The Tlaquepaque shopping center on Telephone Road between Dumble and Lockwood is darn cute, not to mention diverse. Within the pastel painted square you’ll find long-standing Thai restaurant Kanomwan, a Crossfit studio, a trendy women’s clothing boutique called Kismet, coffeehouse/restaurant Bohemeo’s (known for craft beer and open mic nights), Imperial Bakery, a couple art galleries, Blue Line Bike Shop and, now, Treats of Mexico.
What caught my eye a few times recently was the shaved ice sign in front of Treats of Mexico. I have a soft spot for all things Mexican, and paletas (popsicles made with natural fruit and juice) and Mexican ice cream remind me of the many adventures I’ve had over the past few years visiting that hospitable country.
So, the other day I ditched the office a bit early and decided to check out Treats of Mexico on my way home. Inside the small shop were owners Sonia and Francisco, who indulgently allowed me to tell them about the sweet and savory treats I’d sampled on visits to Mexico, then interrogate them about their frozen desserts. Sonia and Francisco, who are both Mexican-American, immigrated to the United States as kids and have been running an ice cream operation outside of the Houston Zoo in Hermann Park for 10 years before opening their Telephone Road storefront this past March. They know what kids like and what nostalgic flavors and treats adults yearn for. They also told me that their customers are their greatest source of information: Regulars recommend recipes and flavor combinations for ice cream and have even showed them how to make a few things.
While you can find Takis and tamarindo candy all over the East End at corner stores and Fiesta, you generally have to buy them in bulk, or there isn’t much selection to choose from. At Treats from Mexico, Sonia and Francisco wanted to bring traditional Mexican packaged snacks to the immediate neighborhood as a small pick-me-up for guests coming in for ice cream, paletas and mangonada.
Varieties of prepackaged goodies nestle together, organized in clay pots and in baskets, and most are less than $2.50.
There are two different types of ice cream, nieve and helado, sold at Treats of Mexico. The nieve is dairy-free and similar to gelato. A gentleman from Jalisco makes it, Sonia tells me. He makes small batches of custom flavors and delivers them to Treats of Mexico regularly. During my visit, a woman popped in and ordered one scoop of watermelon nieve to-go for her daughter and mentioned that she’d enjoyed the strawberry variation as well.
The helado, which is rich and lush, is made locally as well, by a gentleman from Michoacan. Flavors like rose, pistachio, almond and coffee flavor and strawberry cheesecake sit in a case near the register.
You can get your nieve or helado in a cone, in a cup, or — as recommended to me — on a fresh-baked concha made at a bakery near Wayside off I-45. I opted for a cone of the rose-flavored ice cream ($4.50, above) and a concha with almond and coffee ice cream ($4.50, below).
The rose isn’t for everyone: If you like rose water and rose macaron, give it a go. It’s very floral yet not too sweet, and I loved it. It reminded me of three different things, including a trip to Spain where I dozed on a park bench in a garden and was awakend by squawking peacocks, being in my Grammy’s backyard in Dodge City, Kansas, as a young child and Persian New Year celebrations with my family.
The concha ice cream sandwich was a new experience for me, and I’m not sure where concha ice cream sandwiches have been all my life, but now I’m hooked. I chose the almond and coffee ice cream as filling because, as Sonia pointed out, a great Mexican snack is a cup of coffee and a postre, like a concha.
Fransisco and Sonia have been playing with cafe de olla (coffee with flavored syrup) recipes and will be adding coffee drinks like iced coffee to the menu before the end of the fall, by request from their customers.
At this point in my visit, I was not holding back and ordered a mangonada (blended mango drink, photo above, $6), which I often order at refrescarias all over town. (I recently spoke with a young woman at newly opened bar Eastwood Hardware about the best mangonadas in town, and she told me I had to check out Magnolia Refrescaria, so that’s on my list next.) If you enjoy chamoy, a savory and slightly hot seasoning often added to fruit, and you can put away about three pounds of mango and frozen mango slushie, then this drink is right up your alley. I typically like my mangonada very spicy, but I didn’t indicate this to Sonia during my visit. Treats of Mexico put together a perfectly respectable mangonada of a generous size, but I’ll be returning for the ice cream.
Treats of Mexico 724 Telephone Road, facebook.com/treatsofmx
Open daily 11 am – 10 pm. (Hours may increase this coming fall)