By Christina Autry
Named after the Tamarind pod, a fruit famous for its addictively tangy, sweet zest, Tamarindo Helado & Snacks sets a delicious standard for quality Latin American desserts in Spring Branch. From a rainbow of popsicles to the coveted mangonada, to a whole pineapple with chamoy-sprinkled pineapple rings along the rim, Tamarindo freshly prepares ingredients to create made-to-order desserts.
Owner Edgar Saucedo planted Tamarindo’s roots in Spring Branch two years ago, and set his goal to open five more locations around Houston in the next seven years. Clocking out of his full-time day job at 5 P.M. each day, Saucedo then commutes to his dessert shop in the evenings. “It’s not exhausting when you’re doing something that you love,” he says.
Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Saucedo wanted to replicate the desserts enjoyed there, and which are popular not only in Monterrey but across Latin America. “I go to Monterrey and Mexico City often to see what the snack shops are serving, and what’s popular,” he explains. At the same time, Saucedo wants Tamarindo to cater to Houston taste buds, by being responsive to requests, new ideas, and seasonal preferences.
A topping that features prominently in fruit-based sweets is chamoy: a fruit-chili-lime sauce that gives a slightly spicy, sour contrast to the sweetness of the fruit. You’ll find chamoy drizzled over the chopped mangoes and pineapples served cold at Tamarindo.
For a chili-free experience at Tamarindo, you’d do well to opt for the strawberries and cream cup, or the arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding), a cucumber popsicle, or one of their house-made aguas frescas. No matter what you get, you’re guaranteed to be served fruit that is in season in the country where it is grown. This is easier said than done. Mango purchased from Mexico in the summertime must be instead purchased from Ecuador or Peru for triple the price during winter, when mango is still in season there.
“Having a seasonal business can be hard,” says Saucedo. “But we don’t hesitate to invest in the product even if we lose money. I’d rather have a good quality product than just make money.” Part of meeting this expectation means that Saucedo makes rounds to the produce markets around Houston, sampling the fruit and choosing the best tasting, ripe produce.
Saucedo’s background is in promoting businesses to the Hispanic community through TV, radio, and print media, which gave him insights needed for starting his own business. “I wanted to start a shop showcasing Latino snacks where people can come in and sit down out of the heat, and enjoy a quality product. I want this to be a nice place for everyone in the community.”
After spending 15 years in North Carolina, Saucedo moved to Houston to be closer to his family in Monterrey. Coming to Houston proved to be a key factor in the success of his business. “I’ve seen that the market here is very open to new foods. It was difficult in North Carolina to get new products into the market, but Houston is so diverse. There is a lot of acceptance, and good vibes.” The diversity of Spring Branch made it the perfect choice for starting a business meant to bring back memories of Mexico for some, while introducing tantalizing flavors to non-Hispanic customers.
From the open preparation area where customers can see how their food is being made, to the cleanliness of the restaurant, Saucedo wants to ensure that anyone who tries Tamarindo will be back for a second visit. The shop is available for birthday parties, and even for catering outside events. As Tamarindo begins their third year in Spring Branch, Saucedo expresses that “We are very thankful for the welcoming that we’ve received in the neighborhood, and we want to be able to continue serving you the best way we can.”
Tamarindo Helado & Snacks
2635 Gessner Rd. Suite A, Houston TX 77080