There is a cool, sweet spot at the culinary crossroads of the world which is the Green Springs Highway, which connects parts of Birmingham and Homewood. But there’s so much more than homemade ice cream and other frozen treats at La Nueva Michoacana.
There is ice, of course. Lots – packaged in tumblers, waffle cones, waffle cups and packed in larger on-the-go containers. There is also a rainbow of homemade popsicles. But you’ll also find fresh fruit in a cup, spicy snacks in a bag, elote (Mexican street corn) on a stick as well as frozen juices, fresh chicharrones and homemade chips.
And the flavors! Sweet, spicy, salty, sour, salty. Sometimes even all in one treat! And, if you want more heat, there are bottles of Valentina hot sauce on the tables.
Juan Sanchez, the owner of La Nueva Michoacana and the person who makes the ice creams, popsicles and pretty much everything in here, says this combination of ice cream and snacks is typical of what you would find in a store similar to Michoacán, a state in west-central Mexico where his family is from.
With Ady Lopez translating, Sanchez tells us that this kind of glacier is very popular in Mexico but, of course, it’s not what you usually find in Alabama, which makes its place different from other glaciers here. In addition, he likes to offer variety to his customers.
It should be noted, and Sanchez says, that there are thousands of Michoacanas all over Mexico and the United States. (It has become an umbrella term, although there are ongoing lawsuits about it.) Like the hot dog stalls belonging to the early Greeks who came to Birmingham, a “Michoacana” can be a route to economic mobility, a foothold in a local community kitchen, a way to start an independent business (usually family owned) without a lot of capital.
La Nueva Michoacana brings a sweet taste of Mexico to Green Springs from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.
With a 4.5 rating on Google Reviews and a line-up on weekends, the bright and colorful La Nueva Michoacana in Homewood, with its shiny silver tables, family cabins and Mexican music, enjoys a loyal audience. Sanchez, who has been in business for five years this month, says “his clients are diverse. Every culture. The primary audience is Hispanics, but we have a variety. “
They seem to enjoy everything, but a quick glance at the Sunday afternoon crowds shows that ice cream is the main draw – especially for families.
There are currently 28 flavors of ice cream, but Sanchez says he plans to add 14 more over the next month. These flavors range from creamy white coconut with fresh coconut flakes to a bright blue “cookie monster” ice cream filled with broken cookie pieces. There’s a lot more, including mango, pistachio, chocolate and an amazing caramel ice cream with cajeta, a goat’s milk caramel imported from Mexico.
The treats are made in-house from natural ingredients (“es natural” is part of the store logo). Most of the recipes, Sanchez says, are family recipes. He learned a few from his sister, and he also has friends in the food industry in Mexico who have shared their recipes with him.
Gallons of frozen fruit juice (aguas frescas) include mango, coconut, mixed fruit, cantaloupe, hibiscus, and more. The lime and cucumber version is particularly refreshing.
A colorful variety of paletas (popsicles) offer both familiar and exotic options. Some are made with cream; others are fruit-based. There are a few versions of strawberries and cream; there are simple fruit paletas made with mango, coconut, lemon, avocado, strawberries and more. Lots of popsicles are loaded with large chunks of ripe fruit – as pretty as they are tasty.
Sanchez says, “Their appearance catches the public’s attention, and then the public wants to buy the product. He adds that when he makes them, he puts “a lot of thought and effort into them. It takes a lot of patience to do the little things.
Here you’ll find popsicles that you won’t find anywhere else. There is a creamy paleta sprinkled with fruit and not too sweet that is reminiscent of a traditional Mexican fruit salad. We loved the deliciously sweet and fiery combination of mango and chamoy which is a popsicle version of ‘fruit in a cup’.
Then there’s real fruit in a cup – large chunks of fresh, mixed tropical fruit topped with chamoy sauce and chili powder. The mangonada is one of the most popular items here. Another fruit concoction is called gazpacho and includes fruit mixed with cheese (and onions if you like). Also in a cup but tasty: Mexican corn salad (esquites) topped with chili powder and lime.
A large rack holds dozens of chip flavors providing endless options for easy on-the-go snacks in colorful bags. You see Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, and Fritos in flavors you might never have seen before. There are bags of Sabritas, Rancheritos, Crujitos and more. Pick a bag and they’ll fill it with toppings like melted cheese, jalapenos, salsa and corn sticks or cucumber, jicama, peanuts and chamoy or corn, mayonnaise, jalapenos and chili powder. Or any combination you want.
La Nueva Michoacana is just one of many businesses in Green Springs offering global flavors. Sabor Latino serves Peruvian dishes just steps away. There is also a small tienda (with imported Hispanic goods) in this mall. And the popular La Perla Nayarita Mexican Seafood & Grill is in an outparcel here. Throughout Green Springs, you’ll find a world of diverse food – Ethiopian, Korean, plus Mexican, Salvadoran, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and more – in restaurants and at a number of food trucks that come and go.
Just down the street, the Mi Pueblo supermarket attracts regional shoppers with its abundance of fresh produce and dried peppers; homemade tortillas and dozens of pastries; meat and seafood; Mexican non-alcoholic drinks, snacks and sweets; and specialty household items. There is a daily buffet in the back, a snack station up front, and a mariachi music store throughout the store. The Mediterranean Food Market, known for its helpful and friendly service, is a popular spot for Halal meats, Middle Eastern foods, and specialty cheeses, breads, sweets, and spices. The new Halal Supermarket International is a short drive away. Hometown Supermarket is one of the state’s largest Asian markets, and it also has impressive African, Indian, and South American sections. Really, the place is huge and Mr. Chen’s authentic Chinese restaurant is inside the store.
Green Springs Highway is one of Homewood’s busiest trade routes, and the Town of Homewood considers it an important gateway between Lakeshore Boulevard and Oxmoor Road. Also recognizing the growing regional appeal of the various businesses there – and Birmingham’s growing appetite for global flavors – the city is making it easier to access these stores and restaurants with a $ 2.25 million revitalization project that includes beautiful green medians with trees. The new infrastructure will make Green Springs more cyclist and pedestrian friendly while better regulating traffic. Eventually a cycle path will lead to UAB in the southern part of Birmingham.
It is an investment in the city, its inhabitants, its shops, its many visitors and in good taste. From a gastronomic point of view, there is no other place like this in the region.
The changes will certainly attract even more new customers to businesses here, and places like La Nueva Michoacana will welcome them.
Sanchez says he’s proud of what he’s built here in Alabama; he is proud to own La Nueva Michoacana. “We’re bringing part of Mexico here,” he says.
La Nueva Michoacana
104 Green Springs Road
Homewood, Alabama 35209
Connect with @LaNuevaMichoacanaBhm
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Sunday.
(Courtesy of the Alabama NewsCenter)