Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Frozen Yogurt - Get On The New Way To Cool Off

Yogurt and toppings from Yogopop in Elkridge
Tart frozen yogurt was once such an exciting idea that we drove to Olney to sample what we'd heard the celebrities were eating in New York and Los Angeles.

Three years later, the serve-yourself yogurt shop has become so popular that I can't even track all the openings, closings and nuances between them.

Tutti Frutti opened in Fulton on Friday, and we stopped by in a crowd to pick from the 16 flavors and spoon on mochi and boba.  I've heard that the Red Mango in Clarksville is close to opening as well.  That means there are at least eight options in Howard County plus more in Catonsville  -- an entirely new way to cool off on a hot summer night.

If you haven't tried this yet, here is the basic idea:  Someone decorates a shopping center bay with white paint and modern design from Ikea and knock-off furniture stores.  They install a bunch of self-serve yogurt machines and a toppings bar that they fill with candy, fruit, breakfast cereal, and Asian items like mochi and boba.  Then they hire young people to weigh bowl and take money.
Lots of money if you aren't careful.  You're paying by the ounce, so small bowls can hit $6 and the large bowls must top $15 in the hands of a teenager.

The second shop next to H Mart
But it's really fun.  You can start with desserts that are basically soft-serve ice cream -- vanilla or chocolate yogurt with sprinkles.  Kids can go crazy with cake-flavored yogurt and scoops of diced candy bars.  Or you can harken back to the Pinkberry start of this trend with tart plain yogurt and fruit on top.  You have so much control that you can always make yourself happy.

On the one hand, the shops are similar enough that I'm not sure that I'd drive past one to try another.  On the other, owners matter.  The best shop have friendly employees, maybe 10-16 yogurt flavors, and toppings that look fresh and fun.  Some joints have been uninspiring with just a few flavors and toppings that are clearly just frozen fruit and candy poured out of bags.

Turnover seems to help.  The Tutti Frutti on Rte 40 has an energetic vibe with people sitting outside and groups of people flowing through the line.  Beyond the yogurt, I like this trend because the shops often stay open until 11 am, and the people sitting outside give life and some after-dinner options to shopping centers.

Honestly, I can't keep track of every shop -- or every time that a shop seems to close briefly and then reopen.  The local trend started with a cluster along Rte 40, but it has expanded.  There are now two -- Mangoberry and SweetFrog -- in the same shopping center with H Mart.  These are the ones that I know:
  • Iceberry in Ellicott City.  It has closed and opened.  Check before you go.
  • Mangoberry in Catonsville.
  • Pink Beach in Ellicott City.  I haven't tried it yet.  Is it still open?
  • Red Mango coming to Clarksville.
  • Sweet Frog in Catonsville.  I haven't tried it yet, but my nephews love one in Virginia.
  • Tutti Frutti in Ellicott City, Columbia and Fulton.
  • Yogi Castle in Ellicott City and a new one opening on McGaw Road in Columbia.  (Hat tip to Alicyn.)
  • YogiBerry in the Columbia Mall.
  • YogiCup in Columbia.  Updated after reminder below.  This is near Pub Dog and Mango Grove.
  • Yogopop in Elkridge
Anyone have a favorite yogurt shop?  Anyone suggest a favorite concoction?  The new Tutti Frutti in Maple Lawn has cards on each yogurt machine that recommend complimentary yogurts and toppings.  What have you discovered that brings you back for me?

This is the second of three posts about staying cool in the summer.  First, I wrote about snowball stands.  Next up, ice cream options.  Click here for the entire series.


Anonymous said...

Hubby, daughter and I all love Tutti Frutti (both Ellicott City and Columbia). Great flavors, good texture and good variety of toppings. I remember the old-school frozen yogurt shops (ICBY, TCBY) where the texture of the yogurt was soft and creamy like ice cream which I prefer. The new style tart yogurt is very often too icy for me. Yogopop in Elkridge is an example - we all thought the yogurt turned too hard and icy right after being dispensed.

J4ESTER said...

Yogi cup in Columbia near pubdog in the spot where Quiznos was. Good selection and new owners?

Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of Sweet Frog by HMart. I used to think Tutti Frutti was the best, but Sweet Frog has a larger selection of yogurt and toppings!

Eric said...

I was just over by Iceberry the other day; it was closed with cardboard over the windows and there was some kind of construction or remodeling going on inside. Not sure if it's gone for good or just getting a facelift, however.

Amy Pickwick said...

Still a T.C.B.Y. girl (The Country's Best Yogurt). The one on Snowden River Parkway, Owen Brown, Columbia. :)

Richard said...

I live close to the Yogopop in Elkridge... I would go more often but it's fairly expensive - more so than Tutti Frutti on Rt 40.

Anonymous said...

Yogi Castle on Route 40 has a great selection of fresh, unsweetened fruit and they post their low fat and low sugar options with the nutritional information- for those of us paying attention. They also have a frequent buyer card. My son was a big fan of their smoothies- he usually opted to add protein powder.

PhotoChica said...

I drive from West Baltimore for Yogi Castle, and we have 6 other yogurt shops closer to the house. I've tried them all and won't go anywhere else these days. Yogi Castle is the only place in the area that makes their yogurt from, well, YOGURT without using a powder mix. You can really taste the difference.

perrik said...

I'm so pleased that the Tutti Frutti in Maple Lawn has finally opened! Even though I live south of Burtonsville, I make regular trips to the Harris Teeter at Maple Lawn (I've come to dislike the Burtonsville Giant, specifically their balky self-checkout kiosks). Oh, how I watched that space closely...

What I love about these IKEA-infested places is that you can dictate your own quantities. If I just want a couple ounces of peach yogurt, I'm not obligated to buy more. I just wish there were more low-sugar options (will have to try Yogi Castle).

Darn it, now I am thoroughly in the mood for frozen yogurt.

Anonymous said...

Red Mango in River Hill opened today. With schools out it was really busy .

Megan said...

I have a dairy allergy, but my husband enjoys these sorts of places. I noticed on the Tutti Frutti website, they mention a soy-based nondairy option. Anyone know if it's something they carry in all the stores? Or if there are non-dairy options in any of the other yogurt places?

Anonymous said...

And now you can throw Whirlz Yogurt Bar in the mix of your frozen yogurt desire. A NON-Franchise destination that will meet and exceed all expectations that you wanted close to home.