M. Matsumoto Grocery Store: Best Shave Ice on Oahu
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI
There’s only one place to get shave ice on Oahu: M. Matsumoto Grocery Store on the North Shore. I read about this place in Lucky Peach magazine and found that the shave ice is exactly like how they described. Shaved to a super fine, practically feathery texture, M. Matsumoto’s shave ice is the perfect cold treat in tropical heat. Located in a sleepy surfer town on Hawaii’s North Shore M. Matsumoto Grocery Store didn’t start out serving shave ice, it was originally (like the name suggests) a grocery store owned by a Japanese couple, Mamoru and Helen Matsumoto since the 1950s. Soon the couple decided to diversify their business and serve shave ice and sell souvenirs. Now, people from all over (Hawaii and the world) visit M. Matsumoto for their special shave ice and unique homemade syrup flavours.
M. Matsumoto Grocery Store is now owned by Mamoru and Helen Matsumoto’s son, Stanley and his wife, Noriko. Their store is so popular that it was bustling with customers when we arrived. Other shave ice stores along the same street were empty. There was a Japanese production company interviewing Stanley and his wife on camera when we pushed past the crowd to get into the store.
My boyfriend ordered the Matsumoto shave ice, it consisted of the flavours, lemon, pineapple and coconut. He claimed that it didn’t taste like any of those flavours though, it just tasted like sweet syrup. But it still cooled us down from the tropical heat on the island.
I’m happy to report that my lychee shave ice tasted exactly like the juicy sweet fruit. This might be because I stuck to one flavour instead of mashing together a bunch of flavours – they probably give you less syrup with multiple flavour orders. I did order it with all the fixin’s though, condensed milk, ice cream and azuki beans. The ice cream and condensed milk added a creaminess and thickness to the ice and boosted the sweetness factor tenfold. You can’t see the ice cream and azuki beans in the photo but they were stuffed all in the bottom of the cone.
Matsumoto is famed for the texture of its shave ice, it’s shaved to a super fine and delicate texture, nothing like the chunky slurpies back home. The fine texture of the ice seemed to help soak up the syrups more and absorb the melting ice cream and condensed milk.
Despite the hoards of tourists milling in Matsumoto’s, we loved the vibe in the store. It was a real laid-back, beach bum sort of atmosphere complete with kitschy souvenirs, the floor speckled with sand fresh from the beach and a general relaxed ambiance in and around the store. Matsumoto is only a few minutes walk from the beach and nothing beats a stroll on the North Shore, watching the crashing waves while slurping on neon coloured sweet and frozen shave ice cones. Just another day in paradise.