If a spicy sundae sounds like the work of a prankster who swapped the contents of a strawberry-syrup bottle with hot sauce, think again; the mangoneada is a traditional Mexican treat that combines mango sorbet with a hot, sour, salty concoction that looks much like any other fruit topping. It's called chamoy.
I'd never heard of the stuff and had no idea what I was getting into when I ordered the mangoneada at Neveria Tocumbo (4687 Market St., Suite B7, in Chollas View). On the menu board, there was a photograph of what looked to be an ice-cream sundae doused with what I assumed was a fruity red sauce. The lady working the counter looked at me skeptically—I was the only gringa in the place—and asked, "No chamoy?"
The Grubby golden rule: When trying something new, never "hold" anything. Order the original; otherwise, how the hell will you know what it's supposed to taste like?
There are plenty of little round tables, each with swiveling stools that evoke an ice-cream-shop feel, in an American sense. Teenagers, families and even groups of older folks sat lazily eating a variety of frozen treats, all of which looked incredible. The place is a hangout because it serves all the good stuff—including 24 flavors of homemade, natural ice creams and a rainbow of popsicle flavors consisting of either fruit juice or creamy bases, plus tostilocos and tortas. I found myself thinking that there's no reason to leave this place, unless I need a haircut or something.
At first bite of the mangoneada, a raging fiesta of flavors enveloped my mouth. The soft mango sorbet was like eating a partially frozen, juicy piece of fruit and, combined with the chamoy—which turns out to be a syrup derived from pickled plums (or mangoes)—was instantly addicting. Topped with chopped, sour mangoes, each bite offered a wild contrast of flavors, and the dried chile, also a component of chamoy, caused a pleasant sweat to form on my forehead. The experience of eating the mangoneada was so titillating that it felt like Mexican jumping beans occupied my pants; bouncing on the little stool, I considered taking my purse and hitting one of the piñatas hanging from the ceiling. The mangoneada is party-time incarnate.
During the first of four visits in one week, I also ordered what looked like a strawberry slushy, called a fresada. Crushed ice gets a mix of what I presume is strawberry juice, chamoy and big slices of ripe strawberries. Refreshing and spicy, my mind was blown. Again.
Items take some time to arrive, because all of the fresh fruit is chopped to order, each dessert created with care. Take a number, wait and resist the temptation to break into the display case.
Do it my way and eat something there, then take home a dozen popsicles for $19—they even throw in some freebies. Strawberries and cream, pistachio, chamoy and watermelon are some of my favorites. But the plain vanilla reigns supreme; it's silky, decadent and best enjoyed while laying in bed. Even non-smokers will contemplate lighting a cigarette afterward.