Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruity Bars: Riding the Popsicle Rainbow

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Popsicles Los Angeles

Mexico native Priciliano Mateo specializes in fruity popsicles and ice cream.

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.

Fruit Los Angeles

Mateo’s shelf holds whole fresh fruit, including bunches of bananas, pineapples and papayas, all lucky enough to be transformed into smoothies, ice cream and house specialty fruity bars.

Popsicle Menu Los Angeles

The hand-painted menu advertises all manner of fruity bar, known in Mateo’s native Mexico as paletas. Each paleta is individually wrapped in a plastic sleeve printed with the flavor’s name. Mateo’s also offers seasonal flavors wrapped in clear sleeves like black sapote, green cactus and white cactus.

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).

Popsicles Los Angeles

On previous visits, I’ve purchased as many as 20 fruity bars ($1.50 apiece), but on this occasion, I limited myself to green pitaya, strawberry, pepino with chili, and guava.

Popsicle Los Angeles

Pepino with Chile was beguiling, a refreshing icy popsicle with cucumber chunks and major kick from all the chile powder.

Popsicle Los Angeles

Creamy Strawberry contained whole strawberries, which have terrific texture when frozen.

Popsicle Los Angeles

Guava featured cuts of the tropical fruit suspended in the ice. It was sweet, but not overly sweet. Mateo doesn’t use a lot of sugar in his paletas. Instead, he relies on fruit’s natural advantages.

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.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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