Where to Get Water Ice in Philly This Summer
Tastes like summer.
Nothing evokes summer in Philadelphia more than a cup of water ice, frosty, fruity sweet, and melting, eaten in the fading late-evening sun. If you’re not from around here, you might be more familiar with Italian ice, a cousin of this iconic component of a true Philly summer.
Water ice is an adapted version of a Sicilian granita, a treat that has been around in Philly for at least a century and has taken on a life of its own. These days, summer doesn’t start until the water ice spots are open, and no perfect summer weekend is complete without a cup. So from old standbys like John’s Water Ice to newer spots that have opened within the last few years, we’ve rounded up all the shops that serve the best version of Philly’s iconic frozen treat.
Chuck’s keeps it streamlined with just a handful of excellent flavors (including the very popular chocolate) at this old-school local stand. The walk-up window is open late, offers generous portions, and in addition to water ice and soft serve, they’ve got incredible pizza nachos that are worth trying before digging into dessert.
Chris D’Emilio operates a one man show out of a small storefront in East Passyunk. In an homage to his grandmother, he calls his water ice sorbetto and makes inventive flavors in small batches each week. The flavors change up regularly, but past options have included passion fruit and mango, sparkling blackberry, and cucumber lime mint, and he also makes some of the best soft serve in the city, so you really can’t go wrong.
If anyone was going to shake up water ice with a CBD-infused option, it was going to be Dre’s. This relative newcomer opened in 2013 and in addition to the relaxing variation on the classic, Dre’s is teaming up with Bloomsday Cafe for a spiked water ice float this summer. In addition to CBD and boozy options, Dre’s makes a variety of fruity, flavorful water ices in flavors like strawberry lemonade, watermelon, and mango, and offers Southern-inspired ice cream flavors like peach cobbler and butter pecan.
A true mainstay, John’s Water Ice has been around since the 1940s. The shop is known for having a constantly-rotating selection of flavors made from seasonal fruit, and true fanatics will carefully watch the Instagram account, waiting for their favorites to become available—some of the biggest cult followings are for blood orange Campari, cantaloupe, and honeydew flavors. They also introduced a food truck this spring, allowing them to cover even more ground.
If you want to feel in the know (or make someone else think you are), head to Mancuso & Son’s in the summer. It’s a tiny, South Philly grocery store selling mostly meat and cheese, but they also make water ice in-house during the summer months. While you’re there, pick up some nice Italian cheese, or a box or two of pasta for dinner.
Fruit flavors are always delicious, but Philly’s Famous also does water ice in flavors like Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids. Several dozen flavors are typically available at the time, so whether you want candy-inspired, classic fruity options, or something in between—there’s truly something for everyone.
Lots of the city’s best water ice is concentrated in South Philly, a historically Italian-American neighborhood in the city. Pop’s is one of those old faithful spots, around since 1932, that offers a couple dozen water ice flavors, including some more creative takes like pina colada, iced tea, and root beer. In addition to water ice, the shop also serves chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, soft serve cones, sundaes, and ice cream sandwiches.
Owner Siddiq Moore began making water ice in the ‘90s, selling it to his fellow students at Temple University. In 2017, he opened a permanent brick-and-mortar space in West Philly that has quickly become a favorite known for real fruit-based, tropical flavors like kiwi, coconut, and mango. He also recently opened a location in Chester, Pennsylvania, in case you find yourself out of town.