ARTIFICIAL-GRAPE popsicles? Please. A new gourmet wave means cooling off this summer with small-batch pops that range from spicy Mexican paletas to near-savory Thai treats to fruit-and-herb concoctions. Here, a sweet, slurpy sampling.
Jaymes Luu’s philosophy: To make a good pop, you have to make bad ones. “I can’t make lemongrass not taste like Fruit Loops,” bemoans the founder, who sells popular flavors like beet-tangerine  at Davis, California, markets. fruitmeetsfun.com
Gelato on a stick? Why not? “We wanted to do something authentic and
blend it with the American popsicle,” says Reuben BenJehuda of his New York eatery. Popbar’s treats come in such sophisticated takes as pistachio  and
can be dipped in dark chocolate or rolled in toppings like chopped hazelnuts.
After Summer Bicknell quit her desk job to study traditional paletas in Mexico, her parents’ reaction–“What are you, crazy?”–inspired her shop’s name. Six years later, LocoPops has three North Carolina storefronts, serving flavors such as white-chocolate-kalamata-olive and strawberry-poppyseed-lemonade . ilovelocopops.com
When Bobby Flay took on Guadalajara-born sisters Irma and Norma Paz for an episode of Food Network’s Throwdown, he lost for one reason: “He used juices,” says Irma. “It comes out very icy.” The sisters’ winning paletas, sold at their Nashville shop, are studded with chunks of seasonal fruit–“I would rather not serve anything than serve underripe mango”–and include honeydew  and avocado.
Husband-and-wife team Paul Pitalo and Michelle Weaver make “cream pops” that kill. Made with organic local New Orleans dairy, the creamsicles are luscious and sweet, in flavors like Vietnamese coffee . 504-301-0905
“Last summer, I probably ate 30 popsicles a week,” says cofounder Daniel Goetz. “It’s just so hot in Austin.” His treats–in flavors like banana-cinnamon and mango –are made without artificial syrups or sugars. goodpops.com