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Jul 9, 2008 09:57 PM

Classic snowball place in Baltimore?

I'm a recently transported West Coaster and I'm a big fan of Baltimore's snowballs, especially with marshmallow. My best friend from home is coming to visit next week -- can anyone tell me where I could find the best, most Balwmer-esque snowball stand?

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  1. I think the most common reply will be "the one I went to as a kid" but as a starting ground check out this classic thread ...

    1. I think it depends on whether or not you are looking for the "Real Deal" in Baltimore Snowballs.

      The snowballs that I grew up with in Arbutus and Mt. Washington were chunky, crunchy ice and lots of syrup that ended up soupy. The spearmint with marshmallow was a favorite.

      These are made using a shaver that looks like a vertical cylinder.

      The style of snowball that's been taking over Baltimore for the past ten to twenty years is the New Orleans Style snowball that offers a finer ice but still has an ice ball in the center. For those who like a smoother texture, it's a step above the original.

      For my money, I think Tastee Zone on Frederick Road has a great version of this style.

      The last and rarer style is the Hawaiian Style Shave Ice which is an extremely fine shaved ice that's lightly packed and soft in texture all the way through. As you drive around the city, you'll see lots of places with "Hawaiian" in the name but they're just misleading - most of them use the New Orleans Style of shaver.

      In fact, there's only one place in Baltimore that makes the Hawaiian style but their regular shop closed awhile back and now they only make it at Artscape - which is next weekend on Mt. Royal Avenue.

      24 Replies
      1. re: onocoffee

        thank you both, you've been very helpful. Sounds like Tastee Zone all the way! Does anyone know the name of the place at Artscape? I had my first snowball there last year, but I seem to remember lots of options and I'd like the try the Hawaiian style.

        1. re: magassouba

          I second Tastee Zone. Not my favorite in Baltimore, but a solid above-average stand,with decent soft serve, too. For the more classic variety, you can head to Opie's just 50 or so yards down the street from Tastee Zone.

          And yes, the true Hawaiian style is extremely hard to find these days.

        2. re: onocoffee

          This is a very interesting discussion. I have, of late, lamenting the lack of local snowball stands in the area. Frankly, living in SE Baltimore, I don't think I should have to drive to the west side to get a snoball. Whatever happened to having little snowball stands on street corners all over town.

          And, when I do find snowballs, I am invariably unhappy with the texture of the ice. Why many snowball stand owners think the ice should be shaved fine is beyond me.

          However, the one closest to me, on Eastern Ave (which I haven't been to this year, and honestly am not sure is even open) across from the Home Depot seems to be closest in texture to the ice I want.

          I want skyblue flavor on chunky ice! Is that so much to ask?!?!

          1. re: baltoellen

            I think the reality of city living is that snowballs are not run as normal enterprises. They're run as little tables in front of people's houses. Just look around your neighborhood for a table with some syrup and a big steel cylinder and you've found your place for chunky ice.

            But the cold reality of the snowball business in Baltimore is that it's been changing and the New Orleans Style of ice shavers are taking over.

            Of course, it doesn't help when the manufacturer of the cylinder style shavers is notoriously difficult to deal with.

            1. re: onocoffee

              I talked to someone recently who used to run a tiny snowball stand in front of a church a block from me. I asked why there weren't serving up snowballs again this year, and they said they had a little visit from the Health Dept. For about two days this summer, two youngish girls were running a stand in front of their rowhouse, across from the same church. I haven't spotted them since they were out about a month ago. As recently as a few years ago, one could drive though Highlandtown and see snowball stands on every few blocks.

              I keep looking around my 'hood and those tiny snowball stands are no where to be found. It seems to be that all snowball stands are now run out of some kind of physical structures. Since when, I ask, did you need a little shed or shack to grind up some ice and squirt on some flavoring? Really, in a city with a lack of a street food culture, you'd think we'd try to save this little seasonal one!

              And, thanks for info on the manufacturer. Interesting indeed.

              I also blame that awful Italian ice chain called Rita's, which has sprouted like so many weeds. People seem to love it, and I think it's served to take the place of the classic Baltimore snowball stand. Damn those corporations.

              BTW, I have a bit of a fascination with shaved ice desserts around the globe, with current favorite being chendol, which is served in the hot! hot! climates on Malaysia and Singapore. (Much better in Malaysia, btw.) There are versions in Vietnam and the Philippines. And, really, all are merely variations on the good ol' Baltimore snowball (at least to my terribly provincial mind)!

              1. re: baltoellen

                Ellen, I don't know about the place on Eastern Avenue, but there was one in Brewer's Hill (maybe Gough?). I know it has been advertising ni the EBalto-Guide. I haven't tried it, but have been having pangs to have a real snowball. The three that I used to use in Canton have all closed up due to housing boom speculators in the last few years :(.

                1. re: thecheeseisblue

                  Ok. I just so happen to have the Guide. On page 12, there's an ad for Icy Delights, corner of Fleet & Grundy. And, there's even a coupon for a FREE regular size snowball for tomorrow. May be worth checking out.

                  Unfortunately, it says "shaved" ice, so will not satisfy my yearning for a chunky ice snowball.....

                  That said, it IS relatively close, and I'm sure it's better than Rita's on Chester St!

                  1. re: baltoellen

                    Doesn't Ritas have more natural flavorings to it while snoballs are purely artificial guilty pleasures?

                    1. re: bmorecupcake

                      And, how, exactly, are 'artificial guilty pleasures' a problem....especially with names such as skyblue and tiger's blood?!? ;-)

                      1. re: baltoellen

                        Oh no, please don't get me wrong. Not a problem at all. Being a nut, I just consider the two different products. Yes, names like skyblue/skylite are very attractice. Frankly, I have a soft spot for the "kids" flavors. Ones like ninja turtle, scooby doo, and spiderman.

                        Oh, the snoball stand in lexington market (at the ice cream/coconut/horseradish shop) is pretty decent. They run out of egg custard sometimes, though.

                        1. re: bmorecupcake

                          Yes! I see from your post below that you are passionate about one of Bmore's many local delicacies! I'm honestly going to try to google map out many of the places mentioned on this thread and hit as many as possible before Labor Day, when the snoball stands go into their little hibernation for the winter.

                          I do tend to conflate Rita's and snoballs. Sometime last summer, having the snoball urge, I ended up in the car driving to Dundalk looking for a snoball stand. Must have been driving on Merritt Blvd for a good 30 minutes (you'll remember the era prior to $4/gal gas, when people went 'motoring?') Anyway, I didn't find ONE stand. What I did find, in my I want colored sugar water and ice crazed state, was a Rita's with a long line. So, thinking that would do the trick, I stopped there, got some non-cutsey named flavor, and was totally crushed--like so much ice for snoballs--at how unsnoballlike it was. But, then again, I think that true snoball aficionado know the difference....But, still, the lines at Rita's always make my heart sink just a wee bit, and hope that they aren't the canary in the coal mine warning of us the demise of the snoball!

                          1. re: baltoellen

                            I use the site to map out places to visit. I'm sure there are other websites like it. It takes a bit of work up front, but comes in so handy later.

                    2. re: baltoellen

                      Icy Delight report: Was in Greektown for dinner last night, and stopped by I.D. for dessert. Incredibly cute 'hood place, with one little picnic table on a little plot of grass, next to a bad credit! no problem! kind of teeny tiny used car lot. Loads of neighborhood folks walking from their cute Highlandtown/Brewers Hill houses.

                      Ordered the skyblue/skylight. (But, of course!) Flavoring was put in the middle of the snoball, as was the marshmallow, and on top. Really delish skyblue, I must say, but unfortunately ice was the consistency of snow, and not gravely. But, in general, my pick for snoball of the week!

                  2. re: baltoellen

                    Take a drive on the one-way portions of Monument and Madison Streets between Hopkins Hospital and the split at Highland Avenue (near Edison Highway). Every day on my drive to and from work, I see multiple snoball stands in front of churches and rowhouses.

                    And I have no problem with Rita's. Snoballs and Rita's Ice are like apples and oranges - similar but still quite different, and both good in their own ways.

                2. re: baltoellen

                  Skyblue was my favorite flavor growing up, not sure what it would be now, probably bourbon or rum ;)

                  1. re: hon

                    Skyblue is still good--although I think they've changed the name to skylight, for some inexplicable reason. Ahhhhhh, nothing ever stays the same!

                    1. re: baltoellen

                      How can you describe the flavor to someone who's never tasted skyblue (or skylight?) I'm stumped!
                      Also egg custard and tiger's blood...

                      1. re: sistereurope

                        I think it's in the raspberry family! Egg custard seems sort of vanilla-ish. And, have never tasted tiger's blood. How could I, when the delightfully named skyblue was available?!?

                        1. re: baltoellen

                          I agree that egg custard is in the vanilla family. But skyblue? I can't detect raspberry. I really think the taste is indescribable...which is why it's one of the best!
                          (I think Tiger's Blood is orangy. I'll have to ask my daughter)
                          I am ashamed to admit that I kinda like the hawiian shaved ice version. There's a stand in Ellicott City on 103 that has fine ice and some really intense flavors. But I also really appreciate the ole time Baltimore chunky ice snoball with marshmellow (spelling on purpose! :)

                          1. re: sistereurope

                            I think skyblue was supposed to be raspberry/blueberry but to me it tasted good and like nothing found in nature!

                            1. re: sistereurope

                              Could you please tell where on 103 that stand is?

                  2. re: onocoffee

                    Hey onocoffee, do you happen to know what styles Jay's shaved ice and the Snoasis fall under? They're both in Timonium. I have a strange nag that you would know.

                    1. re: Wangus

                      Jay's is/was Hawaiian style. They closed up in 2006. The last time I saw Jay he was the barista at the coffee shop outside the Towson library. Snoasis would fit into the New Orleans style described above.

                    2. re: onocoffee

                      we have an original machine in our shop now for sale. Its very cool and is the classic cylinder model. If anyone wants more info on it let me know. Its strange it just came in today after i was reading this.

                    3. There's a place on Reisterstown Road as you head north from Owings Mills towards Reisterstown. I'm not a connoisseur so I won't give you an evaluation. I can only tell you that it's been there for a long time and appears to draw good crowds.

                      1. I agree with the other posters.The "best" come and go. For years our favorite was My T Fine on Joppa Rd in Carney but they shut down last year and it is now called Friendly's which is good not great. We also liked Jay's but they shut down two years ago. We bought a Hawaiian ice shaver and we make our own. We buy the supplies from Koldkiss off of central ave. in Little Italy( My favorite is egg custard with marshmallow.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: neutro410

                          Agree about My T Fine. I was about to suggest them as the classic Baltimore snoball. Definitely no shaved ice there, chunky all the way. Sorry to hear they closed and the replacement isn't as good. That's the stand closest to my parents house, and the one we frequented growing up.

                          1. re: charmedgirl

                            Having also grown up in the Perry Hall area, it just wasn't summer without trips to My T Fine. To think that the kids growing up there today will be spending their summer evenings hanging out in the Rita's parking lot just doesn't seem right. But then again, that whole area has changed dramatically in the last 20 years.

                        2. Try the attached. I am sure Stoutens is still in business..can't speak for any others.

                          Just a perspective from an old man. Years ago snoballs were made by hand, a huge block of ice was hand shaved scooped into a paper boat and flavor was added. In the early to late fifties the ice crusher became much more common and eventually that was the only style(crushed) if ice you could get for a snoball. Now both styles are common
                          shaved and crushed.