A Philly summer bucket list wouldn’t be complete without water ice.
We asked food critic Craig LaBan for his favorite places for water ice in Philly. Here’s what he had to say:
All the buzz this season may well be about Thai rolled ice cream — the frozen fad of the moment — but Philly will always be a “wooder ice” town at heart.
Of course, it’s yet another century-old legacy of the city’s venerable Italian tradition. And, of course, the corporate rendition from mega-chain Rita’s saturates the market. But I find their ices too intensely sweet and artificial-tasting. For a more genuine flavor, try the old-school lemon ice (filled with bits of rind) at Lucio Mancuso & Son (1902 E. Passyunk Ave.), where he also makes an excellent chocolate-flavored ice.
The natural flavors at John’s Water Ice (701 Christian St.) are also a regular stop for me — I love the cantaloupe special. Closer to the stadiums, my other preferred stop is Pop’s Homemade Italian Ice (1337 W. Oregon Ave.), where the Italiano family has been serving natural juice-flavored ices since the original “Pop,” Filippo Italiano, set up a pushcart in Marconi Plaza during the Great Depression. Try the mango (my current favorite), peach, black cherry, or patriotic “gelati” (blueberry and cherry ices with vanilla custard) that the current “Pop,” Philip Italiano, created in honor of the Democratic National Convention.
One place I still need to visit before the end of the season that I’ve heard consistently great things about is Siddiq’s Water Ice in West Philly (264 S. 60th St.), where Siddiq Moore opened a storefront connected to the food cart Temple students have been familiar with for two decades. Siddiq’s is known for vivid ices steeped from natural fruits for flavors like strawberry daiquiri and mango-berry, but also for Moore’s social activism with local youth: “This is bigger than water ice,” he told me. “It’s about making a difference.