It’s not a full-on restaurant. It’s not a food truck. It’s a food stand—that blissful oasis at the corner of Scorching Asphalt Highway and Blistering Concrete Drive, serving up icy-cold drinks and fast snacks on exhausting summer days when all you (and/or your kids) want to do is wrap your hands around a frozen mangonada and grab some nachos to-go.
“Over the top” is the singular phrase that comes to mind when describing this cash-only spot’s signature mason jars, filled to the brim with milkshakes or aguas frescas, each topped with a mind-melting array of gummy sharks, sour belts, cotton candy poofs, fresh fruit—even whole donuts and ice cream-stuffed cookies. Snacks are equally outlandish: Try the Hot Cheetos topped with Kool-Aid-soaked dill pickles.
Kolaches, Frito pies and raspas all in one place? This brightly painted East End pit stop offers a highly Houstonian array of to-go foodstuffs at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cute, umbrella-shaded picnic tables with planters of fresh herbs invite you to enjoy that slice of Hawaiian pizza and Taste the Rainbow sno-cone (cherry, margarita and blueberry topped with Skittles) on the premises.
The weekend lines at this Northside stronghold attest to its enduring popularity—and anyway, they move pretty fast. Nachos and elotes are pretty standard stuff here; skip those in favor of hot dogs topped with pico de gallo, mayonnaise and crumbly queso fresco. Health nuts will appreciate the sliced-fruit cocktails and fresh carrot and orange juices, while kids will go bonkers for Frozen- and Power Rangers-themed raspas.
If you like your sno-cones cheap, quick and absolutely swimming in sweet syrup, this Stafford spot is for you. Tiger’s Blood and Wedding Cake are the most popular flavors; they’re best blended with condensed milk for a creamy treat, but you can also get toppings ranging from sweet-and-sour piccadilly to spicy chamoy. Bring cash for those, plus the snacks menu of hot dogs and Frito pies; no cards are accepted here.
A pile-up of cars parked at all angles outside this colorful, cash-only Spring Branch food stand is to be expected all summer long. The draw? A huge selection of natural raspas flavors (tamarind, strawberry and mango are favorites) and Mexican street foods, from cacahuates preparados (spicy peanuts tossed with cool, crunchy cucumbers) to messy mounds of Dorilocos (nacho cheese–flavored Doritos topped with, among other things, gummy bears, pickled pork skin, jicama and hot sauce).
A palapa-shaded patio and hammock invite you to stay and finish your mangonada and ballpark-style nachos here at this brightly painted stand in the parking lot of a Citgo station at Hollister and Fairbanks N. Houston. You may as well settle in and let the heat melt that chamoy-topped mangonada; these are by far the most frozen we’ve found in Houston.
Serving as the de facto concession stand for Stude Park, across White Oak Drive, this Heights stronghold has expanded its menu from straightforward sno-cones to include everything from iced coffees with soy milk to mango “flowers” on a stick, petals of fruit topped with chile powder just like you’d see in the streets of Mexico City.
This cherry-red roadside stand is the only place in town we know of where you can get fried catfish with a side of egg rolls and spicy boudin links—and that’s before you get to the homemade-hamburger side of the menu. The finely shaved ice in the sno-cones is the other attraction, holding ample amounts of neon-hued Polar Punch or Tidal Wave syrup.
The granddaddy of them all, this chain of refresquerías holds it down in the Heights, the Near Northside and Magnolia Park. If the line at the Heights iteration on North Main is too long, head to one of the other two—the licuados and aguas frescas are fresh and delicious across the board. While the corn isn’t roasted, the elotes are still a favorite here, and Frito pie fans will note that the chili is heavy on well-spiced pinto beans.