New Orleans-style snow cones bring fresh twist to ice dessert


Thomas Allison

Demont Burton, 11, purchases several “authentic, New Orleans style snowballs” from Casey’s Snowballs Sunday afternoon.

Karin Samelson

This will be owners Pattye and Cliff Henderson’s fifth season of operation at Casey’s New Orleans Snowballs. The couple prides themselves on authentic New Orleans-style snowballs and a passion for customer service.

Suzy Gallagher, the former owner of Casey’s, is part of the family that originated these snowballs in New Orleans. She started the Austin branch 16 years ago and met the Hendersons years later because they owned a different snow cone trailer in Austin. The Gallaghers trained Cliff in 1999, and they eventually retired and handed the business over to the thrilled couple.

“If a child and their parent walk up to the window not knowing what they want, I ask the kid, ‘What colors do you like?’ If they say red, it’s ‘Strawberry?’ ‘Cherry?’ until their face lights up at [the mention of] a flavor,” Cliff said, in his tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirt and long, ponytailed grey hair.

What make Casey’s snowballs different than other snow cones around town is the boiled syrup and secret recipes from the Casey family in New Orleans.

“We boil the 100 percent cane sugar and water syrup mixture because it affects the flavor. Only 10 percent or less of snowball businesses boil their water. It changes the sugar; that’s what makes it good,” Cliff said.

Another reason Casey’s tastes different from other snow cone businesses is because of the ice. The couple has a freezer in the back that freezes 40 ice blocks at a time, and they use a Southern Snow New Orleans snow maker to get the perfect consistency between chunky ice and ice that’s too soft.

There are dozens of flavors to add to the perfectly shaved ice. Reeves Wilson, who’s responsible for taking care of the front of the house, handed a piece of paper over that explained the calculation he came up with to figure out how many different combinations of syrups and toppings customers can get at Casey’s — a grand total of 56,632,286.

One of the most loved flavors at Casey’s is Grandma’s Nectar Cream, which sometimes goes by the name “Pink Lady” because of its bright color. “People call it deliciousness in a cup,” Pattye said.

Another option that’s not popular to New Orleans style snowballs, but which the couple has adapted to people’s taste, is the Limeade with Chili con Limon in case you want to add a little spice to your snowballs.

“I get paid to put smiles on people’s faces,” Wilson said. “I have fun with the people at the window, asking ‘Exactly how much syrup do you want? Do you want it to barely touch the bottom?’”

Kyle Littlepage is in charge of the kitchen and is also deaf. There is an American Sign Language sign on a wall of the building by the cash register so individuals can learn how to interact with Littlepage a little easier.

Cliff used to be a social worker and Pattye a teacher, so they have a long history of working with people, young and old. They see their business as a kind of Christmas for kids and parents alike, a place of childish anticipation.

“We say everyone looks like they’re six-years-old when they come here,” Pattye said.

Most of all, they attest their success to customer service and appreciation of their customers. “It’s not too late until you leave the driveway,” Pattye said. “If you want something else, we’ll make you something else.”

Littlepage uses his hands to draw a big grin on his face as if to add, “And we always have a smile on our face.”