In a city whose weather makes it difficult to notice the change in seasons, the opening and closing of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is as reliable an indicator of the temperature as the fluctuation in our electricity bills. Since 1939, the Hansen family has provided New Orleanians with a budget-friendly respite from the sweltering heat. Crossing the threshold of the door transforms every grown man and woman into the giddy, sugar-seeking children they once were. It’s a Field of Dreams experience, with an un-air conditioned shack on Tchoupitoulas substituting as the role of a corn field in Iowa.
Behind the counter stands Ashley Hansen, the current proprietor, who inherited the secret of the sno-bliz from her grandparents. She never fails to smile when she asks customers their choice of syrups, and her hands move elegantly and effortlessly as she pours the homemade syrups onto the freshly shaved ice whose texture can only be described as frozen clouds. The ice is so fine that the syrups must be poured in two intermittent phases, lest the flavors not penetrate all the way through. Roughly half the customers at Hansen’s likely never look at the scattered bric-a-brac with flavors stapled, drawn or tacked to it. They don’t look because they know precisely what they are getting when they walk in the joint. Grape, cream of coconut, nectar cream, orange, ice cream, chocolate, and strawberry are stalwarts of the genre. But there are also some lesser called-upon options like cream of cardamom or Satsuma that can take the customer to the Far East or deep winter. All of the flavors are made in house with no shortcuts tolerated.
For the non-traditionalists, the menu includes a number of options beyond the simple formula of ice + syrup. Of course, there is the local’s favorite additive of condensed milk or the Yankee augmentation of marshmallow fluff. Hansen’s own specialty is the Hot Rod, a traditional sno-bliz stuffed with ice cream in the center. Then there is simple overindulgence: the Sundae (ice, syrup, cream, pineapple and cherry), the Duper (add marshmallow), and the Atomic (add marshmallow and ice cream).
Seasonal, farm to table, fresh ingredients, blah blah blah are buzz words in the restaurant industry. Hansen’s knows no other way.
4801 Tchoupitoulas Street. (504) 891-9788. Tuesday-Sunday, 1-7 p.m.