The Herrera family is bringing a taste of Veracruz, Mexico, to downtown Columbia with the opening of Paleteria El Tajín. Among the recent wave of Mexican restaurants popping up in mid-Missouri, this eatery stands out as the only place in Columbia – and between Kansas City and St. Louis – that sells paletas (Mexican ice pops). But that’s not all you’ll find here, says Yoselin Herrera, who helps her sister and head chef, Yessica Herrera, with restaurant operations. “We wanted to bring something different to Columbia,” she says. We offer a style called antojitos...we sell ice cream, snacks, a little bit of everything.”
Although the shop will specialize in ice pops, it offers a full menu of savory fare.
Antojitos, or “little cravings” are fast, easily-prepared dishes that diners can take on the go. Grab an order of the papas locas, homemade potato chips served with pork rinds, tomato, peanuts and chamoy with shredded jicama (Mexican turnip) and carrots. For a cool treat, try a Limoneada, a blend of lime ice cream, chamoy and Tajin, just one of the many menu options inside the Broadway storefront.
Husband-and-wife team José Luis Valdez and Lucia Fonseca sell 48 flavors of Mexican paletas, from chocolate to pistachio to tamarind.
At Paleteria El Tajín, Yessica uses recipes she learned from her mother, including the recipe for fresh tortillas, which become the shell for a wide selection of tacos and burritos. And though the paletas aren’t made in house, they’re sourced from Paleterias Tropicana, a well-known paleteria in Kansas City. You’ll find a bountiful selection on the menu at Paleteria El Tajin, with flavors such as guava, tequila, dulce de leche and coconut. As the business grows, the family says they’d like to look into the option of making the paletas themselves. Aside from the paletas, Yoselin says the tacos and empanadas have quickly become favorite menu items. Other popular picks include the esquites, an off-the-cob version of elotes that features steamed corn topped with queso fresco and chile powder.
Although El Rancho is still the only after-midnight Mexican food option on Broadway, Paleteria El Tajin is open until 11pm on weekends. Pop into the lemon-lime colored building in daylight or after dark to get your fix of authentic Mexican street food; no matter what time you visit, you’ll find a family who sees their time spent in the kitchen as a labor of love. “We wanted to, as a family, do something that is going to bring us joy,” Yoselin says. “My sister loves to cook. She is so happy about it.” Cool off with a paleta or another antojito at Paleteria El Tajin any day of the week.
Paleteria El Tajín, 903 E. Broadway, Columbia, Missouri, facebook.com/pages/category/Restaurant/Paleteria-El-Taj%C3%ADn-298075421085699