As things start to warm up in LA, naturally we all start thinking of ways to keep cool. Over on the Westside you all have your Pinkberrys and Scoops and Jumbled Juices or whatever it is you kids get all excited about nowadays. But on the Eastside, land where many big companies fear to tread (yay!) we have our own options. Of course, we have the men and woman of the Raspado and Paleta Patrol, those unsung heroes that bring tasty refreshments to our neighborhood sidewalks. But sometimes, when you can’t wait until you hear the next round of ring-rings, honk-honks, or the sing-song call of the ambulantes (“Paletas! Que ricas, Paletas!”) and you just need your cool snack fix now, then it’s time to head over to an old school brick and mortar shop. And in my neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, that always means Tejuino Los Reyes!
The great thing about Los Reyes is their wide range of refreshing items to chose from: they’ve got jugos and liquados (you all know that’s juices and shakes right?), fresh aguas that change every day (my favorite is jamaica, nothing better than the tart flavor of the hibiscus flower), and fresh fruit mixes that you can douse with chile, sal, y limon, yum!
But the runaway best seller has to be the nieves, that’s always what I see everyone else ordering.
No fancy or crazy flavors here, just fruits and nuts. But they do have two styles of ice creams: one freezer holds the milk based ices while the other has the water based flavors, so there’s even something for the vegans to enjoy.
I tried the water based melon ice, a very simple but refreshing treat, without the massive assault of sweetness you find in most United Statesian desserts. BTW, can somebody explain that for me: why are so many desserts so damn teeth-achingly sweet? Is there some sort of the-more-sugar-the-better rule? I don’t get it.
If you are feeling adventurous, I suggest trying the namesake item on the menu, the drink known as tejuino. Crazy Mexicans are always imagining new ways to use corn so they came up with this cold tart drink; it’s a mix of maiz and brown sugar (piloncillo) that has been very lightly fermented, then served on ice with limon, rock salt, and often with a scoop of nieve de limon. With a thick consistency and an astringent taste, I can understand why many think of it as an aquired taste. But it’s a perfect summer flavor, in a similar way that a wheat beer or a Belgian white ale can also be so refreshingly on the spot. No, you can’t get a buzz off of it, for those wonderful effects you would have to go down to Northern Mexico to get a hold of some of the good stuff known as tesg√ºino, the corn beer made by the Tarahumara on which the light stuff seems to be based. (Or you can just make it yourself, it’s not too hard.) But even this mild, commercial version of the drink is worth trying at least once, you might even decide you like it. And since it is made of corn, it doubles up as a liquid meal!
Just another option to consider if you want to get out of your corporate food rut.
Tejuino Los Reyes 2707 N. Broadway (323) 221-7731 in beautiful Lincoln Heights