top five places in orlando to find SA's favorite agua fresca.

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In this week's restaurant review, Faiyaz mentions enjoying a tamarindo at El Palenque. There's no better hot-weather drink than an agua fresca, but it gets harder and harder to find them.*

Having lived in Los Angeles and in Chicago, both cities with significant Mexican communities, I miss the mom-and-pop dinner joints, the taco trucks and lunch-only stands, where you'd find families basically selling you the same food they were eating at home. There are little indie Mexican joints in Orlando, to be sure â?? several down on South OBT â?? but they seem to specialize in cheapness above all else and use lots of processed products.

Anyway. Aguas frescas are Mexican drinks made from water and sugar blended with fruit or herbs â?? or in the case of my favorite, rice. A watermelon or tamarind agua fresca is a cool summer quencher, but horchata (my favorite) is good year-round.

Horchata is ground rice mixed with cinnamon, sugar and water â?? sometimes people dress it up by adding lime zest or using half ground rice, half ground almonds. It's thin enough to be refreshing when it's cold, but the cinnamon gives it a homey comfort-food vibe â?? especially if you warm it up. (And it has a milky mouthfeel, but contains no milk â?? good for vegans or people with dairy allergies.)

It's easy to make at home (here's a recipe), though few restaurants make it from scratch â?? many buy it premade or use a syrup mix. Here are the five local restaurants we found that serve freshly made horchata:

Give it a try â?? hit one of the above, or make it yourself this weekend.

* Whereas those crayon-colored Jarritos sodas are everywhere. Everywhere you look, factory-produced food is stamping out homemade. There is one good thing about Jarritos, though: They're made with real sugar, not corn syrup.

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