With Southern California's sunny climate and proximity to Mexico, the paleta has been alive and well for decades. Now that the NYT has conveniently proclaimed that ice cream sandwiches are out and frozen-treats-on-a-stick are back in, we thought we'd look around Los Angeles and the surrounding areas for the best examples of this heat-quenching treat. For our Top 10 popsicles, listed in alphabetical order, turn the page. Did we forget any locations? Probably. Let us know in the comments if we did, or if you have a favorite.
1. La Reyna De Michoacan: With close to fifty paleta options, choosing one can be difficult. Although there are a lot of terrific flavors, the ciruela pasa, or prune paleta, should not be missed. A complete anomaly, this creamy treat tastes more like molasses than its palatable dried fruit form. La Reyna De Michoacan: 3560 Santa Anita Ave., El Monte; (626) 444-0073.
2. Mateo's: At age seven, Priciliano Mateo had his first job pushing a paleta cart in Tapachula Chiapas, Mexico. Now, with three store bearing his name, he's a lead innovator in the Los Angeles paleta movement. While many of his flavors (such as smoked milk with pitaya/red cactus) are compelling, it's the alfafa paleta that seems the most summery, a combination of freshly juiced alfalfa, pineapple and citrus fruits. Mateo's (1 of 3 locations): 4929 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City; (310) 313-7625.
3. Milk: One taste of Milk's ice cream is all it takes to realize that there's something more to its 1950's facade and small town ice cream parlor feel, thanks perhaps to chef-owner Bret Thompson's long tenure with Patina. A prime example of this is Thompson's glorified take on the American classic eskimo pie. While his chocolate version is truest to the original, it's the strawberry shortcake bar, with strawberry ice cream hand-dipped in white chocolate and coated in homemade shortcake crumbs, that deserves considerable attention. Milk: 7290 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 939-6455.
4. Paletas Y Nieves Limon: Located in a strip mall on an exceptionally busy street in the city of Bell, it's easy to pass by the small, family-owned Paletas Y Nieves Limon. But don't, because then you'd miss the homemade caramel paleta, a silky milk pop that, when you bite into it, brings back memories of Gusher snack packs, as one bite releases an eruption of dulce de leche. Paletas Y Nieves Limon: 6100 Atlantic Blvd. Ste D, Maywood; (323) 773-8806.
5. Paleteria La Mexicana: Family owned and operated for 28 years, Paleteria La Mexicana makes both brightly colored and traditional paletas, including the Chongo Zamoranos. Chongo, a traditional Michoacan dessert made of caramelized and spiced sweet ricotta curds, transforms an otherwise ordinary cream pop. Paleteria La Mexicana: 1864 Pacific Avenue Long Beach; (562) 591-4366.