Snacks is a small, family-owned, Mexican dessert and snack shop in Downtown San Mateo. I first went there with Jon on Valentine’s Day because they had crazy good reviews on Yelp, and I keep going back for the fresh fruit, friendly smiles, and authentic flavors.
Miguel and Elsa, the owners and founders of Snacks, were kind enough to take some time out of their Friday last week and talk with me about their business.
How Snacks Got Started
While Miguel and Elsa moved to San Mateo from Mexico City in 2002, Snacks was only founded two years ago. Miguel mentioned that he has a brother who owns a Mexican restaurant in San Mateo, which is what started his inspiration. He noticed that while there was a ton of Mexican food, ranging from food trucks to sit-down restaurants, there is not anywhere that specializes in Mexican desserts.
That’s when Snacks was formed.
The process from idea to finished shop took Miguel about a year. He found the shop on B Street, and did all of the renovation himself. It was originally an office.
Miguel created all of the recipes and really focused on keeping the desserts authentic to Mexico. Elsa recalled the fruit and dessert vendors that would be outside of her school when she was growing up. She told me some of her favorites were the fresh watermelon, carrots coated with lemon juice and Tajin, and crisp jicama.
The desserts at Snacks are from different regions of Mexico, not just one part. The purpose here is so that customers from Mexico would find a familiar comfort and nostalgia in the flavors, and newcomers would get a taste of a new culture.
“I am proud because it is a center point for different people, families, and friends. Sometimes couples and families come in and enjoy the ice cream and talk. People have a good time in snacks. It is nice to see.” – Miguel
The three most popular items sold at Snacks are:
2. Strawberries & Cream fresas
3. Bionico (fruit salad)
The mangoneada is the first thing I tried at Snacks. It is a delicious creation of mango slush ice cream, chopped mangos, and lots and lots of Tajin (the tangy red powder used for a lot of Mexican desserts). Not only is the mangoneada delicious, but it is downright gorgeous to look at and comes complete with Tajin-coated straw.
The mangoneada can be traced back to Mexico City. While Miguel’s recipe is very authentic to a mangoneada found in Mexico, he put his own twist on this one. The mango slush ice cream is his own secret recipe, and he said that he likes to cut the mangos into cubes instead of large chunks.
Miguel and Elsa said that at first, most of their customers were Mexican and from their local area, but lately the business has really been expanding. One of the reasons they love living in San Mateo (besides the weather) is the diversity. People from all different cultures, and all different walks of life, come in to enjoy a sweet taste of Mexico.
“Let them try the flavors of my country” – Miguel
They love sharing their culture with others, and letting them “try the flavors of their country.” Miguel has a huge smile on his face when he talks about his customers. People don’t always know what the different menu options are, but they are always excited to try.
Besides the deliciousness (which is a GREAT motivating factor to head over to Snacks), you should go just to meet Miguel and Elsa. It’s rare to meet people with so much love and compassion for their community. They really want to just bring a smile to your face.
One story they told me while I was there that really seemed to motivate them was about a customer they had a while back. A woman would come into Snacks once a week and buy some of their desserts to go. Every week, week after week, she would come in. They eventually got to talking to her and found out that she was buying them for her father, who was in the hospital with cancer. He didn’t have a lot of time left to live, but the sweet treats from Snacks made him feel peaceful because they reminded him of his childhood home in Mexico.
And besides bringing joy to their customers, Elsa and Miguel like to give back by helping out the local schools. They mentioned that they will use their business to help out with fundraisers for the local high school and CSM, the local community college.
And last, seriously…look at this…
You should go right now.
P.S. They also have hilarious seating