Vida Dulce

technicolor popsicles + more authentic mexican treats

by Avivah with Offline

Vida Dulce 101

Get ready to live la vida dulce (translation: the sweet life) at this hidden-gem in Cary. This locally-owned family business has brought authentic Mexican treats to the Triangle, for which we are forever grateful.

There’s a seemingly infinite variety of vibrantly colored paletas (popsicles): we’re talking Horchata to Habenero and everything in between. Forget the artificial, frozen sugar-water ice pops of your childhood. Vida Dulce serves handmade frozen treats made with REAL ingredients, you can both see (yeah, that’s a straight up kiwi slice in your pop) and taste.

Oh, and if for some *crazy* reason, popsicles aren’t your thing, they’ve also got tons of other noteworthy and—don’t worry—equally instagrammable desserts and savory snacks on their menu. Rolled ice cream tacos, oreo churros, uber elaborate fruit-based desserts, cheesecake burritos, agua frescas, street corn, and wayyyyyy more make this place a win for all.

The interior is bright, quiet and clean with plenty of colorful accents and super friendly folks behind the counter. It’s only about 15 minutes from downtown, parking is a breeze and these mouthwatering treats are 110% worth the drive. 

What to order

They’ve got 60+ paleta flavors in all, including 20+ dairy-free options (dairy-based pops are $2.99, non-dairy are $2.49). While we normally pride ourselves in *comprehensive* reporting, meaning we try pretty much everything on a place’s menu (hey, it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it), we’ve got to admit some defeat here. We did our best to taste it all at Vida Dulce, but they’ve got SO SO SO many options, the brain freeze eventually kicked in and we tapped out. So, long story short: you can’t go wrong here. We loved the Guava and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreo, but get whatever tickles your fancy—and get it chocolate-dipped on-demand if you really want to treat yo self.

Besides the paletas, the most popular item on the menu is the Mangonada. It’s a bright and refreshing cup of mango sorbet that’s layered with fresh chunks of mango and topped with Chamoy sauce (a sweet, sour and spicy tamarind sauce), tajin spice, and lime juice. It’s finished it off with a tamarind straw for a treat that’s tangy, unexpected and addicting. 

They’ve got 25+ kinds of ice cream and sorbet (pint, $7.49; quart, $13), and the flavors range from authentically Mexican (try Pine Nut for an unexpected treat) to newfangled creations like Strawberry Butter

You can get your ice cream rolled or scooped and served in a standard cup or cone. But why not go big and treat yourself to a Churro Split?You deserve it.  

Don’t have much of a sweet tooth? Vida Dulce’s got plenty of savory items as well. Most popular items include classic Street Corn made with cheese, mayo, and spicy cayenne pepper (get the Takis version in a cup for extra kick), and their signature Crazy Bag, a super traditional snack made with your choice of chips (be warned: they’ve got 20+ options), cucumber, jicama, pickled pork rinds, and peanuts, topped off with Chamoy, lime juice, and hot sauce. Wash it down with a housemade Agua Fresca (flavors rotate based on seasonality) and you’re set.

And finally, order yourself some fruit—wait, wait don’t scroll past this! The Crazy Watermelon and Tropical Pineapple will put your average fruit salad to shame and leave you speechless (take a look if you don’t believe us). These are insanely decorated, ornate, and over-the-top fruit salads topped with Chamoy and served inside a whole fruit. Getting your five-a-day has never been so jaw-droppingly impressive.

Pro Tips

  • Any popsicle can be chocolate dipped on demand.
  • They’ve got a limited selection of itty bitty baby-sized paletas for the kiddos (or if you’re just not up for for a full pop).
  • Feeling adventurous? Ask about the Fried Pasta or Hot Dog Fries.
  • Insiders know to buy in bulk: BYO cooler and get 10-12 to take home. They’ll be good for ~30 mins in the car and they’ll stay good in your home freezer for months. 
  • They’ve got frozen chocolate covered strawberries ($1.99) and bananas ($2.49) off the menu. 
  • Any made-to-order, fried dessert can be made a la mode for just $0.99.