Steel City Pop's first Houston location is now open in The Heights. ( Jeff Parkes Photography)
Steel City's homemade pops are packaged in-house. (Photo by Jeff Parkes Photography)
Fresh fruit is blended to start production of the pops. (Photo by Jeff Parkes Photography)
In the mood for a touch of spice? Try the pineapple jalapeño pop. (Photo courtesy @steelcitypops Instagram)
Who can resist a sweet tea pop in the summer? (Photo courtesy @steelcitypops Instagram)
Blood oranges, anyone? (Photo courtesy @steelcitypops Instagram)
Cool down with a refreshing and tart lime pop. (Photo courtesy @steelcitypops Instagram)
Steel City Pops
Blueberry basil, pineapple jalapeño, and peanut butter aren’t typically flavors associated with frozen pops, but at Alabama-based Steel City Pops, nothing is off limits. The brainchild of proprietor Jim Watkins, Steel City is elevating the storied ice pop from a mundane treat usually tucked away on the frozen food aisle to a gourmet dessert crafted with all-natural, organic ingredients.
Watkins’ love affair with pops began nearly 15 years ago, during a family vacation to Nashville. A chance encounter with a quaint local shop, Las Paletas, led to his discovery of the Mexican paleta, or ice pop. Immediately captivated by the treats’ bold colors, vibrant flavors, and fresh ingredients, Watkins made it his mission to bring paletas back to Alabama. Years of planning ensued, but Steel City Pops eventually debuted in December 2011, nearly 10 years after Watkins’s first paletas encounter.
Thirteen locations later (six in Alabama, one in Kentucky, and six in Texas), Steel City made its official Houston debut this month at 420 East 20th Street in The Heights — the brand’s 14th location.
Cross the shop’s threshold, and you’re captivated by its refined design. The sleek industrial interiors — subway tile on the walls, counters crafted from reclaimed wood (designed by Birmingham-based Recreated), sprawling floor-to-ceiling windows, and slate concrete flooring — perfectly contrast the pops’ signature vibrant hues. Three oversized flat screens display Steel City’s diverse menu, which includes both creamy and fruity options. The former contain dairy and have a texture similar to ice cream, while the latter are non-dairy and vegan-friendly. Both are made with organic, seasonal (local when possible) ingredients, are gluten-free, and are never made with artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
Flavors like blood orange, hibiscus, strawberry lemonade (currently Houston’s best seller), piña colada, caramel, strawberry shortcake, and chai latte are all made in-house. Windows give customers a front-seat view of the production process.
Steel City also offers fresh coffee (espressos, americanos, cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos abound), as well as Provid bottled water. One hundred percent of the water’s proceeds benefit Never Thirst, an organization that funds the construction of clean-water wells in developing countries.