There seems to be a perennial line at the walk-up window to the small stucco building at the corner of Congress Ave. and 2nd Ave. N that houses La Michoacana Natural, the Mexican ice cream shop in heart of Lake Worth. Whether it's the middle of winter, or a blistering-hot summer day, they come -- dozens at a time -- for a small taste of some of the best homemade ice creams, ices and authentic Mexican street fare around.
While it's not strange to see nearly every ethnicity in South Florida standing in line at La Michoacana, if you're not a Spanish speaker do yourself a favor and do a little research on Mexican ice cream before visiting -- or at the very least bring a smartphone with a translater app or a street-wise Latin American with you. Many of the staff don't speak a word of English, and if you have questions beyond what a single pointed finger can convey, they may go unanswered.
The small yellow storefront at the original location in Lake Worth was opened by a Mexican family nearly two decades ago, reminiscent of the paleterias -- or ice cream shops -- across Mexico. La Michoacana is a word that has no solid translation in English. Instead, the name derives from the tiny town of Tocumbo, Mexico, what is today known as the heart of an ice cream revolution that spawned hundreds of Michoacana paleterias across the country and right on through to the U.S.
Like its nearby neighbor Tacos al Carbon, La Michoacana in Lake Worth looks like it could be straight from the streets of Mexico City, its large colorful wall murals painted on the exterior beckoning the nearby latin population for an authentic taste of home in the heart of South Florida. Only here, it's a sweet reminder. Today, La Michoacana has grown with two additional locations, including one off Belvedere in West Palm Beach, and a third in Naples where they specialize in helados (Mexican ice cream), paletas de leche and paletas de agua (Mexican frozen fruit bars that are water or cream-based). \
The Lake Worth shop offers nearly two dozen flavors in all. Lucky for me, my Spanish-speaking boyfriend helped to make the order easy, and I was able to discover popular Mexican favorites like the bright pink besos de angeles (angel's kisses), what turned out to be better than it looked. With chunks of dried fruit, including plump raisins, it has a subtly fruit tang, and is a regular pick among the latin patrons according to the girl working that day.
Another must-have: the mamey fruit (pictured at top), a creamy orange scoop with flecks of real fruit in the mix. But by the end of my ice cream flavor fiesta, a personal favorite was also the pine nut, known here as piñon, made from the edible nuts of Mexican pine tree. Tart and sweet, it's another top-pick most Mexicans choose when they visit, the girl behind the counter tells us.
Not in the mood for a sugary treat? The shop also offers a wide selection of street food-style fast foods like fruit cups, Spanish-style yogurt parfaits, instand ramen, nachos and frituras, fried snacks known across Latin America that often have vegetable, meat and seafood fillings.
La Michoacana Natural has two locations in South Florida, including the original location at 3881 S Congress Ave. in Lake Worth, and 636 Belvedere Rd. in West Palm Beach. For more information call 561-514-3030.
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