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Bionicos are my downfall.

I used to live down the street from My Taco, a taqueria that secretly served bionicos. You would never have known it while you were stuffing your face with carne asada though. It wasn’t even on the regular menu and only a faded photocopy taped to the wall under the specials hinted that the restaurant even offered the traditional Mexican fruit snack. It was a treat that I indulged in more than every once in a while.

The place kept it simple: strawberries, bananas, granola, apples, and coconut. Still, I took these simple ingredients for granted. It wasn’t until I found myself leaving Highland Park for a job in Redding, California that I realized how much I truly loved the dish. It just feels healthy enough but still is ridiculously indulgent.  

Bionico signage at Tropical Fruits and Juices

Once, I walked six miles from one fruteria that is no longer there in El Sereno to Raspados Nayarit in Lincoln Heights, because the first place was out of granola. The lady who worked behind the counter only casually mentioned the other place, but walked I did.

Would I sound crazy if I told you that easy access to my old bionico way of life only sweetened the deal to move back to Los Angeles? It did and I have no regrets.

A bionico is a traditional Mexican-style fruit salad that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or as a snack in the middle of the day. On some days, the substantial amount of ripe fruit, granola, and cream or yogurt that some places pile on is more than enough for dinner. A juice shop opened in 1961 in Guadalajara, Jalisco named Jugo’s Titas is believed to have created the dish in the 1990s.

While living in Northern California I was desperate enough to Google “BIONICOS NEAR ME” but the nearest place was about 30 miles away and their version of bionicos included watermelon and lemon with shaved ice and granola. To me, that is not a bionico and I didn’t want to argue over someone’s take on a classic.

Bionico from Bionicos La Palapa
Bionico from Bionicos La Palapa

The universe, however, had my bionico-obsessed back. As life would have it, I found a job back in Los Angeles. Would I sound crazy if I told you that easy access to my old bionico way of life only sweetened the deal to move back to Los Angeles? It did and I have no regrets.

I moved back to South Pasadena, only a Gold Line stop away from my old stomping grounds. My Taco, unfortunately, does not offer their bionico anymore but I’m happy to report that my other favorite bionico spots within a few blocks of the taqueria still offer reputable versions.

Tropical Fruit and Juices on Figueroa and Ave 58 serve their famed bionicos out of their take-out only establishment every day starting at 6 a.m. It is one of their popular menu items, which explains the hand-drawn painting advertising it on the window above you as your order it. If you like tart, their version with chopped green apple and strawberries will hit the spot. They also pile on the raisins, so if you’re looking for your two scoops it’s the spot.

The aptly named Bionicos La Palapa just a couple of blocks down is perpetually crowded. On any given evening, you might see a group of teenage girls with each an order of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos smothered with hot nacho cheese or just a family who want their licuado and raspado fixes.

The last time I was there, I accidentally ordered a family sized order of bionicos. Mediano, the woman behind the counter asked. Actually, she asked me twice. The ladies had to chop dozens of strawberries and bananas, pull out entire jugs of crema and empty large baggies of coconut shavings all just for me. Willpower was on my side, because I did not eat the whole mess right then and there.

Decadence aside, my wife and I tried to make a dent in the Noah’s Ark of bionicos later that night and only made it through the aardvarks. The saving grace is I no longer live down the street from my bionico dealer, but I’m always up for a walk.

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