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Apr 12, 2007 11:06 AM

Philadelphia Water Ice Factory on H Street NE

I spotted this place a few months ago. It's right around the corner from Horace & Dickies on the north side of H Street. It's just a carryout window that serves ice cream and water ice (blueberry, cherry, pina colada, a dozen other flavors) but a Hill Rag article mentioned that they're serving cheesesteaks. The lady who runs the place gets her equipment and materials from Philadelphia, so the sub is served on Amoroso rolls. You can get them with American, Cheez Wiz, or provolone. The steak isn't the usual Steak-Ums stuff you find in DC carryouts. This is thin shaved ribeye. $4.50 for the half-sub (about 7") or $8.50 for the large (about 14"). They don't skimp on the meat either. My large held about a pound of meat. The bread is nice and soft and soaks up the juices quite nicely. Not as good as Al's in Del Ray, but I think they're better than the sub shop on 8th Street SE or South Street Steaks in College Park. Definitely cheaper and one of the best cheesesteaks I've had in DC. If you're clubbin on H Street, want a quick meal for the ride home, and the line at H&D is too long, give the Philadelphia Water Ice Factory a try. I'll be back.

PS: They also serve funnel cake, chili cheese halfsmokes, cheesefries, pizza, hoagies, and gelato. Basically, anything a drunk could possibly want at 1am.

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  1. I'm intrigued and a bit confused by your post. Do they serve real water ice, or do they serve shave ice with syrups?

    7 Replies
    1. re: nc213

      Y'know, I didn't even try the water ice, so I'm assuming it's REAL water ice. I don't think they'd call themselves the Philadelphia Water Ice Factory and not sell real water ice.

      They also sell "Italian smoothies" whatever those are.

      1. re: monkeyrotica

        Sorry, the only real water ice is in Philadelphia.

        Everything else, known as 'italian ice', just wishes it were Water Ice (or, if you're from philly like me, Wudder Ice)

        Just sayin'

        1. re: Jeserf

          I agree in principle, but if I can get a reasonable facsimile--a decent attempt that isn't shave ice or an italian ice--between trips up there, I'll be happy, happy girl!

          1. re: Jeserf

            Here's a Rita's Water Ice in DC.

            2318 Rhode Island Avenue NE
            Washington, DC 20018
            (202) 636-RITA

            1. re: bitstreamer

              Phila Water Ice on Hst tastes a lil different than the Rita's. Ritas is more like sorbet and Phila Water Ice is has more flavor and tastes almost like a slushy but not as loose. But the both tastes good but my choice is Phila Water Ice at 1204 Hst NE, in DC

        2. You can't eat something as messy as a real Philadelphia cheesesteak without sitting down, and I don't want my car to smell like that. Is there (or is there likely to be when the weather settled down to something reasonable) some tables outside or nearby? I haven't explored that neighborhood since it's starting to get built up.

          3 Replies
          1. re: MikeR

            you stoop over. The south philly stoop. That's how you eat 'em. even in DC I'm sure it'd work.

            1. re: Jeserf

              I agree, you stoop, you look around, then yell E-A-G-L-E-S. That's a south Philly Saturday night right there.

            2. re: MikeR

              No tables or seating. The place is just a porthole window open out onto H Street. There are a few ledges around the corner on 12th in front of Horace & Dickies, but those are likely to be full of people eating their fish sandwiches. Mine came wrapped in a huge sheet of butcher's paper; that caught most of the juices.

              There are a few parks and playgrounds off Maryland Avenue where you could probably get a seat, but they're not walking distance.

            3. Can you explain what "water ice" is? I'm from Boston and around Faneuil Hall they would have flavored shaved ice stands or Italian ice. Is this the same?

              8 Replies
              1. re: Elyssa

                I've never made it or worked at a water ice stand, so I bet someone else can offer a better explanation, but here are some differences. Shave ice (I believe), is similar to a snow cone in that it's an icy product that is scooped or shaved and then flavored with syrup. Water ice is more similar to italian ice in that its made/frozen while already flavored. The major difference I can point to between the two would be texture. Italian ice tends to be harder and with larger ice granules (my terminology isn't the best here). Water ice is soft, almost silky. Kind of like a soft sorbet.

                I've never had another frozen product like it in taste or texture.

                Anyone else who can offer a more specific/exact explanation?

                1. re: nc213

                  I told someone the other day that Philly water (wuder) ice is like sorbet but made with artificial flavoring.

                  1. re: winger1930

                    Growing in the area I can say that every single water ice stand that I have been to in the Philly and South Jersey area always made theirs with real ingredients. And if they didn't they never lasted long or weren't worth going to. That's what makes it so good. Nothing like the Lemon water ice with real lemon zest. yumm

                    1. re: MLP

                      or chocolate with a few chips still in it.

                      1. re: Jeserf

                        The flier I picked up said that the water ices were "Made on the Premises." If they made them with artificial flavors, I don't think they'd mention it in their flier, though.

                        But this thread has got me wanting to try a Lemon and a Chocolate water ice. I'll report back.

                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          I am a firm believer that lemon is the official standard of water ice flavors--sort of like vanilla for ice cream--it's simple, but it's where you can judge the water ice at its purist form. I also think chocolate water ice is silly (though I am a clear minority in this opinion)-my husband loves it.

                      2. re: MLP

                        That's true, maybe I should have said that it tastes artificially sweet.

                  2. Oh! Is this sandwich good!
                    The only problem now is standing on the corner of 12th and H, NE and deciding between Horace & Dickie's fried fish and this wonderful Philly Cheesesteak!
                    Perfect roll, generous meat, cheese melted into it just so. Watch the hot peppers unless you like heat. So glad they're here.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Kinda makes me wonder if their pizzas and hoagies are just as good, although it would be kinda hard to top Mangialardo's or Litteri's italian subs.

                      And if you like hot peppers DEFINITELY get a water ice to go with.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                        Since you posted that TWO years ago, we now have to decide about the sandwiches at Taylor or going over to B'burg Road for a crabcake sandwich at Sullivan's or the Cap City Diner. Or pie for lunch at Dangerous.
                        So quickly. We went from a few places to soooo many. Hard to choose.

                        City Diner
                        5616 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Now THAT is a computer gone rogue! The "City Diner" out in the suburbs has no relationship whatsoever to the real diner on Bladensburg Rd. Geez.
                          The edit function wouldn't even let me remove that citation which popped up automatically.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Never been to City Diner in Falls Church, but the American City Diner in Chevy Chase is pretty horrible. They got the interior right, but the food was just horrible, even for a greasy spoon. Now that there’s Capitol City Diner on Bladensburg, I bet quite a few folks will end up getting them mixed up, considering the dearth of decent diners around DC.

                            The Pattison Avenue at Taylor (roast pork, broccoli rabe, sharp provo) is definitely worth the drive. The roast pork is so popular, they’ve rolled out a few new sandwiches featuring it. Unlike the cold cuts, the meat and broccoli are so juicy, they really help to rehydrate the bread.