. Duarte Road, #F
From the co-founder of the Kogi taco truck, Snow Monkey launched as a mall shop in Canoga Park and is now exclusively available for catering and events. Like the proprietor’s other culinary ventures, Snow Monkey takes an offbeat approach to shave ice, infusing purified water with flavorings such as Aiya green tea, cotton candy, red velvet and mango lychee. The shaved product resembles fluffy ribbons of colorful cream, with toppings of crushed fortune cookies and Pocky sticks as crunchy finishes. A great bet for a family fete with kiddos of all ages. Special requests are readily accommodated. Inquire through their website for specifics.
What’s your favorite way to cool off and quench your summer thirst?
— Kim Orchen Cooper