After just five months in business, EaDo dessert shop Treats of Mexico has already reached the pinnacle of internet restaurant fame: clinching a spot on a Buzzfeed superlatives article about the "Best Ice Cream Sandwiches in America."
I mean, who else thought to put ice cream inside a sliced Mexican pastry that's meant to be dunked into a steaming cup of coffee? It's innovative, it's pretty and it's delicious.
Situated in a small shopping center off of Telephone Road, Treats of Mexico feels like entering a little slice of Mexico: The front part of the shop is an explosion of colorful displays of Mexican candy, snacks and toys, the walls decorated with colorful handmade flowers and Mexican-themed art.
It's an impressive showing considering the short time window in which the shop was conceptualized and executed. When the owner of the shopping center expressed a desire to open an ice cream shop, Francisco and Sonia Campos seized the opportunity and had just one month to secure permits, source a distributor for the candy, ice cream and more before the grand opening in March. (The effort is a family affair; you might spot one or two of their three children—Daisy, Paco and Maya—helping out behind the counter.)
Still, within this abbreviated time window, they managed to lock down a superior ice cream distributor: a Michoacan native who makes artisan ice cream in the style of Mexico. It's creamier and not as sweet as most American ice cream, and of course goes perfectly in their signature concha ice cream sandwich. Their nieve, or shaved ice, is also made by a local artisan in the authentic fashion using a wooden bucket. Although there are just seven flavors of ice cream currently (coffee-almond, cookies and cream, strawberry cheesecake, rum raisin, rose petal, pecan and pistachio), the Campos's plan is to add new ice cream flavors seasonally until they reach around 20 flavors.
The plan doesn't stop there. In the future, they intend to build out a patio for additional seating and a small kitchen in the back, enabling an expansion of menu offerings to items that require more preparation like flan, arroz con leche and bunelos.
At the moment, preparation of their popular mangonadas (a mixture of chamoy and mango shaved ice topped with fresh mango and a tamarind straw) and tostitos (a savory nacho-like snack of chips topped with corn, crema, hot sauce and cotija) pretty much reaches the limit of the "cooking" they can do in the current space. Not that we're complaining—the mangonadas are insanely refreshing and crave-worthy.
"I came to the U.S. when I was 11, so I don't remember what a lot of things taste like," said Sonia. "A lot of the customers come in and they teach us—they tell us, 'this tastes just like it does in Mexico' or 'this is how we make elote.'"
However, Sonia does remember how the candy should taste. She points at two similar looking candies that sit side-by-side, two piles of thick plastic-wrapped discs made from peanuts. One pile is what's available in the U.S., she explains. But the other pile—that's what she remembers the candy tasting like from childhood.
Besides the peanut confectionary, you'll also find fruit leather-like lengths of spicy tamarind candy in all its sour, earthy glory, small bricks of sweets made from sweetened shredded coconut or (the variation colored like a Mexican flag contains added milk), suckers, oversized lollipops, chamoy-flavored candy dust and large rounds of glazed pecan-studded brittle-type confection.
At heart, the Campos's are more entrepreneurs than foodies, though they did have a background working an ice cream truck near Hermann Park a few years ago before the city cracked down on permit restrictions. These entrepreneurial roots shine through in the variety of items available for sale alongside the candy: beaded belts, Mexican art, jewelry and toys. Sonia hopes to take a trip to Mexico to learn the beading and make her own belts; she also designed the otomi textile art logo that will soon become the shop's logo as well as the large, colorful paper flowers that bloom along the top of one of the shop's walls. Expect to see more crafts available for sale as the shop morphs into a more mature version in the coming months.
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As for other upgrades? The shop already has a fairly lengthy list of pops (just $2 each) in both dairy and non-dairy flavors (horchata, tamarind, pecan and mango, to name a few), but the Campos's hope to eventually source and include artisan pops as well. Even as they strive to rise in quality, they're keeping an eye out to make sure the price point stays accessible for the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, I'll be keeping an eye out to make sure their mangonada isn't going anywhere.
Treats of Mexico, 724 Telephone
Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; weekends, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.