Cool treats shine in this vacation-conjuring destination
Has the unending onslaught of putrid political news coupled with a mostly sweltering summer put a crimp in your style? Yeah, me too. Invoking that once-ubiquitous Southwest Airlines commercial: “Wanna get away?”
If jumping on a plane isn't practical now, I know a local getaway where it's always bright and cheery — and always brimming with smile-making treats that are both sweet and chilly, savory and brazenly over-the-top.
Dulce Vida Ice Cream Factory — “Dulce Vida” means “Sweet Life” — is a two-shop chain specializing in Mexican snacks and confections. This column recounts a visit to the newish branch near Westerville.
Entering Dulce Vida, an unglamorous strip mall gives way to upbeat Mexican pop songs, walls flaunting colors such as bubblegum-pink and Tweety Bird-yellow, and extremely gracious servers. The gleaming space also features multiple stations for made-in-house street-food staples such as aguas frescas (punch-like beverages); helados (ice creams); paletas (stellar popsicles); “walking taco” variations; plus even more esoteric fare.
Junk-food aficionados will be glad to know that Dulce Vida makes a first-rate walking taco ($6.50). Killjoys unappreciative of the louche charms inherent in a meal-sized bag of nacho-cheese-dusted Doritos laden with tinga-style stewed chicken, shredded cabbage and shredded cheese might move onto edible amusements that are considerably more healthful and rare such as Bionicos ($7; $5 on Wednesdays).
Apparently named for their strength-endowing after-effect — “bionico” is Spanish for “bionic” — bionicos are titanic fruit salads that can convert fruit-eschewers into fruit-lovers with their sundae-like quality. Dulce Vida gets the critical and addictive dairy base of tangy Mexican crema sweetened with condensed milk just right.
Atop that just-sweet foundation, which recalls melted vanilla ice cream only thicker, my bionico — which seemed to weigh about five pounds — offered a truckload of chopped papaya, mango, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe, banana, watermelon, apples and grapes. The fresh construction arrived attractively rimmed with strawberries and sprinkled with crunchy granola and coconut flakes.
The result is a little like Swiss muesli and a lot delicious. Bonus: becoming bionically strong has never tasted so great.
Craving something less mammoth? Try a light-and-delightful scoop of sorbet ($2.25) in a tropical fruit flavor like guanabana (“soursop”) or prickly pear (“tuna fruit”). Or, better yet, get a fantastic paleta rife with actual fruit such as the soothing cream-and-guava ($2) or the tangy-and-spicy mango-chile ($3.25). Each intense bite is like a little vacation.