Philly is a city full of water ice. As a child in the 80s every block of South Philly seemed to have some mom’n’pop store with a cooler of the poor-man’s gelato at the front.
I remember when Rita’s launched its first few chain locations into Philly proper from their base in the burbs. People were understandably skeptical, since to that point water ice was a strictly homegrown phenomenon, with Pop’s being the major local “brand” with a handful of locations.
I instantly loved Rita’s. Every other water place in town had a white, super-sweet vanilla flavor. Rita’s vanilla was brown, slushy, and had the cloying, nearly-liquory taste of vanilla extract. If I was in the mood for vanilla, I’d demand a trip to Rita’s.
After an entire years sans water ice, yesterday after a dinner date I convinced E that there really was a Rita’s nearby and we needed to find it. Lo and behold, not two blocks into our drive we struck gold.
Gold, and their amazing Juicy Pear flavor.
I’ll always love Philly’s homegrown water ice shops, but as chained franchises go you could do a lot worse than Rita’s.
Growing up, water ice was either those little, pre filled cups where the syrup was all on the bottom, or snow cones, where the syrup was inevitably at the bottom.
Rita’s was the first ice that had the flavor throughout! And the cherry- oh the cherry had real cherries in it!
I only wish it was open year round.