“We finally opened Jefe Paleta. My cousin, Caesar, and I grew up working in our family’s Mexican restaurants in Mobile. We dreamed for years of having our own restaurant selling paletas—Mexican popsicles filled with fruit and flavors. Paletas are street snacks in Mexico and we ate them in the summers when we visited our family.
We’ve been posting on social media about this store for almost two years, but opening took longer than we planned. We made some bad decisions and tried to go around the red tape to do some of the construction faster ourselves. Those mistakes cost us time and money, and we had to back up and hire an architect. If we had done things correctly the first time, we could have opened a year ago. Instead, we paid rent out of our pockets for every month we weren’t open. There were times I wanted to quit. I would drive by the empty building and it hurt to look at it. The hurricane blew away our sign that said ‘Coming Soon’ and we just let it go. This has been a humbling experience, but thankfully our landlord was patient and wanted us to open the right way. He lowered our rent to help us out. We finally opened last Friday. At the end of that first day, I got on my knees and thanked God. The first days have been so good. I will always cherish this business and strive for excellence.
The name Jefe Paletas means ‘popsicle boss.’ We have 28 flavors of paletas right now, but the possibilities are endless. One of the best sellers is queso fresco with caramel. It’s vanilla ice cream mixed with white cheese and filled with caramel on the inside. This is from a favorite treat my mom made for us with caramel and queso fresco in a tortilla. We freeze the vanilla ice cream in molds and leave it hollow inside. We pour in the caramel, add the stick and continue to freeze. The caramel gushes in your mouth.
We are barely scratching the surface with ingredients. We have avocado paletas. The mango-chile paletas are spicy and sweet. The spicy enhances the fruit. We haven’t even gotten to mint and chocolate yet. Sometimes an idea tastes terrible the first time we make it. We have other snacks including Mexican street corn that mixes mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, salt and hot sauce with corn. Bionico fruit salad is fresh fruit mixed with sweet cream. Fresh fruit is easily available in Mexico. There is creativity and craft that goes into the paletas and snacks they sold on the street. We want to honor this.
Mobile is a melting pot, and there is so much culture here. It’s a huge blessing to be an American. Life is harder in Mexico. Our fathers crossed the border in the ’70s. My dad picked strawberries and Caesar’s dad worked on a chicken farm. President Reagan provided amnesty for immigrants, and our dads signed the papers. They worked in restaurants in Atlanta, then came to Mobile. La Cocina is one of their restaurants here. I am proud of their entrepreneurship and the good lives they gave us. We want to keep working hard and passing that down to our children. Our wives have also been a big part of this. They see things we don’t see. We are already talking about opening another location.
Ice cream makes people happy. The opening days have been so good, and all I can do is give glory to the Lord. This store isn’t just about us, or paletas, it’s about the people who come in. We want to bring light and be a blessing to the community.”
(Jefe Paleta is located at 5301 Cottage Hill Road)