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.
6. Paleteria La Michoacana: When Neal Yun bought Paleteria La Michoacana in downtown Los Angeles from the previous owners, he had a simple mission: to change nothing. One of the best examples of this is the sophisticated mango de chile, which relies on the natural sweetness of the fruit (less on added sucrose), and the forward heat from the liberal flecks of chile powder. Also try strawberry-and-cream, where halves of strawberries are submerged in a milky base that's spiked with sour cream. Paleteria La Michoacana: 306 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles; (213) 623-2650.
7. Popcycle: Popcycle is the newest and perhaps hippest mobile pops option riding (literally: it's a bicycle) the streets of Los Angeles. Chef Michelle Sallah is an alum of New York's Spotted Pig, and this training is reflected in her frozen creations. Especially the coconut pudding, Sallah's take on the classic pudding pop, which has only four ingredients, including organic coconut milk and Callabaut milk chocolate. Bill Cosby would be proud. Popcycle: Find them around town on Twitter.
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8. Popshop: Growing up in Los Angeles under the watchful eye of a health conscious mother, Popshop owner Emily Zaiden remembers consuming a fair number of ice pops (instead of ice cream) during her childhood. Realizing the need for a locally sourced, small-batch option, Zaiden started selecting fruits and herbs primarily from farmers markets and testing her uniquely shaped creations at home. At the Studio City farmers market you can try one of nearly a dozen flavors including avocado vanilla, lemon basil, and current favorite, Meyer lemon ginger, a pop in which sweet, sour, and spicy happily combine. Popshop: Follow them on Twitter.
9. Neveria la Flor de Mexico: Hailing from a family of Michoacan based paleta makers, Benny Garcia opened Neveria la Flor de Mexico as a way to express his own creativity while keeping his family heritage alive. Garcia's vanilla paletas, which showcase thin strips of jalea de membrillo (quince paste) or jalea de gauyaba (guava paste), have become his trademark, though it's the bright red pico de gallo that might make you come back for more. This is not the savory pico de gallo, but the fruit salad variety, in this case a blend of mangos, cucumber, pineapple, salt, lemon, and chamoy, a spicy chili sauce made from acidulated, brined fruit. This alone is worth the near hour drive from Los Angeles. Naveria la Flor de Mexico: 7151 Katella Ave., Stanton; (714) 761-2813.
10. Sweet Rose Creamery: Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb's (Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry) newest venture, Sweet Rose Creamery, has some decadent custards and herb-tinged sorbets that are hard to pass up. Like the Creamery's fudge pop, made with a mid-range cocoa, semi-sweet Valhrona chocolate, and organic clover milk from northern California. Sweet Rose Creamery: 225 26th St. Ste 51, Santa Monica; (310) 260-2663.