Serious Eats: Sweets
Nashville, Tennessee: Gourmet Popsicles at Las Paletas
"Las Paletas makes the best gourmet paletas I've tried yet."
Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles
2907 12th Avenue South, Nashville TN 37204 (map); 615-386-2101 Open Tuesday through Saturday, 12 to 7 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.
On Monday, the new Food Network show Kid In A Candy Store featured a gourmet popsicle company that makes its home near the Belmont University campus in Nashville, Tennessee. If you didn't get a chance to see the show or if you retain a skeptical opinion of the Food Network's reportage, let me vouch for them and say this place is the real deal.
Aptly named, Las Paletas makes the best gourmet paletas I've tried yet—lightyears ahead of NYC's People Pops (though I do love their shaved ice) and narrowly beating Austin's GoodPop. A riff on the angular Mexican popsicles that usually feature corn syrup or cane juice and loads of artificial coloring, these icy treats forgo all that filth in favor of pure, streamlined recipes that highlight natural fruit flavors.
One staffer at Las Paletas says their secret is picking fruits at the right time. And because they're using sugar mainly for texture, rather than to mask inferior flavors, the paletas aren't overly hard and icy, nor artificially gummy and sweet. They remain delicious and compelling the whole way through.
Many establishments around town sell paletas from Las Paletas, but nowhere has as extensive a selection as the home location on 12th Ave South. They make fruit-only paletas, creamy paletas, and "other" paletas that break the mold, like hibiscus (neither a fruit nor a cream) and blueberry yogurt. I can't speak for the creamy paletas (lactose-intolerant) but the fruit paletas rock my world.
The honeydew manages to capture that melon perfectly—I even prefer it to the fruit itself. For some paletas they eschew a clean, uniform composition and leave in the characteristics of the ingredients, such as the blueberry skins and pineapple meat in the paleta that combines those two fruits.
A visit to Las Paletas has become part of my routine when I go to Nashville (as it should be for you) and on more than one occasion they've made the perfect finale to a cross-town taco tour. After hearing so much hype about the new adjacent restaurant Burger Up, next time I think I'll pair my gourmet paleta with a massive gourmet hamburger. Yum.