For a city that gets as hot and humid as the counter at a 24-hour fritanga, Miami really lacks a shaved ice culture. It's weird, especially because Miami is mostly made up of people from places that know what raspados, granizados, cremoladas, cepillados, and freskos are all about. Nevertheless, we do have a handful of places serving these sweet refreshments for those days when just the idea of putting on pants makes you sweat. The list below includes some of our favorite places in Miami to get little bits of ice (either shaved or crushed) with various toppings (and before you yell at us, we're not putting Italian ice spots on this guide, since that's its own thing). But hopefully this guide also serves as an open letter to anyone thinking, “Should I open a really good shaved ice spot in Miami?” The answer is yes. Yes you should.
It’s polite to let your elders go first, and this spot has been doing shaved ice longer than anyone else on this guide, so it deserves its place at the top. To say that Loly’s does Nicaraguan shaved ice underplays just how innovative this Sweetwater classic is with its recipes, like the relleno, which layers crushed ice with dulce de leche and buttery cubes of Nica pound cake. If that just sounds too heavy for you, get a regular raspado layered with Loly’s housemade fruit jams, like nance and passion fruit. What we really love about the raspados here is that they’re made with coarser crushed ice, which melts slowly and allows you to be present with your beloved shaved ice—even on the hottest day in August.
This is the best place in Miami to get kakigori, AKA Japanese shaved ice. Along with Itamae, Japow has the fluffiest, most delicate shaved ice in Miami. Although here, you get the added benefit of getting to choose from a bunch of different flavors (and not having to make a reservation). Japow is operated from a tiny cart in the Design District where each order of kakigori is manually shaved on an imported Japanese shaver. Each order also gets its own custom whipped cream. So, if you get the Passion Fruit Mountain (which you should), you will also get passion fruit whipped cream—not only on top but also buried inside. Besides that version, we also love the tiger tempura, which tastes like cereal milk in frozen form and is topped with Frosted Flakes.
This is the best place in Miami to get kakigori, AKA Japanese shaved ice. This place has the fluffiest, most delicate shaved ice in Miami. Although here, you get the added benefit of getting to choose from a bunch of different flavors (and not having to make a reservation). Japow is operated from a tiny cart in the Design District where each order of kakigori is manually shaved on an imported Japanese shaver. Each order of kakigori also gets its own custom whipped cream. So, if you order the Passion Fruit Mountain (which you should), you will also get passion fruit whipped cream—not only on top but also buried inside. Besides that version, we also love the tiger tempura, which tastes like cereal milk in frozen form and is topped with Frosted Flakes.
The award for the most over-the-top-but-not-in-an-insufferably-instagrammy-way shaved ice in Miami goes to Lutong Pinoy for its halo halo. This Filipino dessert is refreshing yet rich, features more textures than we have words for, and is as colorful as Rainbow Brite at a Pride parade. Lutong Pinoy, which has locations in North Miami Beach and Pembroke Pines, starts with a bowl of crushed ice and drowns it in evaporated milk. Then comes a whole kitchen’s worth of toppings: jams, jellies, tropical fruit, purple yam ice cream, a chunk of flan, and a sprinkle of fruity pebbles because why the hell not? As you could imagine, the halo halo here is meant to be shared. Our favorite thing about the North Miami Beach location is that it’s on the way back from the beach, and it’s casual enough that you can arrive in flip-flops.
What you’ll find at this North Miami spot is technically shaved ice in that it is made of ice and it is shaved—but it’s quite different from the other versions on this guide. Most shaved ice desserts consist of water-based ice and all the flavor comes from syrups and toppings. Here, the flavor is in the ice itself because it's made out of flavored milk. Because of this, the ice crystals form differently and you get these beautiful, impossibly thin ribbons instead of little granules. We especially love the mango flavor, which tastes like a Miami summer and feels like Dippin Dots’ sexy cousin. You can add all sorts of candy to it like a kindergartner at a yogurt shop, but we stick to a drizzle of condensed milk and some fresh fruit.
This spot specializes in dressed-up versions of cholados, a Colombian creation that straddles the line between drink and dessert. A traditional cholado is a cup filled with crushed ice, fresh fruit, jams, purees, syrups, and condensed milk—just to name a few of the components. Amazonica serves their version of a traditional cholado, The Paradise, with a berry puree, diced ripe mango, green apple, strawberries, pineapple, and bananas, along with the requisite drizzle of condensed milk and an orchid to put behind your ear so you can look cute while you eat. They also have an affogato-inspired cholado and even one featuring Miami’s favorite pairing of guava and Maria cookies with vanilla ice cream and arequipe (AKA Colombian dulce de leche). Amazonica has locations in Upper Buena Vista, Aventura Mall, and Brickell. The Upper Buena Vista location has the best atmosphere, although it’s mostly outdoors, so be prepared to eat fast if it’s a hot one.