Vegan-friendly shaved snow is coming to Berkeley. Photo: Vampire Penguin
Vegan-friendly shaved snow is coming to Berkeley. Shown here, the strawberry and mango combo. Photo: Vampire Penguin

A successful dessert shop called Vampire Penguin has won approval to open on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, bringing a Taiwanese treat called shaved snow to the avenue.

The Sacramento-based dessert spot has proven popular in that city, recently winning what one news source described as the “best mouthgasm” in town due to its lightness and silky texture. Now, Anthony Bai has received permission, from Berkeley’s zoning board, to open a new location at 2575 Telegraph in a 2,500-square-foot space by Buffalo Exchange that formerly was a party supply store called Let’s Party.

The frozen dessert shop specializes in gourmet shaved “snow” with a variety of flavors and toppings. Blocks of mostly non-dairy “snow” — made primarily of fruit concentrate, sugar and non-dairy cream — are shaved off and formed into a flavorful mound, which can be topped with fruit, oats, taro, condensed milk, candies and other treats.

Manager Bai says he hopes to open “as soon as possible” and is aiming for December. The exact timing will depend on how quickly construction can take place. Owners needs to build a kitchen and install a variety of freezing equipment, according to their permit application.

Vampire Penguin needed to secure a use permit because the commercial district on Telegraph Avenue has a limit on food service restaurants. The zoning board on Thursday approved the permit as part of its consent calendar.

The Twix, from Vampire Penguin. Photo: Edgar Enero via Vampire Penguin
The Twix, from Vampire Penguin, with chocolate snow topped with graham cracker crust, and chocolate and caramel syrups. Photo: Edgar Enero via Vampire Penguin

Customers can build their own creations, or select from a range of predefined items. Featured flavors include a strawberry cheesecake-inspired offering, a strawberry and mango combination, and the Twix. There’s also the “Halo-Halo,” inspired by a traditional Pilipino dessert, and the “Snow Tiger” which includes Indian spices and herbs. Prices for most items range from $6-$8.

(“Secret menu” items are announced regularly on the business Facebook page. See a sample menu for Berkeley, which is still in development.)

The business describes itself as sensitive to the dietary needs of customers: “We are the first and only shaved snow business to commit to being vegan friendly,” according to its permit application. (Check out past Berkeleyside coverage of vegan offerings in the East Bay.)

Berkeley does have a few spots already for those seeking “snow ice” — most of which are clustered around the UC Berkeley campus — but Bai said that’s quite different in texture from the snow treats Vampire Penguin has created. It’s also different from the ribbony piles of shaved snow that can be found at places like Snowflake in Pleasanton, he said.

Bai describes Vampire Penguin’s treats as fluffier than traditional shaved snow, with a unique texture that is something of a “delicious hybrid” between shaved ice, ice cream and other forms of shaved snow.

The Halo-Halo. Photo: Vampire Penguin
The Halo-Halo, with flan, jackfruit, coconut, ube paste, mung beans and condensed milk over taro shaved snow. Photo: Vampire Penguin

Brothers Leo and Paolo Angelo San Luis opened their original Vampire Penguin location less than a year ago in Sacramento, and are now looking to expand. The Sacramento Business Journal said they are considering two new locations in that city. And Bai said Monday that Berkeley just struck them as a great place to be.

“We like the culture and community here. And I like the street that we’re on,” said Bai. “I think it’s amazing: all the events, the people. It’s close to campus. I just think Berkeley has a lot to offer.”

See what Yelpers have to say about Vampire Penguin, and connect with the business on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. (A Berkeley-based Facebook page is in the works, Bai said.)

Read more about Telegraph Avenue, and about desserts in Berkeley, in past Berkeleyside coverage.

Sundays on Telegraph street festival continues to Sept. 21 (09.02.14)
2 historic Southside Berkeley homes on the move, literally (08.15.14)
Neighbors question parking, height of student-oriented housing planned on Telegraph (07.16.14)
Berkeley’s iconic Caffe Mediterraneum up for grabs (07.02.14)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...