Priciliano Mateo’s flagship location for his burgeoning fruit-fueled empire, Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruity Bars, resides in an otherwise-dingy strip mall just outside the Southwestern border of Koreatown. Don’t let the location dissuade you; it’s worth a trip from any corner of the city to experience Mateo’s dazzling use of fresh fruit.
Mateo’s also has locations in Culver City, West Covina and the other end of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter. The shops offer interesting ice creams and sorbets, including Mamey Sapote (mamey), Guayaba (guava) and Guanabana (soursop). There are fresh fruit smoothies and blood-red vegetable juices called Vampiros containing carrots, beets, spinach, celery and more. There are also chocolate covered bananas, plain, coated with ground peanuts or shredded coconut. The Bluths would be proud.
This glass-fronted freezer contains stacks of fruity bars. There are normally at least 20 varieties of paletas in stock, both fruit cream (milk-based) and real fruit (ice-based). The “real fruit” contain big chunks of fresh fruit. Some of the more interesting varieties I’ve tried are creamy Leche Quemada (smoked milk) with an icy base of Pitaya (red cactus), Rompope con Pasas (eggnog & raisins), sweet and spicy Mango with Chile, and Yellow Cherry (nance).
Incredibly, there were three varieties of cactus paletas, one for each color of the Mexican flag. This was green cactus, chock full of nearly impenetrable seeds.
Mateo’s is incredible for a quick, refreshing snack. I hate to throw around the H word, but most of Mateo’s offerings are even healthy. Not that you’ll notice with so much flavor.