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Aguas Frescas: ¡Deliciosas!

Had anyone told me a year or so ago that I’d abandon my daily pitcher of iced tea for something else, I would have declared war on the spot. My passion for the stuff is my birth-right as a child of Texas with deep southern roots.

Chunks of watermelon identify the glistening glass jar of <I>agua fresca de sandía</I> that beckons from a counter at Esperanza’s Cafe & Bakery in Fort Worth.

But lately I’ve found myself seduced by an elixir every bit as refreshing and satisfying, particularly during summer’s blistering heat. Upon investigation, I’ve realized that just as iced tea is vital to southerners, aguas frescas are becoming vital to a broad spectrum of Texans—and more quickly than you’d think.

These fresh-fruit-infused waters have long been the natural beverage of choice for generations of people living in Mexico, as well as in towns along the Rio Grande and across South Texas. In traveling the state to find cafes and food stores offering delicious aguas frescas, I hear one shopkeeper after another tell stories of running to the town plaza as a child on a hot morning or warm evening to find the pushcart bearing glass containers of these invigorating beverages, cooled by blocks of ice.

I easily find places where giant, glass barrels or fountain dispensers filled with colorful fruit drinks serve as the countertop’s focal point. Any town with a substantial Hispanic population—and that’s almost everywhere, of course—boasts taquerías and Latino groceries with a plentiful supply of aguas frescas, available year round.

After slurping a bounty of cooling, luscious liquids flavored with limes, melons, or hibiscus, I begin to ponder this question: Will aguas frescas someday surpass iced tea as the preferred beverage in Texas, just as salsa came to replace ketchup as the nation’s favorite condiment?

To understand what prompts such an outrageous assertion, follow my thirst-quenching path around the state in search of the best aguas frescas.

Contact information for the 4 sites covered in the story follows.

Esperanza’s Cafe & Bakery, 2122 N. Main St., Fort Worth; 817/626-5770 (A second Fort Worth location, at 1109 Hemphill St., doesn’t offer aguas frescas.)

El Trópico, 1111 E. Amarillo Blvd., Amarillo; 806/371-0226.

Centre Court, 420 E. San Antonio Ave., El Paso; 915/533-4200.

Frutería y Taquería Los Valles, 3915 Nogalitos St., San Antonio; 210/927-9595.

Check out the delicious aguas frescas at these spots also:

Changos Taquería has 2 locations, both in Austin: 3023 Guadalupe St. (512/480-8226) and 3005 S. Lamar Blvd. (416-1500).

Juanito’s Taquería, 4150 Hemphill St., Fort Worth; 817/924-3636.

Taco Diner has 4 locations: 4011 Villanova St., Dallas (214/696-4944); 3699 McKinney Ave., Ste. 307, Dallas (521-3669); 5904 N. MacArthur Blvd. #150, Irving (972/401-2691); and 6201 Bishop Rd. #E4, Plano (469/241-9945).

Taquería Garibaldi, 200 N. Staples St., Corpus Christi; 361/884-5456.

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