There was a period of time during my childhood when no birthday was complete without a piñata. My mom and her boyfriend would make these handmade piñatas, layering papier mache over balloons, then painting them.
They were actually quite lovely — little works of art. I remember a Humpty Dumpty with crimped arms. For the pinata-bashing weapon, a hockey stick.
If you want instant buzz and mayhem at a kid's party, just add a floor full of spilled sweets.
Mexico has long known this kid's party imperative, and you’ll scarcely find a fete without a papery Dora the Explorer or Spider-Man hanging from the rafters, spinning slightly in the breeze, waiting to be bludgeoned to death.
And if you don’t have the time, patience, or focus to handcraft the objects d'art of my mom’s 1970s (marijuana-fueled) artistic endeavors, we have just the place for you:
South Robert Street is St. Paul’s longstanding thoroughfare to the West Side’s Mexican enclave. Some of the businesses have endured for 50 years. When we spotted colorful Dulce Mex after our latest visit to Taco Libre, we couldn't help but go careening off the road to investigate.
What is your kid’s (or niece's or nephew's or husband's) greatest yen of the moment? Minions? The Little Mermaid? Corona?
You’ll find them here, charmingly decked out in colorful tissue paper, waiting to be filled with whatever you please. And the fillings are all here.
Oh, the fillings!
Every time I go on vacation south of the border, I get addicted to some convenience store snack or another that I must then mourn for the rest of my life because it’s too hard to find in the U.S. If you found some late-night addiction during your last Mexican vacation, they’re sure to have it at Dulce Mex. And if not, you don’t need it because there’s so much more!
Like every sort of tamarind and chile-laced sweet you can imagine; Nugs, which are not small chunks of weed (sorry) but instead toffee and peanuts in chocolate; Bocadin, a creamy, peanut-y wafer bar reminiscent of the Buddy Bar; Cremino, which looks like an ice cream sandwich but is instead a candy bar where the chocolate is the “bread” and praline nougat is the filling.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface. There is also Rockaleta, like Blow Pops, only better because they hide an extra layer of soft candy inside the hard; plus every kind of mango everything, goat's milk suckers, and so many more things that it verges on sensory overload.
And please don’t forget the salty snacks: Churritos, Sabritas, Rancheritas, and of course, Hot Cheetos and Takis.
Please don’t rely on me to tell you more. You have a mouth, and hands for stuffing junk into said mouth.
So, away you go to Dulce Mex!
Sweet treats not your thing? Dulce Mex also has a most excellent selection of great T-shirts for gifting, plus Latin CDs, including lots of Bachata if you’re more of the ear candy mindset.
1134 S. Robert St., St. Paul
325 E. Lake St., Minneapolis