In September, Phoenix New Times celebrated the cream of the crop with our 36th annual Best of Phoenix edition. Here are our top picks for places to buy Mexican sweets in metro Phoenix.
Best Mexican Candy: Dulceria Pico Rico If you think Mexican candy begins and ends with Pelon, the push-up tamarind-style candy, you've got it all wrong. Take a stroll through the aisles at Dulceria Pico Rico for a few lessons in Mexican candy. The store is filled from top to bottom with selections such as De la Rosa, the creamy peanut rounds that melt in your mouth, or the small baggies of Pico, filled with a mixture of chili powder and sugar that will take your taste buds on a ride. Other favorites include the selection of mango, corn, or watermelon lollipops covered with chili. And when you're paying for your haul, don't forget to pick up a tamarind-covered candy apple.
Best Paletas: Realeza Michoacana The paletas at Realeza Michoacana are so fresh that the fibers found in mangos are ever-present in the mango and chile paleta, as are the strawberry seeds adding texture to the strawberry paleta. Sure, there are other places that mix fancy ingredients into their paletas, but you can't beat old-school Mexican popsicles. The fruit and chocolate bars are made fresh in-house, with a selection so wide that it will take a while for you to decide which one you really want. Choose from flavors such as strawberry (with or without cream), cantaloupe, tamarind, pineapple, and chocolate. Don't be shy if your placed order is a little longer than intended.
Best Panaderia: La Purisima There's a reason La Purisima has taken the crown as the best panadería. It's not stuck in a vortex of only spitting out multi-colored conchas, which, let's face it, aren't that great to begin with. No, La Purisima gives customers every reason to drool over the pastries inside the cases. If you've got to cure a molasses craving, you've stepped into the right building. Not only are the pastries sweet, but so are the workers, who know you'll need extra time to decide on the options. Just don't hold up the line by getting entranced by the machine in the back sending out the fresh tortillas.
Best Raspados: Raspados Neza Raspados used to be known as street food, sold on carts in Phoenix neighborhoods. The jingle of a bell or the honk of a horn used to be the indication that refreshment was on its way. Now shops are popping up all through the Valley, filling our cups and stomachs with shaved ice and fresh fruit topped with sweet cream. This modest West Valley raspado shop the turns out Mexican snow cones with flavors like eggnog, tamarind, strawberry, and mango, all piled high atop the rim of the cups to resemble a mountain swirled with fresh fruit.
Best Aguas Frescas: Gorditas El Tio The only thing worse than stale pan dulce is filtered aguas frescas that have been sitting all day. So how come huge vats with various flavors of aguas frescas don't fill the counter space of Gorditas El Tio accompanied by dried-out fruit art in front indicating the flavor? Because all aguas frescas are made to order without the unnecessary frill. You can even look in the kitchen and watch the cooks toss all the fresh fruit into the blender and whip it up. Down a fresh glass of horchata or a creamy, fruity mix of mango to satisfy your sweet tooth.