In a low-slug strip mall near Krome Avenue in Homestead, the steel-and-glass front door of La Michoacana Paletería y Nevería swings open into an orange-and-gray-tiled shop. A half-dozen flat-screen TV sets blare Spanish-language news and telenovelas as you make your way to a long display case holding row after row of ice pops and cream bars. The $2 frozen treats (cash only) come in a rainbow of flavors, such as blended mamey, sweet tomato salsa, or rompope -- a popular Mexican drink similar to eggnog with ground almonds instead of booze.
Paletas trace back to Tocumbo, a tiny village in Michoacán state where three men were looking to make more than a peso a day peeling sugarcane. In the 1930s, Rafael Malfavón opened a small shop that distributed paletas from a donkey-drawn wagon. A few years later, brothers Ignacio and Luis Alcázar, along with a friend, took the pops to Mexico City, marking the beginning of the treat's trek around the globe.
Refreshingly, paletas aren't only sweet. Sure, order the corn pop -- a sugary, creamy blend with just the faintest hint of vanilla. The partially frozen kernels give each bite a chewy, nearly crunchy texture that fades as the pop slowly warms. The best, however, are those like the pepino con chile, an almost-frozen cucumber gazpacho with ruby-red flecks of chili powder. It causes a slight burn in your throat that slowly creeps toward your lips.
The shock of a savory pop can be off-putting for anyone raised on its sugary brethren. But as a cool wave of frosty cucumber tempers the chilies' heat, you realize you're hooked. Dessert will never be the same.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!