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Diamonds in the Rough

Diamonds in the Rough

Kevin J. Elliott

In late summer, a trusted foodie-in-arms told me that the season wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the newly opened Diamonds on Bethel Road.

No, it’s not a strip club or a jewelry store as Google Maps might have you believe. By its description I imagined Diamonds to be a small operation, doling out a variety of “paletas” (literally meaning “little flat stick,” but Spanish for popsicle) from an unassuming strip-mall storefront in the Bethel-Sawmill cluster, but upon my first visit, the wealth of what Diamonds has to offer was overwhelming.

Painted in loud and bright hues of neon pink and purple, this oasis of culinary esotericism is hard to miss. After devouring three paletas—blackberry and cheese, mango, and pine nut—I could think of no precedent in Columbus, and trying to conjure one (perhaps a “scoop shop”?) would be shirking the basic concept of Diamonds. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

“My nephew has been doing this for a while in Guadalajara,” says Diamonds’ owner Jose Torres, who has spent the last 15 years opening traditional Mexican restaurants in Central Ohio. “He is very well known for having some of the best paletas in Mexico. We decided to open this store because there’s nothing like it in Columbus.”

“There’s also nothing like this because we are using his nephew’s recipes,” adds partner Rene Flores, “and those recipes are secret.”

Indeed, the paletas are the main attraction at Diamonds. Even with a staggering 50 or so “sabores” (flavors) at any given time, on a spectrum from “de aqua” to “de leche” (water or milk based), each paleta is made fresh on-site with all-natural ingredients. So, for instance, the adventurous jalapeño paleta is a refreshing blend of ice and huge chunks of the pepper, while the pistachio paleta goes for a creamier consistency but is still chock full of nuts. After trying another trio of exotic options—watermelon chile (dusted with spicy tajin seasoning), corn, and guanabana—I was gripped by a Pokémon-like addiction in needing to try them all. I returned two days later with a cooler and a handful of cash.

But Diamonds goes beyond being just a simple peddler of popsicles. Many of the same “sabores” appear in ice cream form as well, with oddball pairings like vanilla and grape or butter and strawberry mingling alongside Diamonds’ unique take on the classics. Or if you’re feeling more health conscious there are a number of “aqua frescas” and fresh-squeezed juices to try.

Most intriguing though is the snack bar that lines the back wall of Diamonds. That’s where you’ll find Torres most of the time, slicing through piles of tropical fruit to create what amounts to an edible arrangement of monumental proportions.

“These fruit desserts are very common on the beaches in Mexico, and though we don’t have beaches, we wanted to serve these here,” says Torres.

On my first visit I witnessed a family sharing the “sandia loca” (crazy watermelon) which was half a melon overflowing with mangoes, mamey (a kiwi-esque fruit that has a taste similar to a baked sweet potato), pineapple, guava, and strawberries caked in a tamarind candy. The father proceeded to douse the cornucopia with what looked like ketchup but turned out to be chamoy—a savory and spicy condiment made from pickling apricots and plums. 

For the completely insane, there are the “tosti locos,” an authentic take on Mexican street food made with tortilla chips topped with ample amounts of jicama, cucumber, Valentina hot sauce, and more of the ubiquitous chamoy and tajin. Go over the top by adding “cueritos”  (pickled pork rinds) and “cacahuates” (Japanese peanuts) to this monstrosity, transcending the concept of “snack” in a single sitting.

Be warned. Diamonds is not a place for those who have a hard time making decisions, as the options seem infinite. Diamonds  needs to be embraced as a foodie journey. It will require a series of visits to wholly decipher the expanse of their menu, which serves to satisfy many different palates.

Plan on spending the day there. Gluttony awaits.

Diamonds is located at 5461 Bethel Rd. Call (614) 718-2980
for more information.

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