The Alamo. The Spurs. Big Red and barbacoa. Fiesta. There are some things that are just puro San Antonio, and raspas are no exception. With summer right around the corner, make sure you hit some of San Antonio’s most popular raspa spots!
Don’t know much about raspas? I’ve got some Raspa 101 for you. While I am NOT a San Antonio native, I did a LOT of research (sweet, sweet research)! Here are some key terms that you should know before getting in the raspa line.
Raspa—”Raspa” comes from the Spanish phrase hielo raspado, meaning scraped ice. So, raspas are pretty much a variation of snow cones or shaved ice. What makes raspas different is that the ice is very finely shaved and soft, not crunchy like your run-of-the-mill snow cone. (For you analytical types wondering why it’s not a literal translation of “shaved ice”: Because a literal translation would be hielo afeitado, which sounds like your ice was hairy and got shaved with a razor. And that’s just gross.)
Chamoy—A syrup derived from pickled fruit, chamoy has a complex, tangy/salty/sour/sweet taste with a hint of spice. It’s usually red, but you might see it in green too. If you’re looking for a sweet treat with no tang, skip the Chamoy.
Tamarindo—Tamarind, or tamarindo, is a pod-like fruit that grows on trees and described as sweet and sour. The fruit pulp or puree is popularly used on candied straws.
Mangonada—A frozen treat eaten with a spoon, mangonadas are made of a mango sorbet and orange or lemon juice and served with chamoy, chili powder, and if you’re lucky, a tamarindo stick.
Chili powder—A lot of raspas come topped with chili powder, which is referred to by its brand name, like Chango, Tajin, or Lucas.
Piccadilly—A raspa flavored with Kool-Aid and topped with chopped dill pickle and chili powder. (If you see anything that ends in “-dilly,” it most likely has chopped pickles on top.) Some people add gummy bears or other sour candies.
Fresanada—Anything that ends in “-ada” is a usually a fruity treat with the first half of the word describing its fruit flavor. (Mangonada comes from mango obviously, coconada is coconut, and fresanada comes from fresa, which is strawberry.)
Paleta—Frozen cream or fruit pops; basically, delicious Popsicles!
Pepino—Cucumber, popularly served in cups with chili powder or lining a raspa or fruit cup.
Pepinillo—Not to be confused with pepino, pepinillo is Spanish for pickles.
Tiger’s Blood—Also popular in Hawaiian “shave ice” (yes, they say “shave ice,” not “shaved ice”), Tiger’s Blood is usually a combination of watermelon, strawberry, and coconut.
“The Valley”—While doing my raspa research, I came across a lot of reviews claiming different particular San Antonio raspa spots reminded them of their favorite treats from “The Valley.” Turns out the Rio Grande Valley takes their raspas pretty seriously too!
Duros or Duritos—Commonly seen in the grocery store, these popular snacks are made of fried puffed wheat and often flavored with chili and lime. Their texture is similar to pork rinds, and they look like orange wagon wheels.
Elote—Mexican corn on the cob; condiments can include salt, chili powder, butter, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise, cotija or parmesan cheese, and crema or sour cream. Can also be served in a cup, or en vaso.
Hot Cheetos with Nacho Cheese—Need I say more?
Frito Pie—Growing up on the East Coast, I had a dear childhood friend from San Antonio who introduced me to Frito Pie. I always thought her family made it up. Then I moved to San Antonio. Our neighborhood ice cream lady even sells this out of her truck! Fritos topped with chili and cheese, Frito Pie is a delicious, guilty snack that feels more like a meal.
Top Raspa Spots
1. Las Nieves Fruit Cups & More (three locations: 4310 Blanco Rd., Suite #2, San Antonio, TX 78212; 1118 W. Hildebrand Ave., Suite #101, San Antonio, TX 78201; 9835 Marbach Rd., San Antonio, TX 78245)—With three locations, an expansive menu, and plenty of seating, Las Nieves has something for everyone. The raspas are smooth and fluffy with bits of real fruit, and your kids will probably go nuts when they see how many character Popsicles they have available. Great place to bring visitors! (Don’t forget to check out the mural on the other side of the building!)
2. Chamoy City Limits (mobile truck)—This mobile raspa option has caused quite a buzz in San Antonio with their modern renditions of raspa classics and homemade syrups. Call their hotline at (210) 744-0000 to find out when and where they’re available. (Summer schedule will be starting soon!)
3. Big Daddy’s Eats & Treats (228 Cevallos St., San Antonio, TX 78202) is a prime example of how everything is bigger (and better) in Texas. Another great place to bring out-of-towners, Big Daddy’s Cevallos location is a brightly painted house with a gated seating area that makes you feel right at home. And the treats are OVER THE TOP! (Follow their instagram to keep tabs on their mobile truck!)
4. Frozen Fridays (447 W. Hildebrand Ave., San Antonio, TX 78212)—You can either go to their Hildebrand location, or have Frozen Fridays come to you, since THEY DELIVER! And who can resist a giant pineapple treat named after SpongeBob served in an actual pineapple, fried oreos, and Mangonada Explosions?
5. Snow Monkey Shaved Ice (1604 Fredericksburg Rd., San Antonio, TX 78201)—Located in San Antonio’s Deco District, Snow Monkey’s serves up all kinds of raspa flavors, including wedding cake!
6. Chocolateka (18720 Stone Oak Pkwy., San Antonio, TX 78258)—This place is really unique, because unlike most raspa and fruit stands, they offer CHOCOLATE.
7. Los Cocos Fruteria y Taqueria (1502 Bandera Rd., San Antonio, TX 78228)—One of the few places you can get raspas and a full meal! Check out the hand-painted murals too.
8. Bahama Buck’s (five San Antonio locations, others nationwide: 8910 Bandera Rd., Suite 212, San Antonio, TX 78250; 12914 Jones Maltsberger Rd., Suite 101, San Antonio, TX 78247; 25035 IH-10 W., Suite 101, San Antonio, TX 78257; 2610 TPC Pkwy., San Antonio, TX 78259; 5851 NW Loop 410, Suite 101, San Antonio, TX 78238)—OK, this is technically not a traditional San Antonio raspa spot, and I pshhhhh-ed the idea of even including it. But after checking out the menu at any of their five San Antonio locations, you’ll see that Bahama Buck’s has flavors that puts most shaved ice shacks to shame.
9. Sam’s Snack Stand (4410 Callaghan Rd., San Antonio, TX 78228)—One look at their Facebook page and your mouth will start watering! Sam’s is also one of the few raspa stands that has anything guava-flavored!
10. Snowcone Addiction (213 Palo Alto Rd., San Antonio, TX 78211)—This place has a cult-like following for its “Gorilla Drank” and “Gorilla Blood” and won the third place spot on the San Antonio Current‘s “Best of SA: Best Raspas or Paletas” last year.
Looking for a paleta? Be sure to check out:
11. SA Pops (3420 N. St. Mary’s, San Antonio, TX 78212)—Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Zoo, SA Pops is the perfect stop to cool down with the family. They have plenty of traditional treats but are known for their creative and hand-crafted paletas. They were recently highlighted in San Antonio Magazine and were chosen as the San Antonio Current‘s #1 Paleta Shop for 2015.
12. El Paraiso (1934 Fredericksburg Rd., San Antonio, TX 78201)—Smack in the middle of the Deco District, El Paraiso is a great place to stop after visiting the Woodlawn Theatre, which is a two-minute walk away. (FYI, the Woodlawn Theatre is showing Mary Poppins June 26–July 26 and Peter Pan in the fall.)
Didn’t see your favorite raspa spot in our list? Let us know in the comments!