Just in time for summer, meet Honolulu’s newest soft serve parlor

Thrills delivers chilly treats and cool charcoal cones
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It’s hot. 

That’s all I could think about while waiting for Thrills Soft Serve to open at noon last Saturday. The line ran down the block but I shouldn't have been surprised. The first 30 customers received a free cup of soft serve.

What won’t people do for free dessert?

Thrills Soft Serve is on Piikoi Street in the same building as Ichiriki

I’ve been following Thrills on Instagram since early April, eagerly anticipating the opening of Honolulu’s newest soft serve shop. My friends know I’m a dessert queen and while I have my go-tos, I was curious to see how the newest contender would compare. 

Prior to opening, Thrills posted a few shots of the store's interior and mentioned a limited birthday cake flavor that would only be available during their grand opening weekend. 

The line to get into Thrills on their grand opening day.

Thrills was named for the excitement its owners, Ridge Hayashi and Sandy Bach, want people to feel as soon as they step inside. They also figured that their soft serve concept should be fun. Hayashi and Bach also own ICE HNL, the pop-up cafe that whips up colorful and smokin’ drinks with dry ice that are super 'grammable.

There are plenty of Instagram photo ops in the small store.

As soon as you step in, the Insta-possibilities are endless. If you weren't already in the mood to eat soft serve, you will be after you see all the fun dessert-themed signs. 

The menu is small with just five soft serve options in either a cup ($5) or a cone ($6). Additionally, for one week every month, Thrills will feature a rotating limited flavor to change things up and give its regular customers a chance to try something new. 

Unfortunately, you can't swirl two flavors together just yet so you’ll have to decide on one or eat multiple. Charcoal cones are available for $1 as are additional toppings (beyond the first) like toasted marshmallows, sprinkles and cereal. Oh and be prepared: Thrills accepts all forms of payment as long it's in cash. 

Bday Cake really does remind me of funfetti birthday cake

All flavors have one thing in common: a vibrant hue. Bday cake is a bright turquoise, Fruity Pebbles is bubble gum pink, ube is lavender and Oreo looks charcoal gray. The last one isn’t as photogenic as the others but its flavor makes up for it. Bday Cake was worth the sweat I built up while standing in line on opening day because the cake-like flavor really comes through. I was happy when Thrills announced that they will continue serving it while supplies last. After that, it's gone. 

Your ice cream will melt at an alarming rate so if you want to enjoy it without dripping everywhere, don’t spend too much time taking photos. 

Fruity Pebbles - Photo by Stephanie Kuroda

Fruity Pebbles is a good choice if you don't like your ice cream too sweet. The cereal-inspired flavor is mild and the color matches the shop's whimsical pink decor. Cereal toppings like Fruity Pebbles and Trix enhance the soft serve’s flavor and come recommended by the staff. 

As for the really black activated charcoal cone, I've ordered it twice and found that it actually doesn't affect the taste. The vanilla almond buttercrisp batter is blended with activated charcoal powder and doesn't have that typical sugary waffle cone flavor. I liked my ice cream in either cup or cone but if you're going to 'gram it, get the cone.

Oreo soft serve with rainbow sprinkles

I'm a cookies and cream lover and because Thrills' Oreo flavor is reminiscent of America’s favorite cookie, it doesn't disappoint. I look forward to trying the ube or Nutella flavors.

If you're driving to Thrills, there's a small parking lot in the back of the building (entrance on Kona Street) that's free from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. if you're visiting any of the building's retailers for 75 minutes or less. From 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., parking is $1 per hour from Monday to Friday. On weekends, it's $1 per hour flat rate. There are also a few metered stalls directly in front of the store on Piikoi Street.

Bottom line: How does Thrills compare to nearby soft serve shops? Here are my rankings and reasons. The soft serve I choose ultimately depends on the mood I’m in:

No. 1: Aloha Confectionery, if I’m feeling luxe and treating myself. This soft serve is worth the $8 price tag. It doesn’t melt quickly and it's a generous portion. 

No. 2: SomiSomi, if I want something more affordable but still high quality. I’m also happy to say that this soft serve doesn’t melt as quickly as it did when the Ala Moana Center location first opened. I also still try to go at an off hour to avoid the lines. 

No. 3: Gimme Chills/Thrills these two shops remind me of each other. If I’m eating for Instagram and want that vibrant soft serve color, Thrills is my next stop. If I want soft serve that won’t melt quickly and I'm hungry for other Korean sweets like hotteok grilled stuffed mochi, I’m going to Gimme Chills.

Charmy. Though I don't regret spending $16 on this soft serve once, I probably won’t get it again when these five spots are all within one mile of each other.

Thrills Soft Serve
510 Piikoi St. 
Ala Moana
Sun-Thurs 12-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 12-11 p.m.
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