Don’t let the punny name fool you: ParadICE, which just opened in Paseo Nuevo at the start of September, is serious about its shave ice. Not to be confused with snow cones — those crunchy, crushed-ice desserts drowning in fluorescent, artificial syrups — the Hawaiian-style shave ice being served at the little shop directly across from Paseo Nuevo Cinemas is the kind you’re more likely to encounter on Oahu’s North Shore than at any carnival or county fair.
Originally brought to Hawai‘i in the 19th century by Japanese immigrants, kakigori, as shave ice is known in Japan, was for centuries a delicacy reserved for royalty, with its roots dating back to 11th-century imperial Japan. In its purest form, the dessert is made from literally shaving a large block of ice and topping the resulting fine shavings with naturally flavored syrups. When done right, it’s a dessert as soft as powdery snow and as mellowly sweet as a gently plucked slack-key guitar. But anyone who’s tasted the real thing in Hawai‘i knows it’s also notoriously hard to come by anything but cheap imitations on the mainland.
Enter ParadICE, the passion project of longtime friends Lee Jacobs and Marek Nold. Jacobs’s wife, Chelsea Jacobs, first suggested the idea for an authentic shave-ice spot in S.B. back in 2012, but it wasn’t until a fateful family trip to Maui the following year that the skeptical husband had his epiphany. “One bite and I realized I wanted to bring this back home to Santa Barbara,” Jacobs recalled.
After returning home and joining forces with Nold, the two spent the next couple of years honing their house-made syrups and ice-shaving technique. “Our dream was to open up a shop, but we didn’t want to rush into things,” said Nold. “We wanted to do it right and make sure our community loved our product.”
In August 2015, they officially rolled out ParadICE as a catering truck, building buzz at parties and private events around town while keeping an eye out for the right location to set up shop. When the space in Paseo Nuevo became available, the two patient partners made their move. “We are really lucky to have found such an awesome location and landlord who has been very reasonable and supportive,” said Jacobs. Now, five years after Jacobs’s Maui awakening, Santa Barbarans can finally get their shave-ice fix without needing to book a flight to Hawai‘i.
As for the shave ice itself, ParadICE’s is as legit as it gets. The texture is all powdery perfection, from the feather-light first bite to the final, slushy slurp. The syrups — made in-house from fruit purées and concentrates, organic cane sugar, and purified water — evenly saturate the absorbent, snowy dome with a natural sweetness that won’t leave your head pounding with a sugar-crash hangover. If you’re a shave-ice neophyte who doesn’t know your azuki beans from your li hing mui (a powder of dried, salted plum), opt for one of the menu’s recommended combos. One to try is the Zephyr, a generous dome of shave ice perched on a scoop of S.B. Ice Cream Co. vanilla ice cream (which comes from the same creamery as McConnell’s) and topped with mango, blood-orange, and passion-fruit syrups, a sweetened-condensed-milk “snow cap,” and a drizzle of San Marcos Farms honey.
On my first visit, I opted for a snowcapped POG (passion fruit, orange, and guava) atop a scoop of Island Coconut ice cream. From the first bite, my taste buds were transported back to Kauai, where, from Hanalei down to Waimea, I ate some of the best shave ice of my life. With my memory still awash in those paradisiacal flavors and textures, I can safely say that ParadICE is offering some of the most authentic and ’ono Hawaiian-style shave ice you’re likely to find this side of the Pacific.
Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon-8 p.m., at 11 West De la Guerra Street in Paseo Nuevo; (805) 560-8644; paradiceshaveice.com