If you've lived in Southern California anytime in the 80's, chances are, you tried a dish of Penguin's Frozen Yogurt. This chain was the king of yogurt during that decade. There seemed to, literally, be one on every corner.
What you may not have known, (I didn't) was that Dannon actually created the first frozen yogurt back in the 70's. It was frozen yogurt on a stick, called "Danny". To bad for Dannon, the idea of frozen yogurt as a dessert, didn't take off until years later. After the rise of the ubiquitous frozen yogurt shop, there was a period in the late nineties and into the new millennium, where the desserts' popularity took a real nose dive. Then, in 2005, along came a little thing called Pinkberry...(is this where the Heavens part and the angels sing? For some, I suppose this is true.) It was a simple concept that really took off. Fast forward to 3 years later and there seems to be, once again, a yogurt shop on every corner.
But what sets these yogurt shops apart? Does Pinkberry still reign supreme? Of course, as with all food, is there really such a thing as an objective opinion? That's a debate for another day. In the mean time I set out to check out some of the Valley yogurt shops and get the "scoop" on "fro-yo."
Their shops definitely get top marks for first impressions. From the large yellow banquet, to the colorful chairs and outside tables with adjustable heights, this chain hits the mark on design. As for the yogurt, they offer three flavors, the original plain, coffee and green tea.
The original flavor, I have to admit, is really delicious, but between you and me, PureNaked in Encino, tops it in my opinion (more on them in a moment.) The coffee flavor is also quite tart, and yummy as well. Then there's the green tee. Let's just say, for me, it's an acquired taste. They have a nice selection of toppings and their fresh fruit choices were top shelf.
Find the Pinkberry nearest you...
Then there is PureNaked Yogurt, which opened up about a year ago.
The original name of the shop was to be BareNaked, and you know, maybe they should have stuck with that name since it seems to really fit the bill. The space itself has a very bare feel, as though no thought was put into the decor. And then there are the yogurt choices, no wait, the yogurt choice, there is only one, plain, a la Pinkberry. The good news? The yogurt was delicious.
It was tart, refreshing with bright tangy flavors.
17499 Ventura Blvd. Encino, 91316. 818-461-0346.
Yum Yum Yogurt has a very different feel then some of the newer yogurt shops.
I was reminded of a mom and pop burger shack, complete with wood paneled walls. Along with eight different yogurt offerings, including the ubiquitous plain, they also had about 20 different kinds of toppings.
If yogurt doesn't strike your fancy, they also have a full menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers and dogs. I found the yogurt to be quite good.
16545 Ventura Blvd. Encino, 91316. 818-783-5931
When you enter Hollyberry (Formerly Snowberry) it's like walking into a little jewel box.
Peach and green walls, blown glass light fixtures and chrome chairs give it a "ladies who lunch" kind of sensibility. Their menu consists of four regular flavors: plain, peach, vanilla and pomegranate, along with a small selection of gelatoes. The plain yogurt was very good, but oddly, the peach tasted almost exactly like the plain. Oh yeah, and toppings, here you get about 20 to choose from.
14425 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, 91423. 818-817-2350
I felt like I stepped into a full fledged ice cream shop upon entering Humphrey's.
My first impression was how friendly the service was. It's the kind of place you'd take your kids on a hot summer day. Along with ice cream, frozen dipped bananas, a full sandwich and salad menu, they carry three frozen yogurt flavors: tart vanilla, sweet vanilla and chocolate. I tried a combo of the vanillas and couldn't really tell the difference between the two. While the yogurt was okay, it was certainly not stellar. They get huge points for their toppings which include real chocolate chip cookie dough bits.
4574 Van Nuys Blvd. Sherman Oaks, 91403. 818-906-2490.
Limelite felt a bit different the the other shops.
There was house music playing, a big graphic print on the main wall, colorful resin chairs and a large green leather couch to kick back on. The yogurt, on the other hand, was pretty standard. Three choices: plain, mango and chocolate along with a selection of about 30 toppings.
15030 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks 91403. 818-728-8358
If you feel like you've stepped back into the 80's, you might be at Studio Yogurt.
Of all the shops I visited, this one felt the most like an old Penguins. Not so much in the decor but in the yogurt flavors and topping choices. On the day I visited there wasn't a plain/tart yogurt in sight. Instead there was a selection of 10 flavors including Irish Cream, Cake Batter and Cheesecake. There are fat free/sugar free option, and for those less calorie conscious, there's ice cream too.
12050 Ventura Blvd. Studio City, 91604. 818-508-7811
Menchies sets itself apart by being 100% self service, which is just fun, I don't care if you are seven or 70.
There are four machines, each with two flavor choices. And you get the option to swirl the two flavors together, fancy! There are more than 40 toppings and for $1 they'll hook you up with a waffle cone bowl. Since it's self service, they charge you by the ounce, 39 cents to be exact, including toppings.
I thought the topping quality was a bit better than the yogurt, but at the end of the day the yogurt and the experience were both pretty darn good.
4849 Laurel Cyn. Blvd. Valley Village, 91607. 818-985-9150
If you are a "fro-yo" aficionado, and you know who you are, then you'll find that perfect spot and stand by it 'till the end. But for the rest of us who just want a cool spot to sit and enjoy a frozen yogurt on a hot summer day, we've got it made. With a shop on every corner you are sure to find one serving up something that will satisfy your yogurt craving.