ON THE MENU — Chito’s ice cream provides three-generations of artisanal flavor to Port Arthur
Adriana Hernandez and husband Luis own Port Arthur’s newest sweet spot — Chito’s Ice Cream, and it is a truly unique experience.
Luis, Adriana and manager Lavaro Chavez were all born in Cotija, Mexico, where the artisanal ice cream business planted its roots.
The idea started with a dream.
“My grandparents started to sell these products out of an old pushcart,” Luis said. “My grandfather started with around four flavors, then it passed on to my dad. My dad got married and my mom, who is super smart, started to mix ingredients and made over 126 flavors.”
It was then that Luis and Adriana decided to bring the tradition to Port Arthur, carrying the dream beyond the border.
“It’s three generations of ice cream making,” said Chavez, who joined the duo from California. “So the flavor is just right. It doesn’t taste like anything from any ice cream shop around here.”
Chito’s Ice Cream uses the rare Mexican method of ice cream making known as “garrafa.”
“A garrafa is a metal barrel inside a wooden barrel of ice,” Chavez said. “And you just spin it. That’s how you make that ice cream.”
Luis said the process is what makes the difference.
“The texture is different,” he said. “The flavor is different.”
All ice cream flavors are 100 percent natural with no added preservatives, additives or artificial coloring.
Chavez said customers feel and taste the difference in Chito’s Ice Cream.
“If it’s a fruit product like guava or mango, you can feel the difference in the texture, you can taste the difference in the texture,” he said. “You bite it and it tastes like you are biting a fruit. Different fruit ice creams have different textures. Like an apple feels different than a mango. That’s how each ice cream is unique.”
Cream-based ice creams are made in similar fashion.
Luis said they only use natural milk, organic chocolate and handmade toppings.
One batch of Chito’s Ice Cream takes 45 minutes to create. An entire day’s worth of product takes approximately seven hours.
The ice cream truck provides 20-22 flavors a day, keeping 10 base items and rotating 10-12 flavors to constantly create distinctive combinations.
Every ice cream is made and sold fresh daily.
“Every day, everyone has something new,” Chavez said.
New flavors are also in the making including a Mexican favorite known as changos, a mix of cinnamon and milk, Luis said. The rising favorites of local customers are the sorbet, water-based items such as mango, strawberry, lemon, lime and red fruit.
“A normal ice cream has 30-40 percent of the fruit itself,” Luis said. “We put 80 percent of the fruit in any kind of flavor. We try to offer that quality, a good price and good service.”
Since Chito’s opened on May 24, Adriana said it’s been a crazy ride.
“It’s been surprisingly awesome,” she said.
Recalling the first day of opening, Adriana said the line of cars was wrapped around the street.
“The opening,” she said. “Goodness. I had $20 in change. I didn’t think it was going to get that busy, but so many people showed up. The police even came because we were blocking the intersection. They really liked it.”
Chito’s Ice Cream is located at 3935 Ninth Avenue, and the small ice cream truck is situated on a swath of green land dotted with picnic tables, teal chairs and overhead fairy lights.
Chaves said the outdoor ambiance is a crowd favorite.
“People love the idea that they can just be outdoors, sit with their kids and enjoy an ice cream without having to worry about everything,” he said. “People come with their families, their dogs and just play around the yard.”
Thinking forward, the trio’s vision is to expand to a brick-and-mortar establishment while keeping the outdoor picnic environment.
“We really want to do something that works for the people and us, too,” Luis said.
Chito’s Ice Cream is open Tuesday-Sunday from 1-9 p.m. and offers a variety of sizes and flavors including a pint option for $12.
“Show up,” Chavez said. “Try everything. Anybody that shows up is welcome to try any flavor and the fact that they show up, they won’t regret it. What we offer is definitely different than anywhere else.”
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