We’d driven past the sign at 281 and Bitters many times over the last month but we’d never stopped.
“What is that place, mom?” my kids would ask.
“Just another ice cream shop,” I’d reply.
But recently, on a whim, I decided to drop in to check it out. I was surprised to find that Sub Zero is more than “just another ice cream shop.”
A franchise business that first appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank and started in Utah, Sub Zero’s approach to ice cream and frozen yogurt is unlike any I’ve seen before. The San Antonio store is the first one in Texas.
When you walk in, the first thing you’ll notice is a huge metal tank.
The signs and friendly staff behind the counter then direct you through your scientific ice cream experiment:
1. Choose your size: Either kid’s, small, medium, or large. Waffle bowls are available for an extra .75. I was pleasantly surprised to see a kid’s size existed and that it only cost $2.99.
2. Choose your cream: select from premium, custard, low-fat, sugar-free, yogurt, or almond milk. All are gluten-free and the almond milk is vegan. Your server pours it into a large, metal bowl.
3. Choose from 40+ flavors and lots of different candy and fruit mix-ins: your server pours your selected flavors into your cream of choice and tosses in any mix-ins you like. You can pick as many flavors as you want and the price includes one mix-in. Additional mix-ins are .50 each.
Waylon got the low-fat cream in a kid’s size with cherry flavor and gummy bears. I selected fat-free yogurt with chocolate fudge flavoring and brownie bites. Delaney chose low-fat chocolate fudge with cookie dough chunks. We all opted for the freshly made waffle bowls.
Then, we watched the speedy magic happen. Our server mixed our cream, flavors, and mix-ins into our respective bowls. Remember that huge metal tank we saw on our way in? Turns out it stores liquid nitrogen. Our server gave each of our bowls a burst of it which I later learned from Sub Zero’s video is negative 321 degrees Fahrenheit. It freezes the liquid into a solid in about 15 seconds. According to Sub Zero, this process produces ice crystals that are 10 times smaller than those found in other ice creams, giving their ice cream a creamier texture.
The kids were completely fascinated watching the steam burst forth from their bowls. It looked like a spooky, overflowing witches’ brew like the ones made from dry ice in a Halloween haunted house.
We couldn’t believe how quickly the liquid nitrogen turned the stuff in our bowls into ice cream. It was very cool to see but, at the time, we didn’t understand how it all worked. It would enhance the experience if servers talked customers through the interesting process when they prepare the ice cream.
My resulting frozen yogurt was made up of small, frozen chunks but they were creamy and sweet. One reviewer on Yelp (my online buddy Brianne) likened the ice cream’s initial texture to Dippin’ Dots because it seems slightly dry at first. But she also noted that once you eat it, it’s creamy and melts in your mouth. I found the same to be true.
Waylon liked his cherry/gummy bear concoction but I think he enjoyed the liquid nitrogen show even more. And Delaney was pleased with her chocolate/cookie dough dessert. The kid’s serving size was a perfect snack for us (although Waylon begged to differ, asking for another serving. Not surprising as this growing boy often eats two suppers on a normal day.).
For less than $13 total we got a science experiment and a sweet treat all rolled into one.
With those scorching San Antonio days fast approaching, Sub Zero should be on your list of fun ways to cool off this summer.