OK, Charlotte is now officially world class. You no longer need to go to Atlanta to find Mexican ice cream. La Michoacana opened this summer on North Tryon Street.
Don’t know about Mexican frozen treats? You’ve been missing a good thing. The Mexican version of the popsicle, the paleta, is chock full of fresh fruit. Mexican ice cream comes in dozens of flavors unheard of in the U.S.
At La Michoacana, Rigoberto Fernandez Malfavon and his family make everything in small batches right in the store. Mango, one of the most popular flavors, requires 30 cases of fresh mangos every two weeks, estimates Rigoberto.
Melon (cantaloupe) and fresa (strawberry) are two tastes sure to tickle American tongues. More adventuresome? Try grosella (red currant). Or mamey, a fruit reminiscent of pear – popular in central Mexico, where the Fernandez family hails from.
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Rigoberto traces his lineage back to Raphael Malfavon, who started the first ice cream shop in the village of Tocumbo in the state of Michoacan. In the 1940s, Tocumbo entrepreneurs perfected a business model of family-run ice cream parlors.
Profits from one small operation financed the next and the next, until today thousands of La Michoacanas are sprinkled across Mexico and into the U.S. Most have roots in Tocumbo – where a giant popsicle statue now graces a hilltop.
In Charlotte, happy throngs have filled La Michoacana since it opened in August in a modest strip-mall storefront. “People know this place from Mexico,” says Rigoberto. “These flavors take them home.”