A Popsicle is pleasant.
But a paleta is a party – a full-on fiesta.
“Paleta” translates to “Popsicle” in Spanish, and in Wichita, paletas are plentiful.
One of the main reasons is Paleteria La Reyna, a 20-year-old Mexican ice cream shop and restaurant that operates at 2925 N. Arkansas. The store, owned by Dagoberto and Jacobina Hernandez, has been serving one of Wichita’s most unique and beloved treats for two decades.
Paletas are Mexican ice cream bars, and they’re a popular treat in Mexico, where a “paleteria” operates on nearly every street corner.
Uriel Hernandez, who manages Paleteria La Reyna for his parents, said the idea for his family’s ice cream shop started when his father was hurt on the job in a meat packing plant. He needed a new line of work and loved the Mexican ice cream carts selling paletas that he saw while visiting Dallas.
Dagoberto Hernandez brought some of the ice cream bars back to Wichita and gave them to friends, who loved them, too. Then he brought more and more. Eventually, he and his children were selling paletas they’d purchased in Dallas out of a cart at parks and on street corners throughout the summer.
The bars became so popular, Dagoberto Hernandez decided to buy a machine and make his own. He found some space on Amidon, in the same strip center as DeFazio’s Italian Restaurant.
“We would make them during the day, and my older brother, my sister and dad would go out and sell in the afternoons,” Uriel Hernandez said.
Eventually, they got the space at 21st and Arkansas and were able to buy another machine, one that could produce 500 bars at a time.
Today, the Hernandez family produces 12,000 ice cream bars a week, in flavors such as bubblegum, pina colada, grape, watermelon, orange, cookies and cream – even tequila and chili. The most popular flavor, Uriel Hernandez said, is pecan, closely followed by strawberry, mango, and coconut.
The paletas have an extra-creamy texture and a rich flavor. That’s produced, Hernandez said, by using lots of milk and cream – each bar is 14 percent milk fat. They use only fresh, ripe fruit they select, and much of it is bought locally. The family also uses the same mix it uses to make its extra-creamy ice cream, colorfully displayed in the restaurant, to make its paletas. Paleteria La Reyna also is popular for its menu of Mexican food, including burritos, tacos, elote and more.
You can still get paletas out of carts in Wichita. Though the Hernandez family doesn’t push the carts anymore, they sell their bars wholesale to people who do.
Wichita has several places to get paletas. In addition to Paleteria La Reyna, there’s also Paleterias Topicanas at 2021 N. Amdion and La Abejita, the ice cream store at 214 W. 21st St. North. Several Mexican grocery stores and bakeries around town also carry the stores’ paletas.