On the hottest of Seattle days, when the asphalt seems to dance and morph in the distance and the whole city sighs with relief at the first hint of a breeze, it can be argued that we have no choice but to ditch the milk-fat of the local scoop shops and opt for treats more frozen.
There may not be better respite on a hot day than a snow cone, reminiscent of childhood with its sugary simplicity. Or maybe a 7-Eleven Slurpee, with little avalanches of various frosty flavors swirled together to create a custom kaleidoscopic drink. Or even bingsoo, a mountain of powdery shaved ice topped with fresh fruits, cookie crumbles, sweet syrups …
Whatever your sugary summer vice, the icy treats below will keep you cool and refreshed when the sun shines without mercy.
A ice pop with nostalgia on the side at Seattle Pops
Noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 1401 N. 45th St., Seattle (and at 22 Seattle-area farmers markets); 206-548-6122; seattlepops.com
Sometimes you come across a bite of food that elicits a rush of nostalgia, like the secret to time travel is held in the milk of a cereal bowl or between layers of peanut butter and jelly. I found it in the bite of a strawberries and cream ice pop from Seattle Pops.
This frozen pop only resembles the strawberry shortcake bar of my childhood in color and maybe texture: elevated and refined, its flavors are much more pure and precise and pronounced. Chunks of fresh (real!) strawberries take up considerable volume, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. With each bite, the armor of white chocolate reinforced with rainbow sprinkles shatters, eventually softening to combine with the creamy texture of the milk-based ice pop’s strawberry-filled interior.
Seattle Pops offers both milk-based and fruit-based varieties, both inspired by traditional Mexican paletas and dictated by what is local, fresh, organic and in-season, founder Megan Janes says — “that’s the base of a lot of our ideas.”
Chalk-drawn signs inside Seattle Pops’ brick and mortar location on 45th in Wallingford give credit to each idea: milk from Smith Brothers, apples from Martin Family Orchards, chocolate from Theo Chocolate, strawberries from Hayton Farms and Sidhu Farms … the signs go on and on.
When Janes founded Seattle Pops in 2014, she recalls the menu quickly expanding from the “basic fruits” to including ingredients sourced from neighboring booths at farmers markets, especially fresh herbs. “We started to really have some fun with it,” she says with a laugh.
The cinnamon horchata pop is a crowd favorite, joining the famed year-round cookies and cream, and seasonal strawberry lemonade and lychee lemonade combinations in the hearts (and hands) of customers. I tried it dipped in milk chocolate, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs ($8). It’s silky and smooth, like the horchata has only been just frozen, immediately collapsing back into its liquid state once in your mouth.
Most people visit Seattle Pops for the flavors you can find outside the freezer aisle: Cinnamon horchata, blueberries and cream and cherry brownie pops are the most popular picks right now, if they’re not sold out already, Janes says. “These Popsicles are just very nostalgic,” she said.
And the toppings? You’ll never be too old for a chocolate-dipped, caramel-drizzled, rainbow-sprinkled ice pop. If you’re craving a trip back in time, take a bite and see — like Janes, they might just remind you, too, “of the little ice cream truck in the neighborhood as a kid.”
Say aloha to Hawaiian-style shave ice at Mike’s Shave Ice
Check Mike’s Shave Ice’s website for pop-up times and locations within the Seattle area.
A crowd of people perpetually buzzes around Mike’s Shave Ice, squeezed in between the DJ stand and a tea vendor at the Fremont Farmers Market on a recent Sunday — people waiting in line, people waiting for their orders, people walking by and whispering, “Is that the line for Mike’s?” and “Oh, shave ice! That makes sense.”
I happened to be a member of the people-waiting-in-line club, wondering to myself, “What’s the big deal about this particular Hawaiian-style shave ice, and why has it put a spell on everyone in a 20-foot radius?” A 35-minute wait at a farmers market has to count for something, right?
Picture this: Palm-sized bowls filled with scoops of ice cream, which are then encapsulated with razor-thin shave ice, then topped with natural fruit syrups, then topped with softening coconut cream or sweetened condensed milk, then (almost done here) topped with fresh-cut fruit, mochi or even li hing mui (sweet and salty plum powder). (Mike’s is definitely worth a 35-minute wait at a farmers market.)
The Mango + Sago ($9), composed of all-natural mango syrup, coconut cream and sago (tapioca pearls), fresh-cut mangos and four pieces of mochi nestled closely on the side of a scoop of shave ice, is a popular choice. Each bite of mango-y ice feels substantial until it hits your tongue, melting instantly into a refreshingly sweet elixir. The tapioca’s chewiness and the coconut cream’s silkiness combat the brittle shave ice, and the mango tastes like it’s fresh from the orchard.
The Strawberry Lilikoi ($9), recommended for its visual appeal by the person who took my order, comes with all-natural strawberry and lilikoi (passion fruit) syrup, coconut cream drizzle, strawberries and mochi. I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($1) inside, a recommendation from my line buddy behind me who said, “You have to add ice cream, just trust me. You’ll see why.” (He was right!)
Mike’s pops up in various Seattle-area locations, bouncing from neighborhoods in Maple Valley and Renton to South Lake Union and Kirkland farmers markets to Seattle breweries, so make sure to check its calendar before planning a visit.
Mountains of powder at Snowy Village
3-9:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3-10:45 p.m. Friday, 1-10:45 p.m. Saturday, 1-9:45 p.m. Sunday; 5264 University Way N.E., Seattle; 206-708-1111; instagram.com/snowyvillageuw
Snowy Village is a popular bingsoo (Korean-style shaved ice) and taiyaki spot in University District. If you stop by at 9 p.m. on a Friday like I did, you’ll find it incredibly busy and wonder why you picked such a time. Be prepared to stake out an empty table like a predator hunting prey — seriously, good luck finding a seat. But, like most good things, they’ll come to those who wait, and Snowy Village’s bingsoo is worth your time.
The Oreo bingsoo ($9.99) comes piled high with whipped cream and Oreo powder atop an already-mountainous heap of milky shaved ice, the entirety of it threatening to spill over the sides of the container upon any disturbance via spoon. At 70% sweetness (I’ll explain this shortly) with an addition of sweetened condensed milk ($1.50), it somehow almost isn’t sweet enough, although the seemingly impossibly soft ice serves its refreshing purpose.
Underneath a scoop of ube ice cream, rice cakes and red bean, the taro bingsoo ($10.99) and its fluffy shaved ice appears like thousands of tiny snowflakes, all defined in crystalline detail. The shaved ice in both bingsoos is so delicate that if you were to blow on a spoonful, you’ll create a mini blizzard.
At Snowy Village, you can order your bingsoo at levels of 70% or 100% sweetness. Hesitant to commit to 100%, I opted for 70% in both the Oreo and the taro bingsoo, but bumping it up a notch might help the bingsoo taste not so like … well, shaved ice.
Unfortunately, the cheesecake, a popular flavor, was sold out by the time I entered Snowy Village (really, go earlier than 9 p.m.). If you’re craving something fruit-forward, try the watermelon. It comes in a carved-out melon boat topped with spherical pearls of watermelon, and it seemed to be the most popular choice the night I visited.
The serving sizes are large, and a single is more than enough for two or three people. Make it a double, and you’ll have enough to feed a small family. Enjoy, and stay cool out there!