Justin Fox Burks
On my first visit to Mempops, I watch four friends — ponytails, soccer shorts, and about 13 years old — tumble into the East Memphis location in Park Place Centre. The girls don’t even glance at the store’s cheery menu that lists 10 or so flavors like hibiscus lemonade and spicy pineapple. Instead, they head straight for the counter and order strawberry cream pops, three plain and one dipped in luscious dark chocolate.
The girls’ decisive exuberance helps to explain why the local start-up is selling some 3,000 pops a week from its storefront (open since mid-March), converted sky-blue mail truck, and vintage Airstream retrofitted with freezers. Scratch-made from fruit, infused simple syrups, and freshly squeezed juices, the pops taste a little like fancy gelato on a cute squat stick. Orange vanilla pops reinvent the Dreamsicle with cream, Valencia orange juice, and syrup made from whole vanilla beans. The chocolate-dipped coffee pop (my favorite!) begins with locally sourced Reverb cold-brewed overnight, strained through fine mesh and paper, and combined with dulce de leche, a dreamy convection made with sweet milk.
“We are using all the same techniques that make local chefs successful, but instead of making an awesome entre, we are making an awesome pop,” says Chris Taylor, Mempops’ energetic owner, who worked as a sous chef at Felicia Suzanne’s and, more recently, managed the kitchen at Central BBQ.
Taylor is particularly passionate about turning summer produce into colorful pops like roasted plum or Indian Blood Cling peach with jalapeño. “I also want to try a smoked peach pop this year,” Taylor says, grinning with anticipation. “And I want to make a sweet and sour pop, so when people bite into it, they can see all the different layers.”
1243 Ridgeway Road (901-421-5985) $3.25 a pop