Just south of 161st street on St. Anns Avenue in The Bronx, a strip lined with sidewalk mechanics and the accompanying Napa Auto Parts store, is Delicioso Coco Helado headquarters. Founded by Honduran immigrant Alfredo Thiebaud, the building’s red brick wall is clothed in a livery of tropical fruits, jackfruit and papaya included, that have been cracked and diced into various forms. Their headquarters and dispatch unit, home to 3 gallon tubs of helado, is hardly noticeable. The real treasure lies in the hands of the scooper.
Rolling a stainless steel, 4 drum cart around, Delicioso Coco Helado puts up a fight against the corporate giants, with synchronization starting at the Green and White cart umbrellas and continuing to the fruit flavor depicting serving cups. Whether at the corner of 175th Street and Wadsworth Ave in Washington Heights or 41st Street and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, my two frequent stops, the imagery and experience remain the same. That’s a good thing.
And while the company prints an extensive flavor list(17 flavors that are available at wholesale in store), the rotation of flavors rarely changes. Coconut, Cherry/Mango, and Rainbow always populate 3 drums with Tamarind and Pineapple/Lemon interchanging in the 4th. I will always order Cherry with Coconut and the purveyor will always pack the fruity flavor on top of the coconut. These are standard procedures.
The allure is the texture. While the flavors are vague and all coconut laced, a frozen, sandy, tomato paste consistency is present in each flavor. It’s more of a lick and less of a bite. These carts exist to aid in instant refreshment, a stick-less and spoon-less refreshment that happens upon you.To reject any supports or utensils is to make this a summer exclusive and is a testament to the consistency of the frozen and packed cream. The coconut flavored cream must be extracted through a crush of the cup and a suck of the gut, requiring comfort and confidence in oneself to be eaten in public.
The publicity of eating a $1.50 to $2.50 cup of soon-to-be melting cream is unavoidable, however, because, even in a pre-pandemic world, you can’t stop in anywhere for your fix. Delicioso Coco Helado claims to dispatch carts across The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn but I don’t seem to see them on 14th Street. They may roam the boundaries of University Row, the straight shot from Washington Square Park across 8th Street/St. Marks into Tompkins Square Park, but, in a square mile dominated by the hyper visual Blue Bunny bodega bins and naturopath imitators like Van Leeuwen, what’s the point? The cart pushers and purveyors of this coconut cream are, of course, smart and cater to their customer.
Instead of jostling for storefront property, the carts are most frequently found on small park paths and rolling but tame avenues from Kingsbridge across to Jackson Heights and into Weeksville. Sure, the carts do stand on street corners and, yes, you could seek after one but to do so would rush the process. Hiking up Amsterdam, the twin bell chime is supposed to slow you down and speed up the toddler sized feet that will soon swarm around you. And because the carts seek you out, they become unavoidable as the temperatures rise. On my mission to Delicioso HQ, leaving Sunset Park and emerging in the South Bronx, each subway exit began with the ding of a bell and the shade of a Delicioso Coco Helado umbrella. With sleeves being covered and zippers rising, the annual season for coconut ice will end on October 31st, tomorrow. Until then, I recommend the $2.50 cup. And don’t ask for a spoon!