When I recall summer break during childhood, I remember that eating freeze cups brought so much joy. The freeze cup lady lived next door to my parents for several years. For 25 cents we would go to her freezer and choose our treat. We’d get a styrofoam cup filled with our choice of frozen fruit punch, orange juice or grape juice, syrup, and ice. I have fond memories of savoring these sweet treats sitting on outside with my siblings and cousins. Years later while living in Birmingham, I learned of another summertime must-have that evokes the same type of nostalgia for New Orleans natives. Eight years ago I experienced my first New Orleans style sno-ball. (Sno-balls are much softer and easier to eat than freeze cups.) Since then, enjoying New Orleans-style sno-balls in the Magic City has become a regular part of my family’s summer traditions.
What is a Sno-ball?
Sno-balls have their origin in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to Visit New Orleans , a sno-ball is “fluffy shaved ice flavored with sweet syrups topped or stuffed with a number of mix-ins and add-ons.” Sno-balls are available seasonally during the warmest months of the year. Thankfully, we have a number of local spots to patronize for a taste of sno-balls authentic to the Crescent City. I invite you to pack your crew for a family outing to find these cool treats on a hot day. Three of our favorite locations are featured below:
1. Chelsea Sno-Shack
Chelsea Sno-Shack is a family owned small business located on 11728 Chelsea Road. The Ellis family has operated this bright multicolored building since 2014. Convenient parking, picnic tables with umbrellas for shade, an open play area, and friendly staff make this a wonderful place to sit and enjoy sno-balls. Mom-preneur Latresha Ellis recalls her husband Jack’s childhood memories of selling sno-balls out of his dad’s grocery store in New Orleans. This influence was pivotal in their decision to open the Sno-Shack. They offer soft, powdery, ice with flavors like Blue Lagoon, Buttery Passion, Superman, Strawberries n Cream, and Sunset. I promise you won’t be disappointed in these sno-balls packed with flavor from the top of the cup to the bottom.
2. Who Dat Snoballs
Brandy Williams and family relocated from New Orleans to Birmingham in 2005 after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Their longing for New Orleans snoballs inspired the opening of Who Dat Snoballs & Food. This food truck offers cuisine including gumbo, red beans & rice, nachos, and, of course, Snoballs. These snoballs do exactly as advertised since they “literally melt in your mouth.” Over fifty flavors, including sugar-free options, are available. Candy Apple, Mango, and Strawberry Lemonade are some of my personal favorites. My kids tried gummi bears on top of their ice at their first Who Dat Snotballs visit and now they expect gummi bears every time. The food truck frequents neighborhoods in McCalla, the Hoover area, The Market at Pepper Place, and other areas around greater Birmingham. You can find their scheduled locations on their social media pages.
3. NOLA Ice: Original New Orleans Sno-balls
NOLA Ice has a bright yellow truck that can be spotted at many events near Downtown and Southside. You’re very likely to find them at sporting events, area schools, parks, or company events, with a line of customers anticipating the cups of “soft ice shaved twice”. Owner Kelli Caulfield has New Orleans roots and grew up in the Magic City. Her cravings for sno-balls lead to the opening of NOLA Ice in 2011. As of Spring 2021, their sno-balls may also be purchased at Broad Street Peaux Boys + NOLA Ice in The Pizitz Food Hall. Unique flavor combinations like Dill Pickle and Silver Fox will have you looking forward to not only eating the sno-ball but drinking the juice in the bottom.
Second to taste, one of the best features of getting sno-balls is how affordable they are. As a family of five, we enjoy sno-balls for $20-30. Another great feature is how customizable they are to your preferences. With the vast menu options, we always have fun exploring new syrup flavors with cream or with condensed milk, with gummy bears or without. Lastly, for those of us with dairy sensitivities, sno-balls are a great alternative to ice cream on these scorching days of summer.