Five years ago, Mexican-inspired paletas were either a novelty or just plain unheard-of down South. Today, almost every Southern city is home to locally owned, artisanal popsicles with seasonal flavors. Many are so successful they’ve opened their own storefronts, and some are even crossing state lines. Since some of these folks peddle their wares on two-wheeled bike carts, we recommend stalking their social media channels for their up-to-date locations.
Below are some of the tastiest homegrown frozen treats to pop up (so to speak) on our radar.
Brent Fogerty began Cold Ones in Dallas a few years ago, but he really hit his groove when he relocated to Austin in 2012. The city’s never-ending stream of festivals, concerts, and outdoor activities means he’s biking his lime-green, Dia de los Muertos-inspired cart around the capitol most every day with his trusty one-eyed pug, Spanky, by his side. Fogerty takes sourcing a step further than the farmers’ market by literally hand-picking some of his ingredients–including prickly pear from a nearby greenbelt and figs from an urban farm.
Summer Picks: peach miso, cantaloupe peppercorn
Steel City Pops
Owner Jim Watkins began imagining Steel City Pops twelve years ago after a fateful visit to Nashville’s trend-setting Las Paletas shop. But it wasn’t until 2012 that he was able to quit an unfulfilling sales job to realize his dream of making homegrown artisanal pops, with the help of his mom, wife, and four sons. Today, you’ll find Steel City pops all over Alabama, with soon-to-open storefronts in North Texas.
Summer Picks: buttermilk, blueberry basil
Mike Thompson doesn’t put much in his pops–in fact, they’re so pure they’re considered raw food. His focus is on fresh fruit as the only ingredient, which is evident when biting into one of his blueberry lemon or strawberry mango pops. Try to catch him pedaling around the college town of Fayetteville, or buy online and stock up for the summer.
Summer Picks: chocolate banana pineapple, honeydew peach
First opened near Wilmington, NC, LunaPops can now be found scattered throughout the Southern states, and even a few Northern ones. The family-owned company launched their four-packs in 2012, making it that much harder to eat just one. If the ninety flavors available at their shop aren’t enough, you can even get them custom-made.
Summer Picks: cookies ‘n’ cream, hibiscus lemon
More than a pop shop, the company was started by a group of friends wanting to provide a community space for their small Alabama town–with good food, music, and art to boot. Housed in an old overall factory, visit their pop production facility onsite, then stick around for scratch-made biscuits and coffee from Counter Culture.
Summer Picks: coffee & bourbon, strawberry
Stephen DiMare is only twenty-eight, but he’s already the proud owner of a burgeoning popsicle empire in the picturesque beach town of St. Augustine, FL. What began as a downtown recession-deal lease in 2010 has grown to several storefronts and one cafe. With Florida’s bountiful fruit harvest all around them, their emphasis is on fresh, from-the-farmers-market pops. Luckily for us, they also ship.
Summer Picks: blackberry limeade, avocado coconut
You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for owner Steve McGlocklin–his pop carts travel to Tampa’s open-air markets, food truck rallies, and festivals. The ingredients range from the adventurous (wasabi!) to classic (orange cream), but he says the coconut lime is by far the fan favorite.
Summer Picks: Earl Grey lavender lemonade, coconut lime