Downtown Durham has been on the radar as a major foodie town for a few years now. As a lifelong Durham resident, it seems that there are always new, delicious Italian restaurants to try, burger spots for more casual fare and authentic tapas places to sample cropping up on every corner.
After dining out, it is common to crave a sweet treat. The Parlour is one of Durham’s most popular ice cream shops, and I can attest that their ice cream is in fact yummy. However, I’ve found that sticking to what I know has caused me to miss out on other wonderful experiences in Durham.
After trying Pincho Loco ice cream for the first time during my first semester at Duke, it immediately became one of my favorites. I don’t think this experience is unique — Pincho Loco becomes a staple for many first-years who love going across the street from East Campus for a quick scoop of ice cream, an ice cream cupcake or even a popsicle study break.
Martha Morales, owner of Pincho Loco, expressed that the shop reciprocates the love the shop receives from Duke students. Pincho Loco also has especially strong ties to the Class of 2024, as their daughter is a freshman at Duke.
“Lots of students come here and know that [our daughter] is a freshman,” Morales said. “A lot of the time they don’t relate her with the shop, but they do relate her with Durham.”
Having a student in the Duke community who is so deeply connected to Durham and to Pincho Loco itself is comforting and perhaps helpful for students unfamiliar with the area and looking to explore Durham.
Even before their daughter became a Duke student, Pincho Loco has always tried to help Duke students in whatever ways they can. Morales mentioned that one of the shop’s main goals is to help out the community beyond serving yummy frozen treats.
“We offer everybody a lot of help; it doesn’t have to be business related… The first year is the roughest for everybody,” Morales said. “[People] let us know if they need anything.”
Morales mentioned that the shop also receives lots of special requests, such as unique birthday surprises or custom cakes. Pincho Loco goes above and beyond providing just delicious sweets and ice creams, however; Morales expressed that students and parents can depend on Pincho Loco if you’ve forgotten your laptop charger at home or if you find yourself suddenly out of school supplies. Pincho Loco is truly community-oriented, especially towards Duke students, and seeks to help us whenever they can.
Pincho Loco’s flavors are heavily inspired by traditional Mexican flavors, like horchata. Morales recalls a time when customers were not accustomed to the flavors offered.
“People are kind of used to it now, at the beginning a lot of people were asking us about stuff that was normal for us. We were very surprised that people didn’t know,” Morales said.
Pincho Loco also incorporates a variety of traditionally Southern flavors, such as butter pecan, into their offerings.
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Pincho Loco is a “fusion between our culture and the culture over here as well,” Morales said.
If you’re skeptical of this fusion, don’t be. Their array of flavors is exceptionally diverse to ensure that there is a flavor for every person that comes in the door.
“We always try to have flavors for everybody,” Morales said “If you’re a chocolate person, a fruity person, a creamy person, we’ll have something for you.”
They have a permanent menu of flavors, with classics such as chocolate and vanilla, but they try to frequently rotate out flavors to keep their selection interesting. They also keep their selection fresh by creating unique combinations of sweets. For example, the first treat I ever tried from Pincho Loco was one of their ice cream cupcakes, which I had never heard of before.
Morales mentioned that: “We try to do things that are normal but can surprise you at the same time.”
In my opinion, Pincho Loco offers the best of both worlds — or rather, the best of multiple worlds. In one shop and one family, you can find unwavering support for almost anything you might need, scrumptious ice cream and desserts and a unique fusion of Mexican culture with southern flavors to create an exciting experience.
Personally, I highly recommend their Tigertail ice cream, which is a blend of vanilla, Mexican vanilla and chocolate. Next time you’ve got a hankering for some dessert, don’t miss out on the opportunity to try some new flavors and treats you probably cannot find at many other places. Also, there is Duke paraphernalia all over the walls of the shop. Go support your fellow Blue Devils in the community.