Taste Test: Wailua Shave Ice
In June, Wailua Shave Ice moved into downtown shopping corridor Union Way (taking the spot of Little T Baker), bringing mountains upon mountains of fruit-soaked snow with it—just in time for the summer heat.
Wailua has a food truck on the island of Kauai, where mobs of tourists and locals line up for its freshly squeezed fruit syrups and lighter-than-air towers of ice. After Wailua’s encouraging test-run at Lardo last year, it put down more permanent roots in Portland.
The greatest things about this place? No corn syrup. Most shave ice spots on Hawaii will leave your tongue blue and heart racing. Fresh fruit keeps things light and flavors clean. That, and the quality of the shave ice, like a delicate, lightly packed snowball.
A few early dings? Flavors tend to fade as you get closer to the core, and fruit, while fresh, is doled out sparingly. Still, it's the cheapest, sweetest air conditioning in town.
Here are our tasting notes from a quick spin through the menu:
Love Potion #9
Vanilla bean syrup, strawberry puree, fresh strawberries
“Like a strawberry shortcake, in cloud form. Condensed milk is great add.” Said one staffer: “I used to eat something like this with my friend Lisa while watching Dirty Dancing when we were, like, 13."
Coconut syrup, Nutella, toasted coconut
“It really does taste exactly like an Almond Joy...with a core of ice air. The biggest issue is choosing where you spoon into the ice so your treat doesn’t topple like a Jenga tower.”
Orange-pineapple juice, pineapple-orange fruit topping
“Like a Creamsicle or slightly fermented juice box...or a watered-down Orange Julius. These are all good things.”
Da Mango One
Mango juice, condensed milk, fresh mango
“Really sweet, but the condensed milk adds silkiness.”
Pineapple juice, coconut foam, strawberry puree, pineapple & strawberry fruit topping
“Tastes exactly as you think shave ice should taste…except less saccharine.”
Words of caution:
- Don’t try to walk and eat with one of these suckers—they’re unwieldy and top-heavy.
- Get the optional vanilla ice cream base for a dollar extra. It’s a welcome surprise when the fruity ice begins to melt.
- Strangers will stop you every three feet to ask about your beautiful-looking shave ice. Hope you enjoy attention.