Monday, January 29, 2007

Yogurtland - Fullerton

I don't know when it started exactly, but by the time the LA Times published its story last August, the Pinkberry phenomenon had reached a deafening crescendo. Words like "crackberry" were being thrown around (to convey its apparent addictive qualities), along with other over-the-top hyperboles and stories of lines longer than a Star Wars movie premiere.

Before long, copycats like Kiwiberry and Roseberry sprung up to vie for a piece of the action. Then, as with all things fueled on hype, inevitable backlash ensued. "Too expensive," some said. "What's the big deal?" asked others.

Even the Deep End Diner himself, Eddie Lin, broke from writing about fetal duck eggs and bull penis to chime in on the craze. The title of his post: "Punk'dBerry." His verdict: the emperor had no clothes.

Still, the story has kept me fascinated to this day. Entrepreneurial success; fanaticism; possible trademark infringement; this saga had it all. Who would have thought that it was all about frozen yogurt? You heard that right.

Frozen. Yogurt.

But it's real frozen yogurt, its devotees will point out, touted for its health benefits, tangy taste, and icy mouth-feel.

Sitting in front of my computer in Irvine, reading about all the ruckus, the praise, the breathless enthusiasm, and even the sane voices of reason, one thought kept crossing my mind: when are they going to open in OC already?

Now, it seems, my wait is over. But not because Pinkberry has finally decided to venture south. On the contrary, I was made aware on the existence of a place that renders any such plans moot. Here within our county line, was a homegrown "real" frozen yogurt shop for OC to call its own, and it comes without a "berry" suffix, nor the hype associated with it.

Located inside what is also a Bobaloca franchise in Fullerton, Yogurtland has such an off-the-rack moniker, one wouldn't expect much more than a Golden Spoon clone at best. But its remarkably varied array of sixteen flavor choices easily beats Pinkberry by fourteen and Golden Spoon by at least six.

Among them is a flavor called Plain Yogurt, which flaunts the tart-tangy-icy formula made popular by the Pink-Kiwi-Rose-berries. The others Yogurtland offers are of the usual soft-serve variety, all pleasantly sweet and delightfully creamy.

The roster reads as follows:
Sugar Free Vanilla
Sugar Free Chocolate
Strawberry Banana
Egg Nog
Green Tea
Georgia Peach
Peanut Butter
Chocolate Mint
New York Cheesecake
Very Strawberry
Espresso
Cookies and Cream
Blueberry Yogurt
Plain Yogurt
Vanilla
Chocolate Classic
Apart from the flavors, Yogurtland's primary competitive advantage and defining characteristic is that the yogurt is self served and priced at $0.30 per ounce.

This is an operational and pricing model that appeals to both the control freak and the cheapskate in me.

You take a clear tub from tall stack next to the entrance. Leading up to the cashier, lined up side-by-side on the right wall, are the yogurt dispensers, eight in all, where you can pump out as much of the frozen confection as your sweet tooth desires and your wallet allows. Each machine holds two flavor spouts, with a middle spout outputting a mix of the two.

Then there are the toppings. A refrigerated cart holds chopped fruit, like strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, and mango. Dry toppings in jars line a shelf above it, and include nuts, chocolate chips, and rainbow sprinkles. Finally, once you've completed construction on your frogurt masterpiece, it's off to the weighing scale and checkout.

On the last visit, my goal was to pipe a sample of all sixteen flavors into my bowl, but I only got as far as six before I ran out of room. What I need is a wider container. Here's what I'm thinking: paella pan.

What I did manage to cram into the tub provided was the chocolate and vanilla; the blueberry and plain yogurt; and the strawberry and New York cheesecake. I topped it off with some diced strawberry, kiwi and mango for a dessert with a refreshing icyness, a not-too-rich creaminess, and a mouth-filling smoothness so addictive that I fought the urge to go back for seconds.

Pinkberry might have LA eating yogurt out of its paws, but with Yogurtland's plans already in play to open in Irvine and other locations, it might just do the same for OC.

Yogurtland
(714) 525-2912
501 N State College Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92831

37 Comments:

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

Wow Elmo,
Way to be up-to-date on the OC trends. Well, as OC follows LA anyway. ;)

 
At 9:29 PM, Blogger Professor Salt said...

Wow, this is right near my CPA's office. Will rectify missing it next time I'm up to cook the books, and I'll write off the yogurt while I'm at it.

elmo, do you know more about the Irvine Pinkberry?

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Wandering Chopsticks,

I wish that an OC eatery can start up a craze like Pinkberry, Zankou, Din Tai Fung. Perhaps Yogurtland is the one.

Professor,

Actually, I think I might have misled you in that last sentence (I've since reworded it). I meant to say that Yogurtland is opening a branch in Irvine, not Pinkberry. The new Yogurtland is slated to open soon (next month) on Jeffrey. And I'll be the first in line.

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Passionate Eater said...

I'm glad that you too shared your perspective on Pinkberry! Unfortunately, I have to say it, but I hate places that sell food by weight. Supermarket produce I am okay with, but I always manage to feel "ripped off" by that Chinese place downstairs of my office building and the organic supermarket and salad place near downtown.

When I eat at those places, I am always surprised at the cash register. The usual thoughts that run in my head include:

"What, an egg roll and fried rice costs $17.97?"

"I thought I just got organic greens and grape tomatoes, how come the total is $12.35?"

At Pinkberry, I would be just like you, trying to squeeze all the flavors into a tiny plastic cup, and in the end, paying for it. Literally, figuratively, and etc.

 
At 4:53 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

We never get any of that stuff here. Maybe because it's cold for a good part of the year here. Some of the flavors sound pretty yummy, though. I will have to give the place a try, if we ever get out that way again.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger Professor Salt said...

Thanks for the clarification on Pinkberry in OC. I sorta agree w/ passionate eater that the food by weight pricing seems odd to me. In the case of yogurt, this works in my favor, because I don't typically like to add mix-ins anyway.

Yogurtland's operating models sounds like America's Cup in Costa Mesa. I know AC has its fans, but I'm not one of them because 1) I don't like oversweet ice cream and 2) AC is all about the mixins.

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger The Bill said...

Thanks for the review...

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Hey Elmo!
Ay yah, that is so cool! You deserve props for attempting to get all 16 flavors...hehe...I'd like to see a picture of all that! We've got a Kiwiberry here in Claremont, but sigh, somehow that doesn't live up to 16 choices of self serve! :)

 
At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pinkberry's not coming to OC anytime soon (although there have been rumors of a SCP location), but two stores will be opening in Long Beach this spring: http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_5058819

 
At 6:09 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

i want to know when colleen cuisine is going to go head to head with elmomonster in a fro-yo eating contest. you guys will be battling for your county's fro-yo chain pride.

 
At 7:34 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

PE,

I know what you mean about stuff sold by weight. Opportunity for fleecing is ripe. Also, one has to be careful -- $0.30/ounce is $4.80/lb, and if you start loading up on the denser toppings you can be looking at an expensive dessert.

Juliet,

No frozen yogurt at all?! Say it aint' so. But it sounds like this "real" yogurt trend is slowly making its way east. I believe they're opening one in NYC. Chicago is most likely next, if not already in their sights.

Professor,

The pricing at Yogurtland is pretty fair, but you're right, one should take it easy on the heavier toppings. You can't tell by the picture, but that was a lot of yogurt I got, equal to a large at Golden Spoon. Average spent is about $3 before your cup runneth over.

AC sounds interesting. I might check it out, but then again, if it's overly sweet, maybe not.

The Bill,

You're welcome!

Kathy,

I would've succeeded if I had a wider cup! Like maybe a paella pan.

BTW, I tried Kiwiberry over in Rowland Heights recently too. Not bad. But the green tea was way too sour. The plain flavor was great but it tastes identical to the one at Yogurtland.

Anon,

Ah, the LB! That's close enough. I might have to drive up the 405 to check it out finally. See what the fuss is about. But if what I hear about the prices are true, I have a feeling this cheapskate will still be going to Fullerton for my fix afterward.

Eddie,

CC would defeat me handily. Then I'd be crying into my yogurt. Tears aren't as tasty a topping as sprinkles.

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger Steph said...

Yet another awesome lead--I've just rediscovered frozen yogurt (after a stint working at a joint in high school made me swore never to have another swirl for as long as i live), and this place sounds great. Never had the pinkberry, tho, but i read that la times article. I have to feeling I might not like it that much because i confess i like the fro yo that's more like ice cream and not so much like "real" yogurt :P

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger Erin S. said...

ooohhhh...I love the idea of make your own yogurt creation...how fun!

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger Juliet said...

Oh. We have frozen yogurt places here. They just aren't very plentiful. Even the ice cream places around here don't get very good business any time other than summer. But we only get about three monthes of warm weather, so I guess it makes sense.

 
At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Seth Chadwick said...

Elmo, elmo, elmo.

When, O, when will you learn that the only true culinary addictions that are simple and pure and holy and wholesome are:

Cheese Crisp
Diet Coke

(And not necessarily in that order!).

I am glad the frozen yogurt thing is doing well in the greater SoCal area.

However, someday when you visit Phoenix, I will introduce you to Arlecchino Gelato (after the cheese crisp, mind you) and you will never think of yogurt again.

Great review!

 
At 11:08 PM, Anonymous eaterdeltustin said...

I should say that the Lollicup in Irvine (Jeffrey) and Tustin (next to Costco) both serve the same kind of yogurt that pinkberry does (which is the same kind as Korea's Red Mango).

Great blog, by the way.

 
At 6:13 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Steph,

I'm like you. My palate is used to ice-cream-like frogurt. If I hadn't read that the "real" yogurt was supposed to taste sour, I would've probably thought it had turned, and spit it out in disgust. But the focus on this quality prepared me. It definitely has the taste of fermentation. It reminds me of those little Asian yogurt drinks, sold in the tiny bottles.

Erin,

This is the kind of place that would be dangerous if I had no self control.

Juliet,

Phew. I'm glad you've got a few to choose from when the weather warms. Our conversation reminds me of a fun fact: Cold Stone Creamery actually started in Alaska!

Seth,

Ah! Gelato. A fitting dessert to a long awaited Arizonan cheese crisp. Thankfully, I can attempt to make my own cheese crisp per A Taste of Home Cooking's post (which I tried to give you a heads up on your blog yesterday but something hiccuped and I lost my comment). But then I can make a Chicago-style hot dog at home, but it's still not a Chicago hot dog.

eaterdeltustin,

Thanks for the comment! Yes, I saw that too since I frequent the Costco Tustin (my neighborhood). I've yet to try it though, but I definitely will soon.

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger Melting Wok said...

goddd elmo !! :P I was craving for this yogurt when I ate my lollipop chicken y'day, wish I'm closer to that area :( Wow, when I look at those machines, all I could think of all-you-can-eat yogurt ! :)

 
At 7:43 PM, Blogger Deb said...

You do get around Elmo! I really like the fact it's real yogurt and freedom in what/how you serve yourself. How do you find these places?! ;)

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger gina said...

I love frozen yogurt. And it's right by school! CSUF, that is.

I love your reviews by the way.

 
At 6:42 AM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Ah, but it's not all chic and stylish. =b

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Melting Wok,

AYCE yogurt would possibly be hazardous to your health. Although it's probably less of a strain on your heart than AYCE ice cream!

Deb,

This is a tip I got from a post on Chowhound. Glad I followed up on it though, because this is truly my kind of place.

Gina,

That place was crawling with CSUF students! I'm surprised you didn't know about it already! Or maybe you did.

CP,

True. The decor here wouldn't pass muster in WeHo. But compared to other boba/yogurt joints in OC, it's a freakin' Taj Mahal!

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

Elmo,
Tag, you're it for 5 things people don't know about you. You can keep it all food related if you wish. http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com/2007/02/5-things-most-people-dont-know-about-me.html

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger natalie@theliquidmuse.com said...

Me want!

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Natalie,

If you live in Irvine, in March, you shall have! (That's when the new Yogurtland opens!)

 
At 11:35 PM, Blogger dmillman said...

is there any place in south orange county that has "berry" flavor. You know the flavor at pinkberry. Im from LA and i need some. There are many places in La that have the flavor for less than $900 like at pinkberry.

 
At 11:38 PM, Blogger dmillman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Dmillman,

Most of the Lollicup franchises have the PinkBerry green tea and plain yogurt flavor. There's one in Tustin, in the Costco parking lot. Not bad.

 
At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pinkberry will be opening at the huntington beach bella terra and at the irvine spectrum

 
At 5:16 PM, Blogger Michelle Wolff said...

I was googling eating contests in orange county...are you down?

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Irvine Spectrum! Awesome.

Michelle,

Down for what? A yogurt eating contest? Where and when!?

 
At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We visited Yogurtland 2 nights ago and were impressed by the line out the door. We have tried many other frozen yogurt places and were ready to be wowed, but all 4 of us ended up feeling ill about an hour after eating the yogurt. We all had different flavors and toppings,so.. Since then I mentioned this to my hairstylist and she reported the same thing.
Sorry...

 
At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yogurtland Irvine has gone cheap. Bring back the styrofoam and clear plastic cups. The pink and drab gray paper cups kill the mood. The syrupy kiwi, strawberries, have replaced the fresh fruit. It must weigh more with sugar water or syrup doused all over it. And the logo napkins are gone. But a sign appeared saying to conserve napkins and to take only what you need. Maybe they're more worried about franchising than quaility.

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger Foxi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10:57 AM, Blogger Foxi said...

firstly, good review!

i just wanted to point out, however, that $.30 an ounce is actually an EXCELLENT deal, especially when compared to pinkberry.

why?

well if you get a medium, three topping frozen yogurt at pink berry you get 8 ounces for $4.95. at yogurtland, 8 ounces of whatever combination you want is only $2.40 which is less than half the price of pinkberry. anyone with some semblance of discipline should be able to keep themselves from getting more than 8 ounces of frozen yogurt, which, btw, is a LOT of frozen yogurt.

so... stop complaining commenters! the only reason i go to yogurt land is beCAUSE its so cheap compared to pinkberry. that and they have mochi as a topping :)

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger Foxi said...

also, syrupy fruit is kind of an issue, yes. but going to paper cups from plastic cups? and not using logo napkins?

please.

paper cups save the environment, and who cares if they have a logo on the napkin. its a frivolous addition on something you're going to dirty and throw away anyway.

and the reason they say try to conserve napkins? because it's a WASTE if you don't. at ikea you have to pay for your plastic bags now because they want you to use their reuseable duffle when shopping there. does that make ikea cheap? a little. but why are they doing it? so they can "save the environment" or whatever

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger Anonymous said...

OMG...ive never been 2 the Yogurtland in Fullerton...but id b willing 2 go there 4 the hello kitty shop next door!!!!!!! I live in Santa Barbara and we have 1 here downtown and its my fav place 2 go! I have 2 write this stupid persuassive essay...so i thought...,"What better place to do a report on than Yogurt land...hmmmm...nope...cant think of one!" LOL...hi

 

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