One Dallas food group that could use a serious makeover is shaved ice — and here comes Ruby's Sno-balls to the rescue, a new stand opening in East Dallas the first week of July.
While shaved ice is a Dallas-Fort Worth staple of summer, what most vendors serve is a sugary mess, with ice that's too crunchy and syrups that are just sweet. Ruby's hopes to up that game with fluffier ice and syrups made from natural ingredients like fruit juice and tea.
Ruby's founder Jessica Fultner became acquainted with a better class of sno-balls while on a trip to New Orleans. Her experience was so inspiring, she bought an ice shaver and spent a year developing her own house-made syrups, which she refined via weekly tastings, backyard parties, and fundraisers.
"My husband is from New Orleans, and he was always frustrated he couldn't get a sno-ball in our area," Fultner says. "My first experience was in an establishment in New Orleans that's almost 80 years old. I waited in line for an hour, expecting it to be treacly sweet. I got one with satsuma orange and nectar and was floored by how good it was. I decided I wanted to bring this to my neighborhood."
At Ruby's, she'll offer a rotating line of natural and specialty flavors, such as basil grapefruit, Earl Grey, and Vietnamese coffee, along with shaved ice classics like tiger's blood and cotton candy, with small-batch syrups made daily.
"For example, with something like orange, it's freshly squeezed juice that's made into a syrup," she says. "I'm doing a lot of juicing, and I'm using a lot of teas. Some are herbal syrups."
And unlike most shaved ice stands that offer 100 flavored syrups, she'll observe a limit.
"We'll do maybe 10 to 15 flavors and rotate them weekly," she says. Ginger cayenne lemonade is one of her more popular flavors. She also does some cream-based flavors, and others that use coconut milk.
"One flavor I'm really excited about is our take on the Arnold Palmer, a drink that usually has black tea and lemonade," she says. "We're doing the 'Ruby Palmer,' with freshly juiced grapefruit and Earl Gray tea."
To keep a lid on quality control, she's starting small, with a stand in the back of La Victoria Restaurant, at 1605 N. Haskell Ave. La Victoria is open for breakfast and lunch and then closes at 2 pm. So Ruby's will do the afternoon shift, staying open from 2-7 pm, Monday-Saturday, through the end of October.
"I've been going to La Victoria for 10 years, they have some of the best breakfast burritos and tamales," Fultner says. "I've gotten to know Vicky Zamora, who owns La Victoria, and she's given me a great opportunity to have a spot."
Getting the texture of the ice right is key.
"As a Texan, I was used to sno-cones that were crunchy, but ideally, it should be like freshly fallen snow," she says. "It's a bit of a process, and if you're feeling rushed, you can shave it too coarsely. But when the texture is right, the flavor disperses nicely, rather than having the syrup drain to the bottom."
Ice is her canvas. "I view freshly shaved ice as a palette for my flavors," she says.