At Snowdays, the menu might be modern, but the vibe is a throwback.
“I wanted to create something nostalgic for New Yorkers,” says owner and founder Tony Quach. “In New York, snow days are very nostalgic. It brings you back to that place where you’re a kid and it’s just fun because you’re off from school. Usually you get hot chocolate or some kind of treat.”
Instead of hot chocolate, the treat to get excited about at Snowdays is shaved cream. One might hear “shaved cream” and think of shaved ice, but shaved cream is like a hybrid between shaved ice and ice cream.
“Shaved cream is very unique,” Quach explains. “We use a mix that’s lower in fat and freeze it in blocks with flavors already mixed in, and put that block through the shaver. What comes out has this light and fluffy texture, almost like ribbons of shaved cream. Rather than being icy or watery like shaved ice, it’s creamy like ice cream.”
Shaved cream is popular and more ubiquitous in Asia, especially in Taiwan. Quach stumbled upon the concept while living in Los Angeles. He said he was surprised when he tried it for the first time, because he was expecting the texture of shaved ice. He wanted to bring shaved cream to New York to introduce people there to this frozen dessert. When he opened Snowdays in the East Village in 2014 at 241 E. 10th St., he decided to focus on quality, and swapped out the powdered milk commonly used to make shaved cream for fresh diary, along with carefully sourced ingredients for flavoring.
The flavors pay homage to shaved cream’s Asian roots, but Quach also embraces Western flavors and pushes some boundaries with new twists, too. The options range from a vegan strawberry to roasted black sesame, the most popular choice being “yeti tracks,” a take on cookies and cream with blueberries.
Keeping with the kid-in-a-candy-store atmosphere, the toppings at Snowdays are a vital part of the experience. There are cereals like Fruity Pebbles, Cap’n Crunch and Lucky Charms; Nilla Wafers and Pocky sticks; housemade fruit purees, peanut butter sauce, and crumbled matcha brownies (which are also sold whole on their own); red bean and grass jelly; and special throwbacks like the Japanese Koala’s March cookies. The resulting shaved cream sundaes have made Snowdays an Instagram sensation.
“Opening in 2014, it was kind of at the head of the Instagram influencer movement,” Quach says. “In 2015, we were one of the most Instagrammed food establishments in New York. It’s a very big factor in driving people to our shop and letting them know what we do — if people have no idea what shaved cream is, Instagram allows us to show them.”
After appearing on CNBC’s “The Profit” in February of this year, Snowdays has added inspired new items to its menu, like the “mochi snowball” (a Japanese ice cream ball wrapped in marshmallow-y rice flour dough, which is served with sauce and toppings at Snowdays) and ice cream sandwiches. They have also expanded with a location in Bay Ridge (7025 Third Ave.). Next, Quach would like to bring Snowdays’ nostalgia and texturally intriguing shaved cream nationwide, with locations in warmer parts of the country like Florida, Texas and California.
- Snowdays serves eight to 10 flavors at a time, including one or two seasonal or special flavors.
- In addition to shaved cream, mochi snowballs, brownies, coffee, hot chocolate and matcha, the East Village location has recently debuted a “snack wall,” for all kinds of sweet and savory snacks as well as sodas from Japan, Korea and China.
- Snowdays is known for its combos, which Quach says he works out by testing hunches on what might pair well together. One of the most popular combos is “Made in Taiwan” —green tea matcha shaved cream with grass jelly, mochi and condensed milk.
- Snowdays is located at 241 E. 10th St. in the East Village; and 7025 Third Ave. in Bay Ridge. For more info, visit snowdaysnyc.com.