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10 Best Paletas in Los Angeles

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Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge Mamey paleta at Los Alpes - AARON STEIN-CHESTER
  • Aaron Stein-Chester
  • Mamey paleta at Los Alpes
A paleta is, ostensibly, an ice pop. One made in-store and by hand, using recipes guarded like family jewels, in flavors carried over from Mexican favorites: ciruela pasa (prune), grosella (currant), guanabana (soursop), guayaba (guava), jamaica (hibiscus), nuez (walnut), pepino con chile (cucumbers with chile) and tamarindo (tamarind). Yes, a paleta is an ice pop, in the same way that a square is a rectangle, which is to say it's frozen and has a stick. But "ice pop," so often comprised of frozen water and various flavored corn-syrups, doesn't quite capture the essence of paleta, its sense of color and tradition and its distinct flavor -- like that of summer in Los Angeles. Turn the page for 10 of our favorites.

click to enlarge Ciruela paleta at La Michoacana - AARON STEIN-CHESTER
  • Aaron Stein-Chester
  • Ciruela paleta at La Michoacana
10. La Michoacana:

The ciruela paleta at La Michoacana is basically what it's all about. Rich tan cream, molassesy and cool, with enormous chunks of prune littered haphazardly throughout. The pop is unpretty and unapologetic, and perhaps tastes all the more delicious because of it. We won't go so far as to say it's is worth a drive to Wilmington, because we would hesitate to drive down there for a Mark Wahlberg kissing booth. But if you happen to find yourself in the area, you'd be remiss not to stop. 711 W. Anaheim St., Los Angeles.

click to enlarge Paleteria La Mexicana - AARON STEIN-CHESTER
  • Aaron Stein-Chester
  • Paleteria La Mexicana
9. Paleteria la Mexicana:

A charming hand-painted sign belies the utilitarian operation within Paleteria La Mexicana. It's not really a place to bring the family -- the walls are stark, there are no raspados, bionicos or licuados, certainly no corn with mayo and chile, and occasionally there isn't even an attendant. There are, however, three massive freezers brimming with row upon sweet row of Popis, La Mexicana's special brand of paleta, in flavors more colorful and numerous than any other shop on our list. $.60 for paletas de agua (water-and-juice-based pops), $.80 for paletas de leche (dairy-based pops) -- almost half the market price -- which, by our calculations, means you can fill your box with almost twice as many. 1864 Pacific Ave., Long Beach; (562) 591-4366.

click to enlarge La Flor de Michoacan - AARON STEIN-CHESTER
  • Aaron Stein-Chester
  • La Flor de Michoacan
8. La Flor de Michoacan:

Superficially, La Flor de Michoacan looks less like a paleteria than the large-ish closet of a paleteria. That said, the ratio of flavors per square foot is remarkably high. The menu is small but focused, with an emphasis on the classics: coconut, mango, pineapple, strawberry -- all of them rich with fresh juices and pulpy fruit. 2606 East Florence Ave., Huntington Park; (323) 378-0777.

Turn the page for picks 7 through 5...

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