A paletero readies his cart with a good polish.
A paletero readies his cart with a good polish. Credit: Eileen Meslar

You could walk into Paleteria Arco Iris in Avondale and buy a scoop of mint chocolate chip or a Good Humor Ninja Turtles ice cream bar, but what’s really special about this blink-and-miss-it shop—to describe the store’s sign as “modest” would be generous—are the paletas. Well-known in Hispanic communities, the ice-pop street treats come in milk-based and water-based varieties—the former is creamy and smooth like ice cream, the latter fruity and icy like a popsicle. Both are damn delicious, and at this shop they go for a dollar even, out the door.

Paleteria Arco Iris is more cluttered than the average ice cream shop. Instead of tables and chairs, the cozy storefront is packed with rolling ice cream carts. Actually, it’s a hub for the north side’s paleteros, or walking (or riding) ice cream vendors. Take a close look at a paletero’s cart, and chances are solid you’ll spot “Arco Iris” emblazoned on the side. Vendors roll in and out of the shop throughout the day, stocking their carts.

The frozen-treat empire offers nearly two dozen flavors, including typical dessert standards like strawberry and pineapple. But maybe go with something a little more exciting, like sweet guava, tangy tamarindo, or, my choice, a rich, cinnamon-heavy horchata bar packed with chewy rice bits.