Friday, July 31, 2009

Oahu Shaved Ice Review

In June the family vacationed on Oahu. As usual, we stayed with family in Nu'uanu off the Pali Highway. We were there for almost 2 weeks which allowed ample time to sample the great local food - especially shaved ice! We needed it because it was HOT - almost a record breaking string of days near 90 degrees. (Sorry for the low quality Blackberry phone picture above!).

You can get shaved ice almost anywhere in Honolulu but the local's know where to go baby! The following are the most popular and include my tasting notes. (FYI, this is a non-exhaustive list).

Shimazu Store (aka B&S). Google Map.
I was only recently told about this place. Holy smokes, didn't know what I was missing and such a short drive from the house to boot! Parking can be difficult to find here because it's on a busy street, but at worst you can park down at Foodland and walk back half a block. Be aware that School Street is one way.

Shimazu's sizes are off the charts! The large (my normal purchase) is almost as big as a person's head - you might be able to find an image on my Facebook page.
The server was pouring syrup on the cone forever to compensate. I called it a meal of ice - nice if you are trying to lose a few pounds - but a person can get tired of eating ice. The quantity of ice did require quite a bit of time to finish.

Their ice tends to be loosely packed and coarser compared to the others on this list. The flavors are good and dense but they get drawn into the center of the cone fairly quickly and you have to suffer through the plain ice on the outside to get at the good stuff. I started dropping ice "accidentally" to get to the flavor core. Verdict, good if I'm near home or I want some variety, otherwise it's Waiola. They do have some cool t-shirts for sale though.

Waiola Store. Google Map.
Waiola serves the shaved ice by which all others are judged IMHO. The store has been here forever and they just recently cut a second serving window out of their wall to accomodate demand. It is so popular that people pull up at all hours during the day and frequently park illegally to get their fix. They bought an adjacent parking lot in recent years so this is less of an issue.
(Their Kapahulu store has closed BTW).

Waiola's ice is the best! Very soft and light but packed tightly. They have a HUGE variety of flavors so you could spend a week here without having the same combination. They also offer a wide variety of ice-related desserts - not just the standard cone. I could eat here everyday, and on previous trips, I have.

Matsumoto's. Google Map.
This is a North Shore institution. If we drive up past Haleiwa we go to Matsumoto's. There is always a line because people think the same way we do - if you're driving up past Haleiwa... Can't imagine what this place is like when the Triple Crown is running!

The ice coarseness is between Shimazu and Waiola and the overall size was very comfortable to eat in a reasonable amount of time. The ice is packed more tightly than Shimazu which probably helped keep the flavor on the outside a bit more. Their flavors are on-par with Waiola tastewise, but I think Wailoa has more overall variety. However, Matsumoto's was the most generous with the ice cream and azuki (cooked red beans) - yum!

Another thing worth mentioning is their great t-shirt section. They had tons of designs and a few were quite desireable (non-touristy). Unfortunately, almost every one that I was interested in was out of stock.

John's Groceries. Google Map.
This place is literally a hop, skip, and jump from where we usually stay on Oahu. It really is a neat little neighborhood shop in Nu'uanu. Something you'd never expect in a residential area. Never knew it was here until my wife's brother mentioned it last year. Had to try it.

The overall impression is unremarkable, but not bad. I think the key selling point for me is that I could walk there any time I needed to get shaved ice. One negative is that they aren't always open. I walked over there in the hot afternoon sun one day only to find them closed. WHAT???!!! I wouldn't write the place off of course because we are talking about shaved ice here. :)

Hope you can use this on your next adventure to Oahu. If you hear of another place I absolutely must try please share it with me!


studio 3511 photography by nicole seu said...

thanks for the shave ice tips! and if matsumotos has a line down the parking lot... as usual... try aoki's next door. theirs is just as good & the lines are a lot smaller! hope to see you guys out here again real soon.

Karl said...

I've always wanted to try Aoki's! Next time...