Nestled behind a wall of South Philly artist Isaiah Zagar’s mosaics is a warm wooden entryway. The satisfying sound of wind chimes welcomes you in, and a VHS tape of John Carpenter’s "The Thing" plays on an old–fashioned yellow television. It’s a whimsical and colorful room with potted plants and posters galore. The Chilly Banana is the perfect spot for an anytime pick–me–up that’s equal parts fun, tasty, and healthy.
Banana “nice” cream is a somewhat recent trend, but it’s definitely here to stay. Bananas are frozen and then blended, revealing a texture much like soft–serve. The Chilly Banana excels at this—their whips are thick and creamy, don’t melt too quickly, and taste like a tropical vacation. But, they really set themselves apart with their “Banana Jams.” Think of an ice cream sundae, but with nice cream, homemade fruit sauces, dark chocolate, and endless nut butters. They have pre–set combos, and most of which are fully vegan, but you can feel free to craft your own concoction as well. Their menu also features shakes, pops, and a banana jam for your pup. They’re planning to serve whips made from other fruit bases in the future and might even serve breakfast at the storefront sometime soon.
Founder Kevin Kramer, sporting banana Crocs, tells me that when he tried his first banana whip ten years ago, his “brain exploded.” He started to wonder where else this sweet and healthy treat could be enjoyed, and envisioned it at the music festivals he and his partner love to attend. “This experience planted a seed, which eventually grew into a food truck and now a brick and mortar.” He also tells me that the South Philly community has been gracious since day one, and that there’s “so much positivity.” Looking at the walls of the shop, covered with flyers for community activities, this energy seems ever–present.
Kevin presents me with four banana jams. First up is the Banana on Vacation, with homemade mango sauce, crushed pineapple, toasted coconut chips, and coconut milk whipped cream. It’s an experience, and with each bite I feel further away from South Philly and closer to an island in the Caribbean. Tangy, tropical bliss.
Next, I sample the seasonal Banana Chip Mint. This one is topped with homemade chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, and fresh mint. I was skeptical of the banana–mint flavor combo, but it totally works. This jam is rich yet refreshing, and ideal for mint chip ice cream lovers like myself.
Third in the lineup was the Fancy Pants, drizzled with homemade raspberry sauce, sprinkled with crushed pistachios, and topped with a dollop of coconut milk whipped cream. This combo seems simple, but it’s anything but: the tartness of the raspberry brings vibrancy, the nuts provide texture, and the whipped coconut cream is luxurious. Fancy indeed, but not a try–hard.
Finally, it’s time for their top–seller, Choco–PB–Crunch, with homemade chocolate sauce, creamy peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate chips. There’s a reason this combo is a classic. As the name suggests, it’s creamy and crunchy and loaded with chocolate peanut butter flavor. What more could you ask for?
A visit to the Chilly Banana is an experience for all of your senses, and certainly won’t fail to make you smile. Their banana jams are delicious, and though they might feel indulgent, leave you feeling energized and light on your feet—truly a treat for your mind and body.
TL;DR: Good vibes and healthy sweet treats—what more can you ask for?
Location: 932 East Passyunk Ave.
Hours: Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, 1pm to 9pm Wednesdays through Fridays, 12pm to 9pm Saturdays, 12pm to 6pm Sundays