Matsumoto Shave Ice
By Chris Tarello
Are you a fan of shave ice? Silly question, because of course you are! Nothing hits the spot on a scorching summer day like a cup brimming with light, velvety ice drenched in sweet, exotic syrup. And if you’re a connoisseur of this particularly glorious treat, there’s no question that your absolute hands-down favorite hails from a teeny shop tucked into the North Shore of Oahu. Matsumoto’s Shave Ice is recognized around the world as the best place to get shave ice.
No, we’re not talking about a snow cone with its hard, crunchy ice nuggets—which, while refreshing—is hardly sublime (remember those old Snoopy® Snow Cone makers??). This is the real deal. This is the kind of frozen treat that melts on your tongue: finely hand-shaved, wafer-thin flakes of ice bathed in delicious and unique syrups.
Matsumoto is known for its unique Hawaiian-inspired flavors—lychee, pickled mango, lilikoi (huh, turns out that’s yellow passionfruit, native to Hawaii), and papaya; along with its trusted standbys like strawberry, banana, and cherry. Its mind-blowing specials with things like red azuki beans smothered with a hearty scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with mochi balls make Matsumoto a destination for locals and tourists alike.
Originally know as the Tanaka Store, Mamoru and Helen Momoyo Matsumoto established the M. Matsumoto Grocery Store in February 1951, where the couple sold groceries that Mamoru delivered by bicycle before raising enough cash to buy a truck. With an enviable spot in the idyllic beach town of Haleiwa, the Matsumotos saw a gap for ready-made beach refreshments. Turns out local Japanese immigrants brought their take on shave ice to Hawaii, called kakigori, along with their actual ice shavers, which are sorta like wood planers. Borrowing from their heritage, Mamoru and Helen began selling their signature shave ice and history was forever changed. The 60s brought people from all walks of life to their door for what has become known as one of the most famous and historical shave ice spots in the world.
Today, Mamoru and Helen’s children run Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. T-shirts and souvenirs may have replaced the groceries but the shave ice is still as magical as ever. There’s wonder in that ice and behind the eyes of every patron. In Haleiwa there’s no shortage of tourists, surfers, hippies, and locals—all who line-up regularly elbow-to-elbow, talking story and ready to scoop spoonfuls of Matsumoto’s magnificent handmade syrup-soaked ice into their mouths. Yum!!
Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
Hours: 9am to 6pm
Things to Check Out
• Wanna order your own syrups and extracts and experiment at home? Check out Island Maid from Hawaii.
• A real aficionado of shave ice and ready to take it to the next level? Find your peeps, ask your questions, and get your answers at the Shave Ice Forums.
• And finally, visit Haleiwa. As soon as you see this site we’re pretty sure you’ll be rushing off to book your tickets and pack your bags! And maybe never coming back.
About the Author
Chris Tarello is a writer and poet from Los Angeles who soaks up creativity from the Central Coast along with the rest of his travels. When searching for inspiration he takes a long ride on his motorcycle then finishes it off with a mint chip ice cream.
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