Ice cream, sorbets, smoothies, paletas: I love them all at this Kansas City shop

·3 min read

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In my family growing up, ice cream was basic: vanilla, strawberry, chocolate. Maybe a few other flavors, if we were lucky.

Maybe that’s why as an adult, I truly appreciate Palacana, a family-owned local company that churns out 48 ice cream flavors at a rate of 80 tubs a day, or 450 a week.

And that’s not even counting the paletas — Mexican ice pops made from fruit or an ice cream base. Palacana makes 6,000 of them a day in 44 flavors.

Paletas are Mexican ice pops, and at Palacana you can find them in at least 44 flavors.
Paletas are Mexican ice pops, and at Palacana you can find them in at least 44 flavors.

I love seeing families going to get their favorite ice cream. It reminds me of my childhood when my parents would pile all five kids in the blue and white 1964 Rambler station wagon to take us for our treats, as simple as they were then.

Palacana makes all sorts of ice cream flavors in gorgeous bright colors, different ones like pine nut, dolce de leche and horchata ($4.59 per serving). The paletas ($2.29 each) come in so many flavors too, some sprinkled with spicy tajin.

But my favorite thing to order there is the strawberry-banana smoothie ($5.99). I get one maybe once a week. It’s made with fresh fruit and tastes just like a bowl of fresh strawberries with a few slivers of banana. I have not found a better smoothie anywhere in the KC area.

This ice cream cone includes scoops of mango sorbet and strawberry sorbet.
This ice cream cone includes scoops of mango sorbet and strawberry sorbet.

I also love the dairy-free fruit sorbets, with flavors like mango, pineapple, lime and strawberry. As someone of Mexican descent – my grandparents were raised in Mexico — Palacana is my go-to spot because it’s a true taste of Mexico.

Owner José Luis Valdez, whose first job was selling paletas on the streets of his native Mexico at age 7, opened his first ice cream store in 2004 along with his wife, Lucia Fonseca, and their two daughters. They had no business experience, but they had dedication.

Husband and wife José Luis Valdez and Lucia Fonseca, owners of Palacana, enjoy their paletas.
Husband and wife José Luis Valdez and Lucia Fonseca, owners of Palacana, enjoy their paletas.

Valdez first thought he’d open a restaurant — he had once worked as a chef in a French restaurant. His wife had a better idea.

“Let’s open an ice cream shop,” she said.

Though hesitant at first, Valdez went along with it. “She is the jefe,” a smiling Valdez said, using the Spanish word for boss.

Nearly 20 years later, they have honed their skills and recipes to create flavorful, frozen perfection.

Along the way, they changed their name, from Paleterías Tropicana, common words for such shops, to Palacana, a combination of the two words, for better branding, Valdez says.

Palacana’s flagship location is at 830 Southwest Blvd.
Palacana’s flagship location is at 830 Southwest Blvd.

Today Palacana has 60 employees and three locations: the flagship at 830 Southwest Blvd. as well as one in Independence and another in Kansas City, Kansas. They also have three franchise-style partnerships. All locations, except for their original shop, also have a restaurant that serves food like tacos, burritos and burgers.

I was lucky enough to visit their Roeland Park factory recently and watch employees make bubble gum-flavored ice cream, with a hint of strawberry flavoring and colorful gumballs. Most of the equipment, along with the flavoring, is shipped from Mexico. While they originally tried American-made machinery and flavoring, it just wasn’t the same.

Hugo Márquez shows off the pistachio paletas he made using a mold at the Palacana factory in Roeland Park.
Hugo Márquez shows off the pistachio paletas he made using a mold at the Palacana factory in Roeland Park.

“The ingredients from Mexico have much more flavor,” Valdez said. “It’s more expensive, but it’s worth it to give our customers the best.”

Not to brag (OK, I’m bragging), but I’m an ice cream connoisseur, and trust me, your eyes and your stomach will know this is the real deal.

Palacana stores its ice creams and paletas at its Roeland Park factory.
Palacana stores its ice creams and paletas at its Roeland Park factory.

Palacana’s newest partnership is with the Kansas City Royals, offering their wonderful ice cream treats and more at The K this season. I personally can’t wait.