Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Welcome to Yogurtland!

If you’ve been keeping up lately with the ebb and flow of eating trends in this city, then you should know all about the tsunami of frozen yogurt (fro-yo) joints currently swallowing up Manhattan, one neighborhood at a time.

Pinkberry, Red Mango, Berrywild, Flurt; these are the frontrunners in the frantic race for fro-yo fame.

Much like 70s bell-bottomed jeans have recently reappeared on the racks as “flared” and “wide leg”, the recent fro-yo frenzy is not really a new trend, but a resurrection, redesign, and renovation of an old one.

We all remember when frozen yogurt was first introduced to us in the early 90s by Arkansas-based company,"The Country’s Best Yogurt” or better known simply as TCBY. This operation put the concept of frozen yogurt on the map, proudly marketing its product as a fat-free (ergo healthy) alternative to ice cream at a time in America when low-fat diets were all the rage.

We had to Stop the Insanity somehow right?

Hindsight tells us there was nothing healthy about this caulk-like, tasteless, sugar-laden sludge that was better suited for re-tiling your bathroom floor than personal consumption. But that didn’t stop us from making it one of the most popular culinary fads of the late 20th century, next to stubbornly resilient Dippin’ Dots, and nitrate-heavy, salt-soaked Lunchables.

Nevertheless, many of us harbor fond memories of TCBY, not because of the “yogurt” itself, but the novelty and the circumstances that surrounded it. That said, I will always remember my father’s bitingly concise critique of his first TCBY experience during which he ordered the chocolate “yogurt” in a cup. Crafted and intonated in a manner only he could achieve, his poignant review is best summarized in two words: “plastic garbage”. He was right.

Now more than a decade later and still saddled with perceptions of tasteless plasticity from years past, my recent re-entry into the world of frozen yogurt has been a surprisingly enjoyable one.

Initially, I fell hard and fast for the super-sour, rich and creamy goodness doled out at LA-based, uber-modern Pinkberry, but I quickly grew tired of shelling out almost 8 bucks for a medium-sized cup with 3 toppings. Indifferent about equally pricey Red Mango, (Pinkberry’s closest competitor in pricing and format) I was beginning to wonder if my new found love for frozen yogurt would vanish as quickly as it appeared.

Then came Yogurtland.

Across the street from John’s Pizzeria on forever-busy West Village thoroughfare, Bleecker Street, Yogurtland screams simplicity, boasting a humble sign, and a sparsely decorated interior that actually looks as though frozen yogurt is sold there.

Absent of any mod furniture, comfy red couches, and self-involved, Bush-hating, unhygenic pseudo-hipsters, only a lone narrow counter and some stools offer a place for rest while you enjoy your self-serve yogurt.

That’s right, at Yogurtland, everything is SELF-SERVE, so once you grab the cup of your choice, you may proceed to help yourself to any or all or the 10 or so flavors in each of the dispensing machines embedded into the back wall of the store. (see below)

Cup filled? Great, now you can move over to the topping bar (which is also self-serve), where you can adorn your creamy creation with anything from fresh blueberries and strawberries, to peanut butter cup chunks and chocolate chips, to Asian-inspired confections like starchy red bean paste and bite-size “Mochi” (sweet Japanese rice cakes).

The yogurt, (particularly the plain flavor (which is my favorite to use with toppings), is tart, sour, and fairly creamy. Because the yogurt here actually includes live cultures (as opposed to the powder-based stuff purportedly used at Pinkberry), some may conclude that this mix is not nearly as decadent and viscous as Pinkberry’s. While that very well may be true, Yogurtland’s mix is by far the most natural and figure-friendly, and if anything, probably represents the most honest take on that ideal, guilt-free conception we all have of frozen yogurt.

The mix here is tasty, tangy, and refreshing, and at 39 cents per ounce, incredibly affordable. You can easily build a 10oz masterpiece for around $4.00 that is more than sufficient, and vastly cheaper than the $7 cups you get at Pinkberry or Red Mango, where you get 2 blueberries, a blackberry, and a one chocolate chip as your 3 "toppings".

As far as I’m concerned, the already saturated fro-yo market seems to have assumed that people will gladly pay upwards of $8 for a tasty cup of “frozen yogurt". Yogurtland feels differently, trading in high-end stuffiness, for a more genuine, customer-based business model – make a great product easily accessible to your customers, for a phenomenally competitive price.

How can you not get addicted to that?



Yogurtland (map it)

267 Bleecker St (Between Cornelia & Jones)

212) 206-1824‎

Food: A

Ambiance: A

Service: A

In a thought: "THE most satisfying Fro-Yo experience in the city."

4 comments:

Knucklecrack said...

Um, what?!

YogurtLand is a third world nation compare to Red Mango (2nd world nation) and PinkBerry.

Yogurtland is a shit fest.

Sorry but true.

meghan said...

obviously knucklecrack likes to eat the fake stuff at pinkberry. pinkberry is made out of a powder mix with no live active cultures. last i checked that didn't qualify as yogurt.

The Übereater said...

Knucklecrack - You yogurt yuppie, I'm not surprised you prefer to associate with the artifice of Pinkberry. You elitist pig! Keep your powdered yogurt and your $9 yogurt and your mod furniture!

-The Ubereater

Peterp said...

Vin,

It's ironic you post about frozen yogurt, as I had my first experience with Pinkberry last week in San Diego.

I had never heard of it before, but the wife wanted to give it a try, so we did.

Since I don't have the vocabulary that you do, i guess the best way I can describe it is, 'interesting.' I didn't really know what to expect, as I had never heard of Pinkberry before...but, it really tasted like actually yogurt.

I was expecting more of an ice cream-type taste...but it is as you describe, a little sour and sweet...it tasted just like yogurt.

Whether PinkBerry is real yogurt or not, I can't say (I'll leave that up to you). But I will say, they didn't skimp out on our strawberry topping, and a small cup seemed pretty affordable, around $3.50 if I remember correctly.

Albeit, this was in San Diego, and they were giving free samples, so I might assume it was a newly opened store, so that might have something to do with our experience. Nevertheless, I'm glad we tried it, and I'm glad I got to read your take on it.