New street food: Berkeley does Baltimore, on ice

Katie Baum runs Skylite Snowballs, which sells gourmet shaved ice. Photo: Lance Knobel.

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be another variation on food trucks, a new one has popped up in Berkeley. Yesterday was launch day for Skylite Snowballs, street eats with a Baltimore provenance.

Skylite sells cups of shaved ice flavored with syrups — there’s Jasmine tea, Blue Bottle Four Barrel coffee and vanilla, as well as the more traditional fruit flavors such as lemon, raspberry and lime.

Skylite is the brainchild of Katie Baum, a photographer who has lived in Berkeley for ten years but was raised in Baltimore. “I grew up eating snowballs every summer and I craved them,” she says.

Skylite's inaugural day was spent outside Star Grocery on Claremont. Photo: Tracey Taylor.

At last year’s Eat Real Festival, Baum hatched a plan to recreate her childhood treat and  launch her own street-food truck — but with a Bay Area sensibility. Baum acknowledges that the snowballs she enjoyed as a child were probably chock-full of artificial flavors and chemicals. So she teamed up with Chez Panisse pastry chef Stacie Pierce who devised the recipes for Skylite’s organic syrups made with fresh ingredients.


On Sunday September 5, Skylite Snowballs was plying its trade outside Star Grocery on Claremont Avenue. Baum says Star’s owner had offered her the space, and it seemed to be a choice spot: business was brisk and Baum’s cousin, Annie Shawe, was helping out by serving customers and providing moral support. Prices start at $3.00 for a small cup.

Baum says she plans to test other locations — Temescal, Emeryville and Lake Merritt are possibles — and that Skylite is available for parties.