Hey, readers, get ready. We're putting new meaning into the term "street food." For Chow Bella's latest mission -- "Eating 16th Street" -- we've employed a young woman who's literally eaten her way around the world. Alex Rodriguez has eaten borscht in Moscow, steak in Buenos Aires and a "life-changing panna cotta" in Bra, a small town in the Piemonte region of Italy. Now we've set her palate loose on Central Phoenix's 16th Street. Rodriguez will try it all, from Jefferson Street north to Thomas Road -- and report back, place by place.
The Place: Realeza Michoacana Paleteria and Neveria The Food: Mexican-style paletas, ice cream, licuados, and assorted icy treats. The Backstory: It's been around about 15 years, completely family-owned. The Price: Paletas: $1.50; ice cream: $2.75 - $8; raspados: $3.50.
Paletas are God's gift to mankind. Yeah, we invented the wheel and made it to the moon. But paletas... they're a feat all of their own -- and if we tried to trace back their origin, they probably fell from the sky.
A friend of mine recently wrote the following as her Facebook status:
"Oh my God. Why would you consume artificially flavored popsicles (pause) when you can eat a delicious paleta??!?!?!? This coconut paleta with ACTUAL coconut shavings in it is revolutionizing my life right now."
Her Facebook status was updated after I'd returned with Realeza loot. Paletas from there have actual coconut shavings in them. And actual pieces of strawberries. And actual pieces of cantaloupe.
Who can say anything else is better than real fruit in your frozen pop?
If you've raised your hand, put it down and go think about how you can reevaluate your life. Because you are wrong. But Realeza doesn't just offer paletas. You'll also find homemade ice cream. Fourteen flavors of fresh homemade ice cream, to be exact. "We make everything in the back," says Anna Piñon, the niece of Realeza's owners, who works there. Homemade paletas, ice cream, raspados, licuados, and a personal favorite of mine, diablitos, are all in abundance.
"I've never tried it - I like sweet more than spicy," says Piñon as she prepared our mango diablito.
Layer upon layer upon layer, a diablito consists of fruit, lime juice, shaved ice, and hot sauce. If you're not keen on the spicy-sweet combo, chances are you won't find diablitos particularly appetizing, but should you decide to be adventurous one day, give it a try.
The family, which hails from Chihuahua, Mexico (despite Michoacan being painted on their signs), work in-house and you'll most commonly run into Piñon and her tia Lucy Murillo if you visit.
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"The paleteros with carts that you see on the street carry our products, too," says Piñon. Which means if you can't make it to Realeza, keep an eye out for the paleta man on your way home. We live in Phoenix, for Pete's sake. A sweet frozen treat is nothing to give up lightly.
Tamarind, watermelon, cantaloupe, coconut, mango, mango-chile, horchata, arroz con leche, strawberry, strawberry cream, pecan, cookies and cream, lime, jamaica, are just some of the flavors you can choose from. Variety is a tough beast to beat.
Eating 16th Street So Far: Eating 16th Street: Let's Begin at Pollo Sabroso La Frontera Taco Truck: A Hit and a Run Asadero Norte de Sonora: Family Friendly and Fit for a King Mariscos Playa Hermosa: From the Shores of Mexico to a Colorful Central Phoenix Restaurant Salsitas: Blame it on the Alcohol Pro's Ranch Market: Contents of a Fiesta Under One Roof Filiberto's: My Burrito of Sorrow La Cocina Economica: Bringing Familia from the Kitchen to the Table Hacienda El Bar-Ril: Central Phoenix Home to Diamond Tacos de Cabeza Dulceria Mayra's Y Mas: Small Place Packs a Huge Party La Condesa: Great Eats, but that Wait is Rough Mariscos Ensenada: Hold On to Your Margarita to Escape the Hyper Tension Tortas El Guero: Life-Changing Mexican Sandwiches