I’ve had a ridiculous obsession with shave ice since I took my first bite. I know if you’re a shave ice virgin, you probably picture a snow cone. Don’t insult shave ice by calling it a snow cone.
A snow cone has a hard texture caused by the technique of crushing ice. Shave ice is light, and fluffy like a fresh Colorado snowfall. It’s originally from Hawaii and invented by Japanese immigrants using tools to shave flakes off blocks of ice to cool off. My love for this icy treat is so intense, my fiancé gave me an industrial shave ice machine a few Christmases back.
Before you write to my editor to yell at him about how I have so many grammatical errors in this article by writing “shave ice” as opposed to “shaved ice,” please know this spelling is on purpose. It’s how Hawaiians pronounce this native dessert. I was saying it wrong for years until my good friend, Marissa Akullian, who previously lived in Hawaii, gave me the scoop on how to sound like a local.
Imagine my thrill when I heard about a shave ice truck opening in Tavernier. I pulled up to Ohana Sweet Shoppe, located at the Florida Keys Diving Center, and the first thing I saw on the menu board was “shave ice.” I thought “woo-hoo,” I hit the authentic jackpot. I thought the name was perfect because if you’ve seen Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch,” you know “Ohana” is a Hawaiian term that means family. Looking at the crowds that visit this colorful food truck, it is definitely a family-friendly spot. It also has one of the funnest menus I’ve ever seen. Waffle batter corn dogs, Frito nachos, chicken strips, you name it. I, however, was there for the star of the show.
I ordered the large shave ice and paused with anxiety mixed with excitement when I was asked which flavor. I kid you not, I might have counted 30 options. Lavender caught my eye and it did not disappoint. Oh, you know what, top it with some coconut cream.
When I tell you this lavender shave ice was delicious, I’m actually lying. It wasn’t delicious. It was more than that. It was perfect. It was heavenly. It was exactly what Samantha in 100-degree weather needed. The Florida heat had me talking in third-person. One thing all snow cone or shave ice establishments have in common is the slightly chemical tasting syrups. This flavor was so amazing I just needed to know what brand Ohana used.
I walked back to the truck and asked the owner Diane Lane, “So I promise I won’t tell, but what brand of syrup do you use?” She casually replied “oh, I make them myself in-house.” I was floored. The person standing right in front of me made this mind-blowing lavender syrup. She told me she makes nearly all the syrups on the menu from scratch and, let me tell you, you can taste the difference.
A friend I’ve known since kindergarten, Kaitlin Dooley, had messaged me the day before, raving about the “guri” at Ohana. I ordered some and I just couldn’t believe it. I went from definitely solidifying the lavender shave ice as my favorite thing on earth, but now I wasn’t sure. My socks were gone. The guri guri blew my freaking socks off. I don’t care what flavor you order of the guri, it’s just I’m speechless even typing this. Some people get a guri base and top it with the shave ice. You can’t leave this place unhappy. It’s the mecca and there is a flavor for everyone.
I learned that day myself and I’ll educate you: guri guri is another Japanese dessert that is a hybrid of sherbet and soft serve ice cream. The name comes from the inventor calling it “goodie goodie.” He isn’t lying; it’s definitely worth saying twice.
Ohana Sweet Shoppe is located at MM 90, oceanside. Currently, their hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. If you live nearby, you’ll end up going every day. If you live far, it’s worth the drive. Bring the kids, the dogs and the husbands, they have room for everyone.