Last week, the long-awaited Mexicandy ice cream and treat shop opened its doors to the Riverhead community, offering classic Mexican desserts not commonly found on the East End.
Mexicandy began in 2020 as a way for Chris Aguilar and his then-girlfriend, Roset Ompok, to pass the time during the pandemic. Although the Riverhead-based couple had no previous experience making desserts, the two were inspired to make mangonadas – mango slushies with chili and salt – out of their home after a trip to New York City.
“There was nothing really like Mexicandy out here,” said Aguilar. “The business grew really fast during Covid. We were making over 50 [slushies] a day.”
Then, later that same year in December, Ompok suddenly passed away, bringing the couple’s plans for a Mexicandy brick-and-mortar location to a halt.
“My sister Frida kept me going,” Aguilar said. “She encouraged me to not give up on building out the store and continuing to keep [Roset’s] dream alive.”
Mexicandy is decked out in swirling shades of reds, yellows and greens and is decorated with statues of ice cream cones and fruit-shaped light fixtures. Apart from helado, Spanish for ice cream, the shop sells a collection of homemade Mexican treats and snacks in vast offerings and flavors: from paletas to nachos, churros, crepes and of course, mangonadas.
“We want to be a place for everyone to enjoy, that’s why we offer so much,” said Aguilar. “We are so excited to offer something different to the community. [Our food] is completely customizable. There is something for everyone.”
Here are six specialties that I sampled while at Mexicandy:
Horchata Agua Fresca
Aguilar described agua frescas to be similar to the popular fruit refreshers from Starbucks. However, he emphasized that at Mexicandy, the fruit juice is squeezed fresh daily. I decided to try their horchata flavor – a blend of cinnamon and white rice with added vanilla and sugar. The result is a creamy yet surprisingly refreshing drink that is completely dairy free. Mexicandy’s agua frescas flavors rotate every two days, so there is always something new to try.
It was incredibly difficult to narrow down what flavor of ice cream I wanted at Mexicandy. With over 20 flavors, I knew I had to try something I would not typically find at other ice cream shops. Mazapàn is a popular Mexican candy made from peanuts and powdered sugar. The ice cream – which is house-made in the back of the shop by Aguilar and his cousin – was deliciously nutty without being overly sweet. The chunks of mazapàn were soft and slightly chewy which complimented the creaminess of the ice cream itself.
Pineapple Chili Paleta
On a hot July day, sometimes all you need is a fresh fruit ice pop, paleta in Spanish. Like most of the things in Aguilar’s shop, his paletas are homemade and come in a wide selection of flavors – both ice and cream based. I decided on the pineapple chili flavor, to break up the creaminess of the previous two items. The combination of tang from the pineapple and spice of the chili powder was perfect and not too spicy – however, I think it is important for me to note that I never back down from a spicy dish.
When Aguilar told me the story of how Mexicandy got started, I knew I wanted to try the mangonada. Mangonadas are mango-based slushies, mixed with some chamoy – a Mexican sauce made from dehydrated fruit such as apricot, mango or plums, chili powder, salt, sugar, and a little citrus juice – mango nectar and a little lime. The mango creates a cream-like consistency to the slushie, making it appear more like ice cream. The cup is smothered in more chamoy and chunks of mango before the mangonada is added and topped with a tajin-coated straw. The sweet mango contrasted the tartness of the lime and the spice of the chili beautifully, creating another wonderfully refreshing drink.
Mexican street corn is one of my all-time favorite foods, so there was no surprise at my excitement when Aguilar brought me this dish. Elote is corn on the cob on a stick, slathered with a mayo cream sauce and rolled in cheese, chili and lime – a delicious mix of sweet and savory.
Tosti Locos (Walking Taco)
I’m personally a fan of portable food – the kind that doesn’t take much effort to eat on the go. Walking tacos are typically an easy go-to, you just mix your taco fixings (meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce, salsa, etc.) in a bag of Doritos or Tostidos and you are on your way. Although Mexicandy’s version of walking tacos are not as portable due to their gargantuan size, I was delighted to indulge in multiple new flavors I never had the opportunity to taste before. Aguilar travels to New Jersey to purchase the salsa verde flavored Tositdos, which are now a new obsession of mine. This massive bag of sweet and savory consisted of chips, mixed with pork rinds, melon, tamarind candy and Japanese peanuts – a popular flour-coated confectionary in Mexico. This a guilty-pleasure snack I’ll be stopping to grab on my way home from work on the regular.
Mexicandy is located at 221 East Main St. in Riverhead. The shop is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.