Even if you didn't grow up in a Mexican family, once you taste the sweet pleasure of an icy-cold paleta in the summertime, you'll make it an annual tradition. Usually made with either milk or water, popular spots like Paleteria Monarca in Rogers Park manage to churn out flavors by the dozen.
"We have stuff like mamey, mango, coconut, guava, avocado, some places make some with corn, there are a lot of varieties," said Blanca Macias of Paleteria Monarca.
Every paleta begins the same way: homemade liquid is poured into molds, which are submerged in a super-cold liquid. Once frozen, the paletas are ejected from their molds, then quickly transferred to a packaging line, where they are sealed up in plastic rappers then tossed into the freezer.
The variety is stunning, and yet, oh-so delicious: the water-based flavors, such as pineapple, strawberry, lime, guava and bubblegum.. all taste like the freshest, boldest sorbets you could imagine.
Then there are the milk-based paletas: chocolate, vanilla, mango.. even strawberry and mamey - a tropical fruit. Creaminess is the key here.
"The water is more like an Italian ice kind of, but in a bar. And the milk bars are a lot creamier," said Macias.
The store also sells ice cream and has some seasonal specials, but it's the paletas most people come for, a reminder of their childhood in a compact, affordable package.
"I think it is everything. Flavor, texture, its all made of natural fruit. And like a lot of people ya grow up with it. You always saw the popsicle guy going by your neighborhood. It's just a way to remember your childhood," Macias said.
Paleteria La Monarca
6955 N. Clark Street
2513 S. Pulaski
Other Ice Cream Social features so far this month:
Andy's Frozen Custard
260 S. Weber Rd., Bolingbrook
Greg's Frozen Custard
1490 S. Lake St., Mundelein
Scooter's (frozen custard)
1658 W. Belmont
7510 W. Madison St., Forest Park
Freddy's Pizza (gelato)
1600 S. 61st Ave., Cicero