(Photos taken by TB)
In the July heat that seems to rush up and down the Mississippi River and hover over New Orleans, I find respite at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz on a boring corner of Tchoupotoulis Street. The crowds gather here like someone’s golden retriever is telling spiritual secrets. Summer days, the masses line from the corner, stand inside a beaten screen door, and shuffle along the sunflower yellow line leading to Mr. Hansen’s handmade, U.S. Patent-ed ice machine. Ten thousand aging photographs tell you the story you are standing in. The people in them testify to how worth it your wait will be.
(No, seriously. These things are really good. I mean it.)
The curly-haired college boy running the machine uses the word "velvety" to describe the Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. The word choice seems over the top. But crowds in places like this rarely lie, so I trust him. Plus, the room’s energetic and happy. Ashley Hansen, granddaughter to the original owners, now runs the cinderblock NOLA landmark with great cheer. And the delightful gal does not stop smiling for the six hours a day Hansen’s opens during the summer months, taking orders (Sizes go by prices: "I’ll have two $2 and one $3."), and pouring family-recipe syrups over the freshly shaved ice.
Tasting my banana and wild cherry outside and back in the heat, I believe the hype. This ice is unlike any ice I’ve ever tasted. I’d eat it by the cup-full even without the flavors. I watch dozens of families tromp their giddy children into Hansen’s, their eyes as big as lollipops, their tongues waiting to be colored for a day. These are the places, I think, that define a neighborhood.
When I speak to Ashley Hansen later, when the crowds are gone, she’s tired, kind and enjoyable, but heavy-eyed. Long day. Long summer.
"I need a sno-bliz," she says.
4801 Tchoupitoulas St.
New Orleans, LA 70115