If there’s a dessert with a global reach, it might just be ice cream and its many variants of frozen treats. While the classic American ice cream shop still has its place, cultures from around the world have added their own influences and interpretations, and many of those are now found in local shops and restaurants. In central Mesa, just a block east of the Mesa Drive / Main Street light rail station, Raspados el Boly sells frozen desserts, savory snacks, and even a few items large enough to qualify as meals — all based on Mexican and Latin American traditions.
Raspados el Boly is situated in a stucco strip mall located next to the newly renovated Pioneer Park and across the street from the Mesa Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints. A bike rack is found at the west end of the retail plaza, next to Haven Burgers, a restaurant that serves hearty meals but no dessert, making it a good complement to an ice cream shop. The shop has a tropical theme with thatch palm decor on the walls and beach umbrellas on the patio. Inside, sultry reggaeton videos play, sometimes at high volume, on a big screen television.
The staff are not all proficient in English, so non-Spanish-speaking customers may have to rely on pictures, pointing, and a little luck to order their desired dessert. The signature product, raspados, is a non-dairy frozen dessert based on shaved ice and syrup, often with the addition of fresh fruit and lechera, condensed milk. At Raspados el Boly, the flavors include familiar options such as strawberry and peach, along with tropical tastes like mango and tamarind. Macedonia combines both strawberry and mango with the addition of a scoop of ice cream.
All raspados come decorated with tiny umbrellas and long straws, making them seem nearly as tall and tropical as the palm trees outside the building. Raspados el Boly also sells nieves, which is closer to traditional American ice cream, and milkshakes. For the adventurous, though, the next step after a few raspados might be to try some of the items that blend sweet, salty, and spicy tastes all in one preparation. Chamoyada adds a tangy pickled fruit pulp to the raspado format. Peanuts add crunch, and chile adds spice, making it a multidimensional treat.
There’s a small display case that showcases a few non-frozen desserts, ranging from packaged Gansito snack cakes to freshly prepared golden flan or slices of tres leches cake. At the other end of the spectrum, there are some menu choices that aren’t desserts at all. Big vegetable cocktails and Playa, a coconut shell filled with ceviche, are among the menu items that are more a meal in themselves than just a sweet finish. Tostilocos, snacks made with toppings on Tostitos chips and served in a Tostitos bag, are sometimes also known in English as “walking tacos.”
There are many other nuances of the raspado world to discover here. While it’s perfectly possible to have just a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s more rewarding to delve into a rich world of tropical fruit flavor in which sweetness is balanced with sour, salty, and spicy notes — a common practice the closer one ventures to the equator. There’s a Dairy Queen on the other side of Mesa Drive, but it’s four lanes, two sets of train tracks, and a world away. Raspados el Boly is a bit of adventure after hamburgers a few doors down or a picnic at Pioneer Park.
606 E. Main St., Mesa AZ 85203
Mesa Drive / Main Street Station