The heat is on, which means it's time to look for those treats that will keep us cool. Smoothies? Been there, done that. Fro yo? Please.
Raspados are a Mexican sweet treat that you're going to wish you knew about sooner. Made with shaved ice and real fruit, think of a raspado as a graduated snow cone. Many raspado spots have been in the Valley for years; others have popped up recently. We tried out one newcomer and one neighborhood staple to see who serves the sweetest raspado around.
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In This Corner: RaspadoRico
The Setting: Open for less than a month, RaspadoRico is bringing a dose of Mexican desserts and snacks to the Tempe area. The well-kept, brightly colored raspado house is a fruit lover's paradise with desserts like a bionico, which comes with melon, apples, grapes, strawberries and bananas, covered in crema, shaved coconut, granola and a scoop of ice cream. They also serve elotes en vaso (corn in a cup), and Tostitos and Takis dressed up in a variety of ways.
The Good: The piña raspado comes with large chunks of fresh cut pineapple piled high on top of crushed ice like that of a snow cone for $3.50. It was a refreshing way to get out of the heat and relax in a clean atmosphere with eclectic Spanish music playing in the background. Sizes run small, medium or large, and a small was good enough to quench our thirst and sweet tooth. Crema can be layered on top for an additional $1.
The Bad: The first spoonfuls of the raspado were pure pineapple bliss. After that it was nothing but watered down pineapple juice. The ice melted so fast and even gave the pineapple chunks a watered-down taste.
In The Other Corner: Realeza Michoacana
The Setting: The bright yellow building that houses raspados, paletas, other Mexican snacks and a mini cellular store is a gem on this CenPho stretch of 16th Street. Brightly colored murals of Spider Man, Diego (Dora the Explorer's cousin) and a mariachi cover the walls inside. It's your typical family-owned Mexican eatery with visible wear and tear, but the products they deliver make it easy to overlook those minor details.
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The Good: For $3.50 we got a small piña raspado that was sweet with a hint of tart. We paid the same price as RaspadoRico, but this size was almost twice as large the first raspado. The raspado was assembled to deliver the most pineapple flavor as possible: pineapple and the juice on the bottom, with hand-shaved ice on top of that, covered with more pineapple on top of that, and crema at no extra charge. The flavor was consistent during the entire devouring stage, with no signs of a watered down raspado. The crema acted as a binding factor that held it all together with a thicker consistency.
The Bad: The amount of flavor packed into the raspado was great, but the pineapple chunks were small and not so fresh. We had a lot more juice than we did pineapple pieces.
The Winner: With all factors considered, Realeza Michoacana delivered with its piña raspado. The hand-shaved ice and crema for no extra charge put them in the lead over RaspadoRico. We appreciated the fresh pineapple from the Tempe raspado house, but their smaller size and watery product couldn't beat out the 16th Street staple.