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Summer sweetness: Cool treats take the edge off the heat at Pop Fizz

Ice cream waffle tacos from Pop Fizz. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Ice cream waffle tacos from Pop Fizz. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Author Henry James said the sweetest two words in the English language were “summer afternoon.” I would embellish that phrase with two more words: ice cream.

Pop Fizz, the lighthearted Mexican-style ice cream and snack shop at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, takes frozen confections to the next level of delight for kids of all ages.

Their all-natural, housemade fruity frozen paletas ($1.99) put chill into the hottest July day, and if you want to be decadent about it, you can order yours dipped into dark, white or milk chocolate. The really tough choices are among flavors such as mango-chile, pineapple habanero and cucumber-chile-lime. More exotic flavor combinations are pear cardamom and caramel apple ($2.99). Mini-paletas are 99 cents.

There’s an extra pop to the mangoneodos ($2.99), mango paletas all dressed up with chile salt, lime and chamoy sauce, a sweet-savory-spicy-salty Mexican condiment that must be experienced to be appreciated. It’s like eating a frozen neon mango.

My dining companion, Hector, age 10, went directly for the half-moon shaped, waffle-covered, chocolate dipped cookies-and-cream “ice cream taco.” ($2.99).”I want dessert first,” he said.

Carne asada fries are available at Pop Fizz. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Carne asada fries are available at Pop Fizz. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Pop Fizz inspires that yearning.

He followed up his taco with a Sonora dog, a spicy all-beef grilled hot dog with avocado, cheddar cheese, onions, chipotle mayonnaise and salsa verde on a toasted bolillo roll ($5.49), with the perfect matchup of hibiscus punch.

I, too, adore this intensely flavor-layered dog; however, I dredged up the willpower to order the dish Pop Fizz may be best known for, beyond its paletas: the carne asada fries ($6.29). Yummy fries are topped with tender marinated steak, cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream and cotija cheese. Who could ask for anything more?

This humble dish of deliciousness, presented with love and care, is the cure for anyone who believes food deprivation of any kind is a good thing. To them, I say: Take off the Fitbit and taste the fries.

If you are a Frito pie seeker, look no further. The Pop Fizz version, with the correct proportion of crispy chips to hot red chile ($5.25) competes well with those sold in high school gyms across northern New Mexico. Breakfast burritos ($4.99), toasted turkey, green chile Philly and grilled veggie sandwiches ($7.49) round out the menu, with daily specials offered. Pop Fizz has what you want and what you need.

But let’s get serious. Pop Fizz also serves concoctions known as boozy shakes ($8.49), enormous old-fashioned frosty glasses of wonder like my favorite, the Oreo espresso-flavored with cold-brewed coffee, chocolate syrup and Kahlua, trembling with whipped cream. It’s not your mother’s milkshake, but it may be the best thing you can do for yourself when the outside temperature is 102 degrees. Regular shakes and floats are also served.

Touring the museum while in the neighborhood is a nice idea but certainly not a requirement for a visit here. The new patio is about to open. You may also encounter their food truck or a pushcart around town when the weather is warm.

Hector says we can come back here anytime. He gives it four stars.

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