In Mexican culture, “La Michoacana” is synonymous with ice cream and refers not so much to a specific chain as to an idea. Sure, there’s a company by that name that’s ubiquitous in Mexico and in stateside Mexican grocery stores, its logo of a pink-dressed Purépecha girl holding a cone of nieve as iconic to paisas as Bimbo’s white teddy bear and the Tapatío man. But long ago, competitors copied the chain’s look, flavors and trademarks to the point that if you want to sell Mexican ice cream for a living, you have to have “Michoacana” attached to the name even if you ain’t from there (for the full, fascinating history of this phenomenon, pick up a copy of Sam Quinones’ True Tales From Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx).
I don’t know the history behind La Michoacana Premium, which has three locations in Orange County and is a franchise with spots in the Inland Empire, Illinois and Tennessee. But I do know that it’s a nevería and paletería for the modern age. Each location is humongous, the better to display its dozens of flavors of ice cream and paleta de agua (fruit juice popsicles) or de leche (made from fruit-spiked milk) in gleaming coolers. Pandora streams the latest banda hits; flat-screens are usually tuned to Telemundo, for some reason. Yes, hipsters, little is labeled, but that’s because you’re supposed to ask if they have a specific flavor, pinche entitled CHAVALAS.
What makes Mexican ice cream shops superior to any competitor is the dizzying diversity, and La Michoacana Premium proves it. Boring, old “American” flavors? Chocolate is the best. Latino fruits unknown to the American palate? Try the perky nance or the tart-then-sweet guanabana (which Viets know in English as soursop). Hipster wackiness? The Fruity Pebbles paleta takes you back to your childhood. Throw in fruit salads, tostilocos and combinations of everything, and you should never eat at another ice cream shop again. Want to beat the summer heat? La Michoacana Premium on every corner, fam.
La Michoacana Premium, 15761 Tustin Village Way, Ste. 102, Tustin; also at 1077 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 603-7250; and 2327 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (657) 212-5444; www.lamichoacanapremium.com.