What the Heck is Water Ice – Coming to Houston Soon!

I have written before about how certain foods that I grew up with take the form of extreme comfort food for me. In Philly, where I spent my formative years, it just was not the springtime until the water ice trucks arrived at playgrounds, parks, and schoolyards.

What you may ask is a water ice truck? It’s one that sells water ice, along with other yummy things like doughy soft pretzels. I know, I know, you still don’t know what water ice is. I promise I will explain below.

But back to my reminiscing, I loved the carefree days of my youth. When it stayed lighter out longer, that meant more time at the nearby playground, or playing outside which included riding bikes,  jumping rope, jacks, roller skating on metal skates that went over your shoes and had keys to adjust them, and even whiffle ball if you were a little tomboy like I was. It meant prolonged games of bottlecaps, where you collected decrepit old metal tops of soda bottles and played a game like marbles with them. After the long, cold winters, these days were welcomed in my neighborhood chock-full of children of all ages.

Now playing outside for hours (we didn’t have anything else to do except maybe homework, or book reading, or an afternoon TV show) until dinnertime meant that we got hungry AND thirsty. There was no bottled water in those days.

In the spring and summer, there was only ONE treat that took care of BOTH the hunger and thirst – in addition to relieving the hot sweat we built up by playing so hard.

That was a scoop or two of water ice, served in a paper cup.  The cost was about 25 cents or less for a double-scoop, meaning most kids could afford the treat pretty regularly.

It came in flavors like cherry, and chocolate, and lemon and orange. Later on, fancier

Photo of a cup of blue raspberry Italian ice b...

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flavors came out, but most water ice trucks had those basic flavors.

My favorite combo was chocolate and cherry – I found the chocolate made my hunger pangs go away, and the cherry quenched my thirst perfectly. Plus I always got the bonus of having cherry colored lips and tongue, and as pale as I was – this was a true bonus. (no lipstick needed!)

Water ice is Italian ice, and probably only Philadelphians call it water ice. Only it is not the HARD ice, it is the mushy soft ice. Not chunks of ice chips like a snow cone – sort of a firm slushy texture. As it melted, you were able to drink the syrupy liquid.

Now here’s the great news for me. There is a GREAT franchise of this spring and summer icy treat called Rita’s. In Philly it is called Rita’s Water Ice. Most other places it is called Rita’s Italian Ice. At any rate, a Rita’s opened recently in Galveston, and I was soo happy at that news, except I haven’t been able to make the hour long drive to the beach to get some.

Rita's Water Ice

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So I just heard that one is opening up in Houston on Fry Road, only 20 minutes (without traffic) from me.  WOOO HOO.

I will admit, other water ice places have tried and failed in the Houston market. It is such a warm climate, but people just do not know what it is, so it is hard to market and get people to understand the true wonderfulness of it.

But Rita’s is a powerhouse franchise. I bet it succeeds and before long, I won’t even have to drive 20 to 30 minutes away.

Now if you have never gone to a Rita’s – here’s my tip of my very favorite concoction. They have great flavors now like Banana chip with real chocolate chips in it, and I usually get that with a chocolate soft ice-cream  swirled scoop. If I am feeling decadent, I will get jimmies on the top. (That’s what Philadelphians call Sprinkles)

I can’t wait! Yummy! Houston – please get behind this delicious food product. That’s an order. I am NOT going to have another water ice place fail me.

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9 comments

  • Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog based on the same topics you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would enjoy your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

  • There are two places that I am aware of that sell water ice in Houston. At the Fiesta across from Reliant Stadium on Kirby and the Food Town at Uvalde and Wallisville. It is called Water Ice Delites I believe and it is way more satisfying and cooling than a conventional snowcone. I don’t know if they are the “traditional” water ice you are referring to, but they must be close.

  • We are now 2 years “NEW” to the Katy area. Came from 45 minutes north of Philadelphia. My daughter is 16 and that is one of her biggest things she misses – RITA’s Water Ice. It just so happened we went to HEB the one day and saw the coming soon sign. WOW was she happy – she immediately went home and applied for a position. Last Saturday she had an interview, and we are keeping our fingers crossed for her, she will know this Friday… She was asked her favorite flavor – MANGO of course. She would definately be a positive to the RITA’s team since she knows ALL of their products. The only difference is this is an inside store, where in PA they are all like a drive up, get out order, pick up and sit at a picnic table or in your car – so we shall see how it does. Also, they do not sell ice cream, they sell CUSTARD. Either you love it, or you hate it. It’s think and creamy – yummy – can’t wait for them to open. I have owned and operated my own ice cream truck and I miss the smiles of happy kids getting treats – who knows I may work PT for RITA’s.

  • YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I so love anything from anyone our age’s childhood. It was just all SLOW! So traffic or not, please TAKE me to Ice Water Heaven! Thanks for the post!

  • We had a water ice store in our neighborhood growing up called Rose’s. They only had a store for years and then added a small truck, kind of more like a motorized cart with a freezer case in the back covered by an awning that they’d drive around the neighborhoods in the afternoon and evenings. For Houstonians who want to know more about water ice, here are some links from Jim Jim’s in Austin. Jim Jim’s is owned by a former Philadelphia who worked for his water ice recipe. These recipes are very closely guarded secrets and many have been passed down through generations of Italian families. Read about how Jim-Jim’s Water Ice began: http://www.jimjimswaterice.com/how_we_began.html And learn What is Water Ice?: http://www.jimjimswaterice.com/what_is_waterice.html PLEASE HELP US KEEP THIS ONE HERE IN HOUSTON! Wanna take a ride with us when Rita’s opens? The water ice is on me.

  • and I agree, water ice is a ridiculous name. It just describes two states of H20, not a refreshing treat

  • Much as I love Rita’s, the NJ shore offers something even better, Stoller’s Light House. I’ve been to ones in Belmar, Point Pleasant, and Red Bank, and this is the frozen treat that is probably the best thing I ever tasted. (Except for Frozert in Red Bank, frozen yougurt with a sour cream taste. Trust me, it’s addictive!) Stoller’s comes out like Dairy Queen Soft Serve, in a creamy, twisty, texture. I would love to have the orange and vanilla combo, but I can’t eat citrus much. It is scary good!

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