28 September, 2022, 08:26

9 totally chill places to scoop up shaved ice & other frozen treats

Oh-so-refreshing shaved ice confections to keep you cool in summer.

To call summer in Tucson “hot” feels like a bit of an understatement.

After all, you’ve probably seen the memes equating our beloved city to a fiery pit complete with melted ice cream trucks and scorched earth. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any hotter, monsoon season ushers in a lingering humidity that’s enough to keep anyone chained to their AC until further notice.

Is there any relief from the Tucson heat?

Luckily, a few local joints have stepped up to the plate with some much-needed refreshment in the form of shaved ice and other frosty menu items.

Here are a few favorites to try when you’re desperate to keep your cool.

Philly Ice at Raptor Canyon Cafe

75 E. Pennington St.
Rainbow Philly Ice at Raptor Canyon Cafe

Rainbow Philly Ice at Raptor Canyon Cafe (photo by Dana Sullivan)

If you find yourself wandering around downtown in a heat-induced daze, stop by Raptor Canyon Cafe to cool off with a scoop of Philly ice.

What is Philadelphia ice, you ask? Similar to Italian ice, this frozen dessert features a smoother consistency that’s blended with flavors like watermelon, coconut, cotton candy and cherry.

Even better? The family owned and operated restaurant plans on handing out free samples once school is back in session.

For more information, visit raptorcanyoncafe.com.

Boba Snow at Bing’s Boba Tea

2510 N. Campbell Ave.
Boba Snow at Bing's Boba Tea

Boba Snow at Bing’s Boba Tea (Photo by Dana Sullivan)

Boba fans will melt when they experience the extensive lineup of icy-cool options at Bing’s Boba Tea—specifically the snow smoothies.

These creamy, ice-blended drinks are made with your choice of milk (fat free, soy, almond or coconut) and come in a long list of flavors like Horchata Snow, Matcha Green Tea Snow, Piña Colada Snow and even Avocado Snow.

The boba destination also offers an array of other refreshing drinks such as milk-free slush and regular iced boba tea.

For more information, visit bingsbobatea.com.

Louisiana Snowballs at Sonoran Snoballs

Food Truck
Sonoran Snowballs truck

Sonoran Snoballs truck (Photo courtesy of Sonoran Snoballs on Facebook)

Since snow is a rare occurrence in the southwest, Sonoran Snoballs owners John and Stacey decided to bring their own—from New Orleans, no less.

Served out of a food truck-style trailer for over 25 years, their Louisiana snowballs come in over 50 flavors and are made using authentic syrup from New Orleans.

John recommends the coconut-raspberry Dragon’s Blood, while other popular flavors include Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate, Grape and Blueberry.

The snoball truck is currently located (July/August 2019) in front of The Hut on Fourth Avenue. It’s open from 2 – 8 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and 2 – 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Keep up with Sonoran Snoballs AZ on Facebook.

Italian Ice at Mustache Mike’s

5733 E. Speedway Blvd.
Italian Ice at Mustache Mike’s

Juicy Rancher Italian Ice at Mustache Mike’s (Photo by Dana Sullivan)

Italian ice might be a frozen classic, but Mustache Mike’s is anything but traditional.

Flavors boast playful names like Big Daddy, a cherry, pineapple and orange swirl, and Juicy Rancher, a sour apple, lemon and watermelon mix.

Their location is pretty unexpected too, with a stand located inside of Mad Titan Toys and a mobile service available for events all over town.

For more information, visit mustachemikesaz.com.

Nomico Special at Nomico Healthy Dessert

595 E. Wetmore Rd.
Nomico Special at Nomico Healthy Dessert (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Nomico Special at Nomico Healthy Dessert (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Freeze—we’ve found a healthier way to cool off at Nomico Healthy Dessert.

Specializing in lighter treats made in house with real fruit and no artificial flavors or colors, this Hong Kong franchise is all about unique menu items, like the Nomico Special. This particular dessert hails from Taiwan and features a bowl full of shaved ice and taro balls for an unconventional way to beat the heat.

Keep up with Nomico Healthy Dessert on Facebook.

Halo-Halo at Nick’s Sari Sari Store

2001 S. Craycroft Rd.
Halo-halo at Nick's Sari-Sari Store and Filipino Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Halo-halo at Nick’s Sari-Sari Store and Filipino Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

More than just a market, Nick’s Sari Sari Store is a hub for Filipino food and specialty items. One such item is the refreshing halo-halo, a popular dessert that hails from the Philippines and features a mix of shaved ice, evaporated milk, ice cream, sweet beans, gulaman (agar jelly) and various fruits.

Keep up with Nick’s Sari-Sari Store and Filipino Restaurant on Facebook.

Bingsoo at HeeMee Coffee + Bakery

20 E. Congress St., Ste. 110
Bingsoo at HeeMee Coffee + Bakery

Green Tea Bingsoo at HeeMee Coffee + Bakery (Photo by Dana Sullivan)

Talk about cool—this newly launched Korean bakery and cafe offers a shaved ice dessert worthy of your Instagram feed.

Known as bingsoo, the summer-ready treat features a mound of shaved ice that is traditionally topped with red beans and condensed milk. HeeMee, however, made it modern with a rotating selection of toppings and flavors.

The Green Tea Bingsoo, for example, is served with a scoop of green tea ice cream, mochi, almonds and red beans. The dessert also comes in Strawberry, Mango and Oreo varieties.

For more information, visit heemeebakery.com.

Hawaiian Shaved Ice at Tropical Shavings

Food truck

Tropical Shavings takes refreshment on the road, serving Hawaiian shaved ice in 24 flavors out of a food truck.

Made using Hawaiian cane sugar and real fruit extract, these icy delights can also be topped with ice cream or a sweetened milk mixture called a snowcap. Visit Tropical Shavings on Facebook for location updates.

For more information, visit tropicalshavings.com.


Fresh Fruit Sonoran Sno-Cone (Credit: Sonoran Sno-Cones)

Fresh Fruit Sonoran Sno-Cone (Credit: Sonoran Sno-Cones)

We couldn’t write a shaved ice article without mentioning raspados, the beloved “Mexican snow cones” made with fresh fruit, juice, ice cream and lechera.

At Sonoran Sno-Cones, located in Mercado San Agustin, you can customize your raspado to your heart’s content by choosing your flavors (including mango, pineapple, coconut, tamarind and more) and adding toppings like condensed milk, rielito, and saladitos. You can even opt to make it sour with lime juice and chamoy.

In fact, there are so many places to scoop up this local favorite that we had to include all 19 of the Best Raspado Spots in Tucson.

From GeMa Raspados & Delights in northwest Tucson to Peñas and Raspados El Paraiso on East 22nd Street, there’s no shortage of ways to cool down around town.

Have a favorite spot for frozen treats? Let us know in the comments.

Dana Sullivan is a content writer and editor with a passion for food, fitness, and fashion. Originally from the East Coast, she's currently exploring/eating her way through Tucson one restaurant at a time.