How often does it snow in Phoenix? Natives and long-time residents will usually say there’s noticeable snowfall in the heart of the metropolitan area about once a decade, usually with a fine layer of white powder melting soon after contact with the ground. Outlying areas at higher elevations see a little more, and it’s not uncommon to see white peaks among the Mazatzal and Superstition mountains in the distance. In the Evans Churchill neighborhood at the north end of Downtown Phoenix, snow is now falling on a regular basis in the form of frozen desserts.
For Snoh Ice Shavery, this new location four blocks from the Roosevelt / Central light rail station is a follow-up to an original site on Camelback Road. Still, the downtown site is the larger one and doesn’t feel like it’s playing second fiddle. Despite an address on Second Street, Snoh’s entrance actually faces McKinley. Its space, relatively large for a dessert emporium, is in an updated strip building that also houses the Cobra Arcade Bar and the Antique Sugar vintage clothing store. A Grid Bike Share station is out front, and several bike racks are found in the small parking lot.
To navigate Snoh’s downtown ice den, proceed first to a display screen by the entrance. That will explain the three steps involved in Snoh’s core product, shaved ice. The first step is an ice flavor. The most neutral is milk cream, but others involve more distinctive flavors such as red velvet, coconut, mango, black sesame, chocolate, or pistachio. The second step is toppings like mochi, boba, cereal, sprinkles, pudding, or custard. The final stage is the addition of a glaze. Choices include Nutella, condensed milk, black sesame, butterscotch, chocolate, and caramel.
Once those selections have made, a counter lies around the corner as one moves along the perimeter of the open kitchen that dominates the room. That’s where a visitor either places an order or asks questions of the staff. Questions are understandable since Snoh’s namesake product, which lies somewhere between ice cream, frozen yogurt, and a snow cone in terms of texture, is uncommon in Phoenix. In addition, many of the ice flavors and toppings are rooted in east Asian food traditions and may be unfamiliar to customers used to American ice cream.
Snoh’s signature shaved ice is offered in small, regular, and large sizes. Although shaved ice is less filling than ice cream, most customers will be just fine with a small, particularly when toppings and a glaze are involved. By default, all small cups come with the customer’s choice of one topping and one glaze. Regular and medium cups include a second topping at no cost, and additional choices can be added for small free. The best value and an easy place to start is with a dozen “combo cups,” essentially mixes of flavors recommended by the shop’s staff.
Mango Tango uses the world’s most popular sweet fruit in three different ways: mango shaved ice, mango pudding, and fresh mango when available. The only non-mango component is a caramel glaze. Purple Fusion starts with a base flavored with the Asian root vegetable taro and then adds layers of almond pudding and crumbled almond cookies, all topped by condensed milk. Thai Chew uses tea flavored ice mixed with two types of “chew,” mochi balls and boba, and a black sesame glaze. Of course, customers can experiment with flavors, toppings, and glazes as they see fit.
Snoh offers an array of non-dairy slushies, milk teas, and iced teas. All can be ordered “half sweet” — generally a good idea. The drinks can all be augmented with toppings such as boba with the requisite wide straws provided. The final item on the menu is brick toast, an Asian dessert made from thick slices of spongy white bread topped with vanilla ice cream and ingredients such as bananas and honey. The result is roughly comparable to a sundae served over French toast. More than anything else on the menu, it’s a filling dessert best shared by at least two people.
The shop’s pleasant decor includes a large table full of artifacts ranging from a chess board to an hourglass, an assortment of board games, and strip of turf outside in back that cries out to be turned into a bocce court. These amenities invite the visitor to stay, but everything can also be packaged to go. Phoenix is never going to be a snowy city, but many of the flavors and toppings at Snoh Ice Shavery originate in equally warm climates. Despite, or maybe because of the hot weather here, a snowy place for frozen dessert seems right at home in the Sonoran desert.
801 N. 2nd St., Phoenix AZ 85004
Roosevelt / Central Station