Temperatures are still hovering around 100 degrees, even though it’s almost October. Fortunately, the air has dried out enough for the swamp coolers to start working again. However, after a day hike or an afternoon of yard work, something frozen will still hit the spot.
There’s nothing better for this than a real fruit raspado, but Rincon Tarasco and Michoacan Taqueria aren’t “around the corner” from most parts of town. The next best thing is an Eegee’s, and with 23 locations at the time of writing, Eegee’s (it’s the restaurant and the product: Eegee’s sells Eegee’s) is located approximately everywhere.
Eegee’s was created over 40 years ago by two food-truck vendors looking to sell something for the Tucson heat. The principals retired and sold the business back in 2006, but there wasn’t any change in the menu, and the business has kept its community ties, including its generous food donations and its participation in vocational training for the disabled. It’s a Tucsonan product sold by a Tucsonan business.
What’s an Eegee’s? It isn’t a Taylor Street, Chicago-style Italian ice, and it isn’t a frozen Coke or 7-11 Slurpee, either. The texture is midway between the two; softer than Italian ice, but more solid and with finer grains than a Slurpee. Eegee’s is served with a scoop, not poured under pressure from a machine. And unlike Slurpees, Eegee’s are made with fruit, fruit juice, and sugar, with no corn syrup.
While they’re not health food, ounce per ounce, an Eegee’s has only 2/3 of the calories of soda pop. The worst flavors end up a bit sticky like Kool Aid or Hawaiian Punch. But the best: the always-available lemon flavor, the “Tangerine Breeze” that can be had in some months, and the “original Orange” brought back last year for the chain’s 40th anniversary, have bits of real fruit in the mix and a refreshing, acidic zip.
Eegee’s sells sub sandwiches and an assortment of snacks, such as “pizza fries” and cookies, to have along with the Eegee’s. These aren’t as good as the Eegee’s; the fillings are adequate, but the bread is chewy and tough, and the fries are the starchy crinkle-cut kind. But the price is right–an Eegee’s sub is still cheaper than one from Jimmy John’s or Subway. Like the sandwiches, the restaurants themselves can use a bit of refreshing. They’re still on the fast food model of years ago, with garish colors and harsh lighting designed to get people to leave as soon as possible. But it doesn’t matter too much: Eegee’s is a grab-and-go food. Refreshing as they are in the air-conditioned restaurant, there’s something better about eating a cold Eegee’s outdoors in the dry heat.
For more information, including a menu and a map of locations, visit Eegees’s website.