East End Hardware Isn't for Tools, It's for Boozy Sno-ball Fans

The vodka-spiked tiger's blood snowball atop a conveyer belt bar.
The vodka-spiked tiger's blood snowball atop a conveyer belt bar. Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
A new Houston bar, East End Hardware, has just opened up in a former hardware shop that was also called, yeah, East End Hardware, as Swamplot first reported this week. But this isn't just another watering hole; this spot has the potential to be one of the best neighborhood bars in all of the city.

It's a great space, seemingly dressed in lost-and-found thrift store finds and well-curated art, with a huge rolling garage door, a projector wall that on this night was screening an FX show in which an angel spewed blood and flying creatures from its mouth, a side patio that will likely become an expanded parking lot, and another side patio that is likely going to be revamped into a covered seating area. The place has good vibes.

click to enlarge Groovy art wall, be mine. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
Groovy art wall, be mine.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

click to enlarge Fun with SnoWizard. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
Fun with SnoWizard.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

The long, glass-topped bar is made out of a single curving piece of old conveyer belt. Right behind it sits the star of the show, a New Orleans SnoWizard machine. As folks in the Crescent City know, this machine is a vital part of enduring the summer, turning out fluffy ice that outposts such as Pandora's and Plum Street gussy up with both mass-produced and housemade syrups to please the sweaty, high-fructose-corn-syrup-seeking masses.

Here at East End Hardware, the SnoWizard is also essential to crafting your favorite new cocktail: the boozy snowball or sno-ball, whatever your preferred nomenclature (not even New Orleanians agree upon the spelling).

Shockingly, you don't find a lot of alcoholic sno-balls in New Orleans. Hansen's Sno-Bliz, the James Beard-designated American Classic that actually created the first shaved ice machine in existence, did them as a one-time special a couple of years ago, and there are a couple of restaurants that serve them as a kitschy aside, but other than that, they aren't really a thing in the land of daiquiris and juleps, but that kind of begs the question: Well, why the hell not?

They're refreshing. They're addictive. They go down quick, as East End Hardware's versions deftly prove.

Start with the tiger's blood here. It's a popular flavor for many a sno-ball fan, consisting of strawberry, cherry, watermelon and a hint of coconut. For some reason I always believed its name had something to do with the LSU Tigers, but there is nary a piece of evidence (online anyway) to support that. East End Hardware's take on the classic goes down particularly quick, aided by a healthy shot of vodka, which doesn't really occur to you until a few minutes after you've downed the thing. Good job, boozy sno-ball.

click to enlarge If you order just one, make it the strawberry pisco snowball. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
If you order just one, make it the strawberry pisco snowball.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
The real treat here, though, is the strawberry pisco flavor.  It's rather like a spiked, frozen strawberry lemonade, and the pisco makes itself well-known with every sip, which, in my opinion, adds a nice fire-in-the-chest flavor profile to the chilly quaff.

All the sno-balls here are served with a spoon, a drink umbrella and a smile. The flavors are simple the menu rounded out with a pina colada, screwdriver, and rum-based fruit punch.
click to enlarge The food menu as it stands right now. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
The food menu as it stands right now.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
The bar also boasts 20 or so beers on tap, mixed drinks and a simple food menu with a handful of panini, including a club and a pimento grilled cheese that you can add bacon to.

An upcoming grand opening party is apparently in the works for the end of July, according to the bartender. Until then, I strongly suggest having a seat at the bar and shoveling boozy sno-balls into your mouth. At $6 to $7, they aren't the cheapest thrill in town, but they're certain to put a smile on your face.
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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.