I think by now, we have established that I’m the “food guy” at work. I’ve never been a fan of the word “foodie,” or anything else that sounds like baby talk, but I’ve embraced my role as the food guy, quick to make restaurant recommendations, show up with delicious snacks to share, or try to wrangle people to go out to lunch somewhere new and different.
My colleagues don’t always take my advice, especially when it comes to picking a place to go out to lunch, but today they did. I drove three of them to a great, relatively new restaurant that none of us had been to before, but I had been reading good things about, that I had been wanting to try for a while. That review is coming soon, but when we were almost back to work, someone mentioned ice cream, I mentioned I had heard about a new ice cream place that sounded good, and then they all demanded I keep driving and take them there next.
So we ended up at Jr Tropical Ice Cream (https://www.facebook.com/JrTropicalicecream), a small establishment on Goldenrod Road, in a little shopping plaza just south of East Colonial Drive. I had driven by this place a couple of times, but never had a chance to stop and explore. I saw in the window that Jr Tropical serves a bunch of unique flavors of ice cream, including several tropical fruits (my favorite, Miami boy that I am) and some Puerto Rican and other Latin flavors. I was so excited my co-workers were on board, trusting me even though I hadn’t even been here yet myself.
Jr Tropical Ice Cream instantly reminded me of my favorite ice cream parlor I’ve ever been to, Azucar Ice Cream Company in Miami, which offers a lot of unique flavors based on tropical fruits and Cuban desserts. I hope to make it back to Azucar some day to write a proper review, but in the meantime, I am thrilled that we have Jr Tropical Ice Cream here in Orlando.
Well, everyone loved it, I’m pleased to report. It’s a delightful little place with a huge variety of ice cream flavors, all made in-house. The young man and woman who worked there were extremely friendly and welcoming, and you could tell they took a lot of pride in their ice cream. Not only do they have so many interesting flavors, but the prices are definitely right.
Everyone except me ordered a small, for a very reasonable $2.99. You can try up to two different flavors in a small. Me being me, I asked how many flavors you could try in a medium for $4.50, expecting three, but you can get *four*. They had me at four!
You can also upgrade to a small waffle cone for $3.75, a large waffle cone for $4.90, a waffle bowl for $5.60, or get a banana split for $5.57. What isn’t listed on these TV menus is that you can also get ice cream in half of a fresh coconut, which they cut in half right then and there. I don’t even know why I didn’t get my ice cream in half of a coconut. Even though we all knew we had to go back to work, I would have totally felt like I was on vacation. Next time!
So the next four slides are my less-than-perfect photos of all the flavors of the day. I’ll type them out to make it easier:
Acerola/West Indian cherry
Mango piña/mango pineapple
Arroz con dulces/rice pudding
Guava piña/guava pineapple
Piña colada/pineapple coconut
Panky (we asked about this one, and Panky is a popular Puerto Rican wafer cookie, so this is chocolate ice cream with crumbled chocolate Panky wafers mixed into it)
Anis/anise (the flavor of black licorice)
Ron con pasas/rum raisin
Tres leches (literally “three milks,” a traditional Latin American dessert that is one of the richest, creamiest, most decadent and delicious desserts ever, made from a sponge cake swimming in a combination of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream)
Cookies and cream
And here are all the toppings and syrups that are available. None of us opted to get any toppings or syrups on our maiden voyage, but when I return, I may add some sweetened condensed milk to whichever ice cream flavors I choose. It’s so good, a lot of the time I’d rather just spoon or pour some condensed milk out of a can than eat a conventional dessert like cookies, cake, or a lesser ice cream.
But these were not lesser ice creams, constant readers! They all had a thick, rich texture with a nice “mouth feel” — no gritty iciness from freezer burn, no weird mouth-coating fattiness like you notice from some cheaper, low-quality ice creams. We lingered to enjoy them inside the shop because it was so hot outside, and I appreciated nobody asking if we could eat them in my car on the short drive back to work. That’s how you get ants!
One colleague sampled the West Indian cherry and thought it was a little sour. He ended up getting a small with the parcha (passion fruit) and the rum raisin, and he raved about how terrific the rum raisin was. That’s an underrated ice cream flavor, if you ask me. Rum Raisin isn’t flashy or sexy, it doesn’t have half of a candy store mixed into it, kids would probably think it is gross, but it’s kind of sophisticated and adult, and you could pretend you were on vacation trying it, or at least pretend your workday was already over.
And what about my four flavors? I started with the passion fruit myself, then asked for guava, then mango piña, and topped it all off with the corn flavor. I’ve had a sweet corn ice cream before at Wondermade in Sanford (another fantastic local ice cream shop), so I wanted to try this one. It tastes a lot like sweet corn, but it was a uniform consistency with no kernels or anything. It was good, but the fruit flavors were the real draw. I loved them all, but I am obsessed with pineapple, mango, guava, and passion fruit and anything with those flavors. I was an easy mark, but they didn’t disappoint at all.
Another colleague got the tres leches and let me sample a taste of it. It was so good, I preferred it to my top layer of maiz ice cream. It definitely had cinnamon in it, so it reminded me almost more of horchata, that sweet Mexican rice milk flavored with cinnamon, than tres leches. But unlike most of the other ice creams that were a uniform consistency without chunks, this one had the texture of little pieces of chewy cake. It was great.
When I return to Jr Tropical Ice Cream, I will try some new flavors. Even growing up in Miami and developing a taste for tropical fruits, I don’t think I’ve ever had guanabana, the fruit also known as soursop, despite being a popular juice and milkshake flavor at Cuban restaurants. Next time I’ll try that, and also the straight-up pineapple and coconut flavors… and also the rum raisin my co-worker raved about so much.
This is a great little place that everyone should stop into and support. And if the location on Goldenrod, just south of Colonial, isn’t convenient, there is a second location of Jr Tropical Ice Cream down in Kissimmee. It might be September now, but we all know it’s going to be hot and humid up until Thanksgiving here in Orlando. I hate the heat and humidity, but say what you will about it, it remains perfect weather to cool down and treat yourself with some ice cream.
If you feel like ice cream is too much of an indulgence and too “dangerous” or “naughty” to keep around, then don’t buy it at the supermarket to fill your freezer — just go out and treat yourself here once in a while! A trip out to an ice cream parlor, especially a locally owned one like Jr Tropical Ice Cream with so many unique flavors, will make it seem so much more special than going through a pint (or a gallon) of mass-produced, corporate ice cream without even thinking about it, while binge-watching your favorite shows at night.
And when you go, remember to ask for your ice cream in the coconut, for the truest tropical experience. Learn from my mistake, a mistake I will not be making a second time!