At some point during our childhood, we have all experienced the fun of making popsicles in the summertime. We’d pour some store-bought juice into the plastic molds, maybe add some fruit if there was some in the fridge, put them in the freezer, and try to wait as patiently as possible for them to form in their molds. When growing up in Baton Rouge, Popcycle owner Lindsey Byrd loved creating different popsicle flavors, especially a creamy orange dreamsicle that is now a favorite at her bicycle-powered popsicle cart.
Backyard popsicle-making isn’t where Byrd’s culinary background ends, however; the accomplished chef attended culinary school at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and completed an internship in Paris, France. The experience was as amazing as it sounds, although Byrd says it wasn’t great at first. She started her internship working for a chef who continually harassed her with sexist comments, and Byrd quit on the spot before finding another restaurant with which to complete her internship. Her girlfriend asked Byrd what her dream place to work would be, and the two walked into the prestigious Le Chateaubriand for dinner that night. Byrd (after she’d had some wine, she admits) walked right into the kitchen and asked for the job.
“It just goes to show that you have to ask—you never know,” Byrd says. “I got to work at the ninth-best restaurant in the world for three months, which was incredible, [and] I learned a lot about flavor combinations and techniques.”
After finishing her internship in Paris, Byrd relocated to Austin for its liberal, artsy vibe, and says the hot weather prompted her to start making her favorite childhood treat again. That winter, Byrd traveled to Mexico, where she visited over 100 paleterías (traditional Mexican popsicle shops.) When she got back to Austin, she ordered a custom “icicle tricycle,” a bike outfitted with a freezer, and began selling popsicles on the street just as push-cart vendors in Mexico often do.
“I woke up the day after my birthday last year, and I was like, ‘I’m going to buy a bike with a cooler on it!’” Byrd remembers. “I hadn’t planned out any recipes or anything; I just dove in and started the business by myself…I knew Austinites would love it and that it would appeal to the bicycle community.”
Popcycle currently offers around 20 constantly-rotating flavors; on any given day, there are between six to eight flavors in Byrd’s icicle tricycle. Byrd’s commitment to using local, organic ingredients and her inventive flavor pairings elevate her popsicles above anything you might hope to buy from the store.
“Typically what I do is go to the farmer’s market every week, and I have my own herb garden,” Byrd says. “After the farmer’s market, I’ll go to Central Market or Whole Foods and get inspired by the produce section. I have a couple days a week where I’ll just experiment with flavors.”
There are plenty of refreshing fruity pops—watermelon habanero, hibiscus lime, roasted plum and ginger and honey peach, to name a few— but the creamy flavors such as buttermilk lemon thyme and bananas foster (which features generous chunks of sweet flambéed bananas) are just as satisfying on a hot summer day. The Popcycle also offers many vegan options, including a vegan avocado coconut milk pop.
“People expect a popsicle to be just a fruit pop, but the creamy ones are very complex,” Byrd notes.
Even though summer in Austin will continue well into September, as they say in a certain Medieval HBO drama, winter is coming. The multi-talented Byrd says she might start a new project during the winter months (she also loves to make savory items like chutneys, various pickles and nut butters in her commercial Eastside kitchen) and work on securing a food trailer so the Popcycle can have a home base. For now, though, catch Byrd around town whenever you’re looking for that perfect summertime treat.
“My favorite part of doing what I do is watching people have that moment of nostalgia,” Byrd says. “Nobody eats a popsicle and doesn’t smile.”