In the middle of a global pandemic, there’s no question that more ice cream makes life that much sweeter.
That’s why it was a no-brainer to visit La Michoacana Express, the newest ice cream shop in town. It opened four months ago in an Urbana storefront.
Owned and operated by a Champaign family, the shop features homemade ice cream as well as paletas (traditional Mexican ice cream pops), water ice cream, shakes, and sundaes.
Other items include mangonadas (a cold treat made with fresh mango, chamoy sauce, Tajin seasoning and other ingredients). Non-sweet menu items include lots of salty snacks, including nachos and chicharrones, and dorilocos, a popular Mexican street food.
La Michoacana Express is not the first ice cream shop in Champaign-Urbana to feature Mexican-style frozen treats – that title belongs to El Oasis, located not far away (also off Cunningham Avenue in Urbana).
El Oasis is on the Ice Cream trail, and deservedly so.
The Michoacana Express menu can be found online here, along with other information about the shop. Note that the menu lists most, but not all flavors; some have been added in the meantime.
On two recent visits, the kids focused on the homemade ice cream (that’s the most popular item on the menu, the Flores family said). The favorite flavors they have tried so far: Mint Oreo, cookies and cream, and Ferrero Rocher (vanilla ice cream with ferrero rocher chocolates).
The owners say that the overwhelming best seller is the ice cream – with strawberries and cream and Ferrero Rocher being the top requested flavors. The best-selling paletas so far are butter pecan and strawberries and cream.
The Urbana store is the Flores’ family’s second foray into owning an ice cream shop; they previously owned a similar outlet in Alabama. They are now focusing their attention on the Urbana location, where owner Oscar Flores makes all of the ice cream in house. Other members of the family are often behind the counter.
For those not familiar with La Michoacana “brand,” it is a phenomenon in Mexico as well as the U.S. In the Chicago area, there’s about two dozen ice cream shops with some variation of that name. The name refers to a region in Mexico.
As this Eater article says, “There isn’t an official count for Michoacanas in the United States, but visit any Mexican and Mexican-American community across the country and you’re likely to see at least one.” All of them are owned independently, but share similar traits including the menu items, the pink and white color palette, and even some of the recipes.
If you go: La Michoacana Express is located at 1508 North Cunningham Ave, next to Harbor Freight Tools and across the parking lot from a CIBM Bank branch. The shopping center is also the home of Urbana Boulders.
Current Hours: 11 am to 8 pm, daily (subject to change)