New Orleans Sno Balls is exactly where it should be, I guess, just around the corner from the restaurant La Louisianne and close to the tonier Creole precincts of the southern Baldwin Hills. New Orleans émigrés crave snoballs like the rest of us crave oxygen, and the lack of a proper snoball in Los Angeles has been a complaint of friends of mine for years.
When I spotted the place yesterday, on my way towards a rack of ribs at Woody's - I swear, when the wind is right, you can smell the hickory smoke from more than a mile away - I wasn't expecting much. Sno-cones are easy: pebbly things doused with commercial syrup, of little interest to anyone much past kindergarten. Mexican raspados can be wondrous things, but they're different, tending towards tropical fruit rather than the New Orleans tropical baroque, and coarse where the ice of a snoball, often shaved with a homemade device improvised from an old airplane propeller or something, is of an almost supernatural lightness.
But as I approached the counter, I could see that the wrist of the man shaving the ice was dusted with the kind of powdery snow that makes owners of ski resorts rejoice. The flavors included things like hurricane, Mardi Gras king cake, praline, Bahama mama and a sweet, almondy wedding cake. And the fluffy, evanescent snowiness was what the people on Magazine Street line up for on a midsummer day. Three dollars, very well spent.
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New Orleans Sno Balls: 4452 Slauson Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 292-3145.