Update: Check out ESFB’s Guide to Eating in Tulum.
Whatever happened to the paleta man?
Back in the 80s, in some Los Angeles neighborhoods, the guy pushing his little cart of Mexican popsicles down the street was a common sight. Both of my grandmothers—one born in Mexico and one born in East LA—were crazy for paletas, and I could always count on their hurriedly shoving money in my hand while shouting flavor requests whenever we heard the bell.
“Fresa con leche! Limon! Piña!” Sure, my Spanish was pretty limited, but I could perfectly pronounce and identify any of the flavors once the paleta man took the lid off and let me peer into his frosty icebox on wheels. You just had to wait a few seconds for the cold smoke to settle, so you could focus on the selection.
Then something happened. Maybe Mexican grandmas got more Americanized? I don’t know, but while you still see the guys with the carts, these days they’re hawking basic ice cream man fare: mostly just cartoon characters in artificially-flavored “ice cream” form. Sometimes they have a few frostbitten paletas sticking to the cart walls, but…no thanks.
It’s my nostalgia for those long gone days that makes my heart race for Flor de Michoacan, a paleteria/juice parlor that makes paletas of which dreams are made. The only thing is that it’s in Mexico. In Tulum, to be exact. Lucky for me, I just spent a week in this beachside town on the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula. This was my third visit to Tulum, but probably my tenth to Flor de Michoacan—it’s pretty addictive.
Flor de Michoacan offers fresh juices, gelato, sundaes and banana splits, but once I’m walk through the fruit-lined storefront, I always make a beeline for the paleta freezer. The colorful presentation takes my breath away and makes the task of choosing kind of excruciating. This time around, we tried a few: the coconut, the sweet hot mango-chile, a pudding-pop textured chocolate, and rice milk dipped in rich chocolate and sprinkled with coconut. Phew! I’m a little breathless just thinking about it.
I know a lot of hyperbole gets thrown around on food blogs, but I can honestly say these paletas are the best I’ve ever had. The flavors are very authentic, so if you ask for the coconut, you get a paleta that’s about 75% shredded coconut. Same with the chile mango—you bite into it, and it’s like you’re biting into a frozen mango, but sweeter and spicier. My goal is try all of them, especially showboats like the strawberry-kiwi and those frozen bananas.
If you ever find yourself in Tulum, check this place out. If you have fond paleta memories, Flor de Michoacan will make you feel all warm and fuzzy. I know my grandmothers would be in heaven.
Here are a few extra photos:
More Tulum culinary finds to come, so keep checking in.
Flor de Michoacan