I’ve never lived far from the Midtown Global Market. Since moving to Minneapolis nine years ago I’ve always been able to find exactly what I’ve needed there, whether it’s extra dinner supplies from the Produce Exchange, a lunch Cubano from Manny’s Tortas, or more recently a place to join pals and commiserate (or celebrate!) over some suds at Eastlake. I love being able to walk into a place and experience an amalgamation of so many cultures in one spot so close to home.
Within these four walls and led by my taste buds, I get to experience faraway flavors, sample creative cuisine, or dig deep into my memories with flavors from my upbringing. I talk a lot about being Chicanx because it’s greatly influenced my palate, and nothing brought childhood memories rushing back to me like a cute little corner spot in the Midtown Global Market that had its first day last weekend, La Michoacána Purepecha.
Specializing in paletas (iced fruit and/or cream-based popsicles), aguas frescas (fresh fruit waters), and other Mexican snacks, the place may sound familiar. The original Lake Street and Park Avenue location features its name scrawled on a black awning in pastel pink, brightening up the corner. This new location in the market, though smaller in stature, utilizes the space efficiently to provide many of the Mexican treats also found at their Lake Street spot.
I can almost hear some readers scoff, “So what, popsicles? I can buy a pack of Bomb Pops at the store,” which is understandable unless you’ve ever had a paleta.
A popsicle is just as bland as it sounds, but a paleta, the way it rolls off the tongue is as exciting to say as it is to taste, with flavors you’ll never be able to find in your local grocery’s boring-ass ice cream aisle.
Now, I grew up buying these small bricks of joy on a stick on the southside of Milwaukee on hot summer days from men pushing white freezer cubes on wheels while ringing a bell outside of the church after mass. You might be yawning during psalms but nothing popped the eyes wide open of both children and adults like the sound of the paleta man’s bell as he perfectly timed the exit of these freshly forgiven sinners and provided a little something sweet after repenting.
Fortunately for you, you can skip the sermon and go right to the snacking.
La Michoacána Purepecha has two varieties of paletas bases, water or cream. The crispier-when-bitten water-based pops feature larger ice crystals in the absence of dairy, and include flavors like chicle (bubblegum in a shocking blue with both the color and flavor sure to last longer on your tongue than a wad of Double Bubble), and more natural fruit flavors like watermelon and strawberry. If you’re a sucker for a good pucker, look for their tart pineapple paleta that’s made even sourer with pieces of macerated fruit and a punch of mild heat from the flecks of sour-salty-piquant Tajin dancing in the pop.
Cream-based is king for your Wisconsin-bred author, and I audibly embarrassed myself with some PG-13 guttural groans of pleasure when sampling many of their flavors. Standouts include the piñon, or pine nut pop, a whimsical cotton-candy pink that was deceivingly cutesy for such a decadent treat. The mellow sweet cream highlighted the warmly toasted, rich and fatty flavors of pine nuts pressed lovingly into the paleta.
Another winner was the mango with chamoy. (Chamoy is a pickled fruit sauce often found drizzled over freshly cut cups of fruit or crowning the rims of beer glasses dipped into seasonings for Micheladas in many Latino-dense communities. It’s sour, salty, sweet, and bright red from mild chiles and makes most things taste brighter and better—even the Minnesota palate can handle the heat on this stuff!) The chamoy’s color cuts scarlet rivulets into the fiery orange of the mango cream paleta and keeps the flavor from becoming cloying.
Finally, the cream-based pop that almost brought your author to tears was the arróz con leche. Translating directly to “rice with milk,” this uninteresting-sounding paleta is based on sweet rice porridge and is incredibly comforting—its perfection is its simplicity. Biting into it and encountering springy pieces of rice added a touch of familiarity that made me feel like it a little kid in my grandma’s kitchen, where she lovingly prepared this paleta’s namesake for my brother and I for breakfast. Who knew you could put memories on a stick and freeze them?
If none of the above are your style, there are more familiar flavors like Oreo, coconut milk, and horchata with strawberry. If you don’t want a paleta, they have ice cream in your standard vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate (but Mexican chocolate, natch, containing morsels of crushed pucks of cinnamony Abuelita hot chocolate speckled throughout), as well as Ferrero Rocher, and more.
If you’re looking for a healthier on-the-go indulgence, they’ve got you covered with a selection of exclusive yogurt drinks. Sippable, thin yogurt comes in flavors of plain, piña colada, strawberry, and a surprisingly satisfying pecan. They’re all poured over chopped fruit like strawberries, grapes, bananas, and mango with the option to add additional toppings like coconut or pecans.
For savory snacks, look no further than their Dorilocos or chicharrones de harina (vegetarian-friendly, these are made of wheat, not pork). Dorilocos are like walking tacos, but better. Choose a small bag of chips—usually Doritos or Takis—and load them up with lime, Valentina hot sauce, avocados, red onion, and more. These toppings can also be applied to the chicharrones, a sheet of fried, puffed wheat usually topped with lime and Valentina, unless “preparados” is specified, which is kind of like saying, “I’ll have the works.” In addition to the toppings mentioned on the Dorilocos, the lime-and Valentina-covered chicharron is covered with cabbage slaw, tomatoes, and delightfully chewy pickled pork skins. Drizzled with crema and topped with salty cotija cheese, this edible shingle of goodness is best shared with at least one other friend because it’s huge. Grab a lot of napkins: Between licking hot sauce off your fingers and greedily snapping bits of the chicharron off with your hands, you’re going to need them.
This is just the tip of the flavor iceberg at La Michoacána Purepecha’s second location, so make sure to offer them a warm welcome when you get a chance. The folks who run it are friendly as heck and more than willing to answer any questions about their offerings, so don’t be shy! I already foresee myself defying the depths of winter by stopping in to thaw with something hot from the market, only to finish with dessert at this little gem of a shop, fooling myself that summer is just around the corner.
Do yourself a favor: Quit screwing around with store-bought frozen treats and check out La Michoacána Purepecha. Your taste buds will thank you.
All images by Natalia Mendez.
La Michoacána Purepecha
Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis