Be it sweet, savory, spicy or sour (or a combination of the above), Cibele's Ice Cream caters to just about any little craving you might have. The team brings flavors from their Mexican hometowns to Menlo Park — "with a little bit of twist."
"We had our traditional corn made with mayo, cheese and chile, but recently the kids have been adding Hot Cheetos on top," says Selene Garcia. "We've tried to keep the tradition, but we want to hear what our customers would like to try."
The eatery is a dream come true for Garcia and her business partner, Carlos Peña. After emigrating from Mexico City and Michoacán respectively, the longtime family friends talked about their ambitions at the dinner table. They researched how to start a business, worked out how to combine their skill sets, saved up their earnings and took out a loan. They secured a space, and opened Cibele's Ice Cream in the spring at 1199 Willow Road, near a laundromat and Back A Yard Caribbean Grill.
"That's a good location because it brings a lot of people," Garcia says. "We wanted to be (near) Facebook, where we could bring in new customers and different ethnicities, and at the same time be near people who were comfortable with our food and what we served...Our theme is what our culture is all about, and Hispanic heritage."
It was a slow start at first, Garcia says. "It was a bit crazy, the pandemic was still going. We were like, 'Is this going to work?'"
But with Garcia taking on social media and the lure of delicious treats fit for summer, customers began to find their way to them. "During the hot months, it's been a strong time for us."
It's the first foray into the restaurant business for both Garcia and Peña. Peña previously worked at a grocery store and is now responsible for Cibele's financials. Garcia recently graduated from school and worked as a nurse assistant. Now she focuses on Cibele's presentation, decoration, contracts, permitting and distributor relationships.
This last part is especially key as they focus on getting fresh, natural ingredients for their ice creams. "There's no artificial flavoring, no artificial coloring," Garcia says. "If it's mango, it's actually made out of mangos." Same goes for their other flavors: If it's nanche, it's made out of nanche. If it's guava, it's made out of guava.
Ice creams have been especially popular during the warm summer months, Garcia says, but fresas con crema is another specialty. There are also beautiful botanas with a mix of fresh cut fruit in a pineapple or watermelon, served with tangy chamoy sauce, crisp bites of jicama and a dash of spice. Hot crepes, fresh fruit juice and creamy banana splits are also available.
The Menlo Park shop offers a taste of what's to come. Garcia says they hope to open other locations on the Peninsula.
"We're just starting, so everything is very small, but we have a very big image in mind," Garcia says. "Literally, from scratch paper, it came to something real — an actual place."
Cibele's Ice Cream is located at 1199 Willow Road, Menlo Park. For more information, call 650-561-3225 or visit instagram.com/cibelesicecream.
Dig into food news. Follow the Peninsula Foodist on Instagram @peninsulafoodist and subscribe to the newsletter to get insights on the latest openings and closings, learn what the Foodist is excited about eating, read exclusive interviews and keep up on the trends affecting local restaurants.
Sara Hayden writes for TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.