Sunday, April 19, 2009

Best Shave Ice - Matsumoto's vs. Wailoa

Who ever thought that sweetened frozen water could be such a delight?

In Hawaii it's called "Shave Ice"...not "Snow Cone" (ahem, mainlanders)...and that's Shave Ice without the "d".

For the past decade it's been a toss up locating the best joint for this yummy ice treat. The popular assumption is that locals head to town for Waiola, while tourists head to the North Shore for the historic Matsumoto's. The reality however is the line isn't always that clearly drawn. Locals and tourists alike give mixed thumbs up for both places. Here's my take...

The Pro's and Con's:

+ The most fine shave ice you'll ever find in the U.S. It's so delicate it just melts in your mouth. Waiola has a patented ice razor machine that's certainly worth checking out. You won't find ice any better than this.
+ They have two local establishments in the Waikiki/town area which provides easy access for tourists and local residents. (In fact, a couple friends of mine walked there from their Waikiki hotel--that's some shave ice determination!)

- On the down side, I find the syrup less potent and flavorful than their Matsumoto's.
The syrup also doesn't "stick" to the ice as much, so on occasion I feel like end up eating water.
- When you sit down on an indoor stool (Kapahulu location), there are a ton of big bugs on the window screen--unappetizing.
- Hard to find parking, and usually must sit outside on the bench to finish off your treat.
- Served in Dixie cups.
- I don't recommend getting mochi-balls at Waoili--they are tasteless and hardens in the ice.

+ In my opinion, it has the best flavored syrup on the island. The syrups are distinguishable, potent and long-lasting. There's a ton of flavors so to keep things easy you can simply order their triple flavored combos: Rainbow, Hawaiian, or Matusmotos.
+ The shave ice good ole double layered white paper cones and wooden spoons--old school classic touches. (You can pay a little extra for the plastic protector to keep the syrup and ice from running down your hands.)
+ The ice cream used here is rich, creamy, and quality stuff.
+ The syrup colors are vibrant and the workers are trained to be generous with the syrup portions. Adding condensed milk and azuki beans adds variety to an old classic, but I still prefer plain shaved ice or shave ice with ice cream inside. (Yum!)
+ I personally like nostalgic and historic places--and Mastsumoto's is an old time grocery store that first opened in 1951. A North Shore landmark, they and are celebrating their 60th anniversary. Congratulations!

- On the down side, it's a far drive to the Northern part of the island just for shave ice.
- Parking is either on the muddy lot next door, or street parking on the street perpendicular to the joint.
- Long lines--not fun on hot days, and the last thing you want to do after the long car ride to the North Shore. (The long lines keep Matsumoto's next door competitors, Aoki, in business)

My mainland friends and I vote for Matsumoto's...but to be honest, I frequent Waiola more often to due it's convenience in town. Love getting shave ice after a day at the beach or after shopping at Ala Moana Center. Either joint you choose, don't leave Hawaii without trying this local favorite!

Which shave ice place do you prefer?

Full-screenMatsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712

Waiola Shave Ice (original)
2135 Waiola Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-2269

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 735-8886


Sharon said...

Hands down we like Matsumoto's the best! But the convenience of Waiola' I heard on furlough Friday they are offering 25 cent shave ice! Probably be heading there today!

BTW - another really good place to get shave ice is Baldwin's - over in Pearl City. Ask for the snow cap! :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not a shave ice connoisseur, but I liked Ailana in Waikiki. The strawberry milk (homemade flavor) with condensed milk tasted like ice cream but so much lighter! I don't typically like tropical fruits, but the lilikoi was also yummy. My friend loved their ujikintoki, which is green tea with azuki beans, mochi, vanilla ice cream and condensed milk. the mochi is amazing! It is (and stays) soooooo soft. The owners are really nice, too. We went every day after we found it. The only problem is access. Although it's behind the Ala Moana Mall, the parking lot is tiny, it's on a street with an island, so you can only enter driving West.