Jerry's Sno Cones Building

Chill Out at Jerry’s Sno Cones

by Samantha Crespo

Every place I’ve lived in or visited has one: a frozen-treat nirvana. By any name – Dairyland or the (Fill-in-the-Blank) Freeze or The (Something) Pit – it feels retro because it is. Locals swarm it and out-of-towners may or may not “get it” because it’s ingrained in the local psyche. In Memphis, Tennessee, that place is Jerry's Sno Cones. 

The place

You’re going to need to drive for this one, and don’t second-guess your GPS when it routes you through someone’s neighborhood: Jerry’s is tucked into a residential area called Berclair about 20 minutes east of Downtown Memphis. Memphians can drive to it as if on auto-pilot. If you’re a tourist and you’re here, it means you’re committed to experiencing Memphis like a local. 

The building is unmistakable, painted Pepto-Bismol pink and teal, topped by statues of a soft-serve ice cream cone and a polka-dotted polar bear. (You know, in case you’re not sure you’re in the right place.) It’s as if the building is a confection itself – one as colorful as the one you’re about to order. 

The food

Jerry’s menu reads like a Southern street-food festival, bouncing from Frito pie and barbecue nachos to overstuffed muffuletta sandwiches and spicy tamales. Yet, Jerry’s owner David Acklin insists on a homemade sensibility. Chicken and pork for sandwiches are hand-battered in crushed Club® crackers; Jerry’s tamales are made by an Arkansas woman. Everything but the crinkle fries evidences some from-scratch touch. 

I go for the burgers like the Blue Mushroom, layered with tangy blue cheese spread, mushrooms and onions. The best part is the patty: ground fresh daily and imperfectly shaped so you know it’s hand-formed, studded with just the right amount of “bark” from the business of griddling. Of course, it’s hard to escape Elvis in Memphis, so you could order the Hunka Hunka Burning Love, with slices of banana and a generous smear of peanut butter on grilled Texas toast. Order fries to share – you know what’s coming next.

Jerry’s Sno Cones, friends. Not Jerry’s Snow Cones. I believe it’s spelled that way to put you on notice: This dessert is different. It’s no craggy ball of ice in a sad paper cone. It’s not so smooth it could pass for ice cream. Yet, it’s dense enough to warrant a Styrofoam cup and plastic spoon, and versatile enough to take on some-70 flavor combinations. It starts with ice soft-packed like snow. Flavored syrups are added. (Acklin makes them all by hand.) And, if you make yours a supreme, it gets a core of soft-serve ice cream, which melts into the ice for a sweet, milky chill.

The flavors range from the straightforward (watermelon) to the needs-translation (Shrek, for example, blends apple with caramel). Descriptions are posted on Jerry’s exterior wall, and if you’re overwhelmed, go with a local-favorite like Tiger’s Blood (strawberry plus coconut) or Red Wedding Cake Supreme (almond spiked with red food coloring and chocolate or vanilla soft serve). Acklin recommends the Legit Supreme, which starts as blue raspberry with a shot of lemon, and the Almond Joy, which tastes just like the candy bar – and even better with a tunnel of chocolate soft-serve.

THE EXPERIENCE

There are a few places so beloved in Memphis, queuing up with the locals outside of said places is part of the experience. Jerry’s is one of those places. If you don't believe us, check out this article from the Washington Post.

The crowd swells as the temperature rises. To minimize your wait on warm days, avoid peak times (especially after school). But for the real Memphis deal, just go. Chat with the people lined up around you and you’ll meet all kinds: kids from the neighborhood who’ve rolled up on makeshift go-karts, University of Memphis students, church groups who’ve come by bus from West Tennessee or North Mississippi, grandkids running circles around their grandparents – who’ll tell you they’ve been coming to Jerry’s since it opened in the 1970s.

Good news is there are two order windows these days. Still, you’ll want to have your entire order ready (sno cones included) when you’re up. Ask for extra napkins. Several minutes later, you’ll hear your name called and grab your order, bagged to go as all Jerry’s orders are.

This is the moment of truth: The faint-of-heart might take that order to go. The diehards only go so far as the shaded ditch behind Jerry’s. I prefer the awning out front, a relic of the building’s first life as a service station. The sun may be blazing. You may be standing in a parking lot. But this is Memphis – in all of its gritty glory. Congratulations for seeking it out.

If You Go:

Jerry’s is open year ’round, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. All sno cone flavors are available year ’round, but food offerings and hours can change seasonally – it’s never a bad idea to call or check social media before you go.

As you may have guessed, Jerry’s accepts cash only.  Lunch and sno cones for our family of three came in just over $20.