By: Malcolm Mayhew
One by one, customers line up at the counter to place their orders. And one by one, they carry away wildly over-the-top drinks and eats that would make any of our city’s top chefs raise an eyebrow.
A family of four is passing around a fruit drink called rusa — a tall glass filled with chunks of pineapple and oranges; Squirt soda pop; chills; and a straw covered in chamoy. Next to them, a table of three takes consecutive stabs at conquering a chilindrina, a long, flat, crispy pork skin topped with cabbage, cilantro, avocado, sour cream and hot sauce. A kid across the room, meanwhile, gnaws on corn on the cob, bigger than his head, dusted with — oh ma gosh — Cheetos.
Welcome to Kokitos, the city’s best kept drinks and snacks secret. Founded six years ago by the Santos family of Fort Worth, the original tiny west side shop — as well as its newer, bigger sibling on the south side — is modeled after a frutería, a Mexican fruit stand, cart or store that specializes in fresh fruit and specialty fruit drinks called aguas frescas.
Husband-wife owners Ruben and Alicia Santos have taken their fruterías to the next level, so to speak, serving food and beverages scattered, smothered and covered in fiercely imaginative twists and turns. As a result, kids and adults of all ages and races line up for desserts and drinks topped with fresh fruit, housemade whipped cream, gummy bears, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and other whimsical ingredients.
“We knew when we opened, we had to do something to set us apart,” Ruben says. “There were already so many fruterías. We had to do something different — something many people hadn’t seen before.”
That meant, in Ruben’s eyes, coming up with a wholly original concept. Long a staple of Latino culture, fruterías are generally humble affairs. But he and Alicia didn’t want humble. They wanted upbeat and ingenious and vibrant and memorable — words not typically associated with fruterías in North Texas; they wanted, in other words, the Rodeo Goat of fruterías.
Enter good friend Felipe Martinez, an idea man who helped the family bring their vision to life. Together, Alicia, Ruben and Martinez came up with the Kokitos concept: a tropical-themed frutería awash in vibrant colors that serves crazy — and crazy-delicious — snacks and drinks.
“It’s a combination of what you see at other fruterías and what we throw at the wall,” says daughter Jessica, who, along with her sister, Briana, works at Kokitos. “We have a lot of fun seeing what sticks.”
The driving force of Kokitos’ menu: drinks, dozens of them — straight-up juice drinks, smoothies and aguas frescas, the latter consisting of blended fruits and veggies mixed with water and sugar.
“I can’t even begin to count how many types of juices we can make,” Briana says. “It all depends on what fruits or vegetables are in season.”
Juices are made on the spot, while you wait, with fresh fruits and veggies shipped in twice a week, usually from Mexico, primarily from vendors Ruben knows personally.
Food items include two types of corn. There is elote, which is corn served off the cob in a cup, doused with butter, mayonnaise, Valentina sauce and grated cotija cheese. Corn is also served on the cob, streaked in sour cream, garlic, butter and hot sauce. Your corn can also come covered in crumbles of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
“You would not believe how popular that is,” Briana says. “It may sound weird, but people absolutely love it.”
Another must-try item is cueritos, a thick soup, similar to shrimp cocktail, spiked with cucumber, jicama, housemade salsa, cilantro, tomatoes and avocado. There are also crepes, made in-house, covered in savory and sweet toppings, and frappé drinks made in flavors that include horchata and dulce de leche.
But Kokitos’ pride and joy are the head-turning fruit dishes that combine elements of sweet and spicy. Among them: the Fruity Gummy, a mile-high cup filled with chopped pineapple, Squirt soda, candy peach rings, chili and chamoy. Each is crowned with a strawberry and strands of gummy worms. The Francesca is even more insane, as it includes freshly chopped watermelon topped with your choice of ice cream, bananas, fresh cream, mangos and popping boba.
“That one was a lot of fun to come up with,” says Jessica. “But you know what, they’re all fun.”
Kokitos / 6708 Camp Bowie Blvd. / 6425 McCart Ave. / Find them on Facebook
To first-timers, Kokitos’ vast menu can be a little overwhelming. To help you along, here’s a guide to Kokitos’ five must-get items:
Kokitos specializes in drinks you can also eat, and this is one of the most extravagant. A tall cup is filled with sliced and diced pineapple, jicama, watermelon and cucumber, then topped with garnish after garnish: cotija cheese, chile powder, a straw lined with chamoy, a sweet and sour sauce. Finally, all are doused in tepache, a non-boozy pineapple cider made with natural fermented pineapple and various spices. $8.25
Meaning “crazy apple,” Manzana Loca is one of Kokitos’ many dishes that’s meant to be shared. Sliced apples are artfully arranged in a circle; then the open space between them is filled with cucumbers, pineapples and peanuts. The peanuts offer a nice blast of salt against a backdrop of sweetness. The dish is finished off with hot sauce and chamoy. $6.99
This sugar-rush in a cup does offer a few healthy redeeming qualities. Yes, it’s filled to the brim with your choice of fruit (our recommendation: mango), but Squirt soda pop and three types of candy — peach rings, gummy bears and gummy worms — make this beverage a trip to sugar city. $6.99
Hot Cheetos Corn
Corn comes in many amusing and tasty forms here. You can get it on the cob or in a cup, topped or doused in various toppings and sauces. If you’re into super-spicy, try this handheld inferno — a corn on the cob dusted with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and laced with Valentina hot sauce. It is not for the meek. You have been warned. $4.50
These savory flatbreads – similar to pizzas – are not unique to Kokitos. But they offer a wonderful rendition, meticulously lining a crispy pork skin base with sliced avocados, grated cabbage, streaks of sour cream, diced tomatoes and cilantro. Light and airy, they’re perfect for summer dining. $6.25
By: Malcolm Mayhew