Red Mango - Irvine
No recent food story is as sweet or as bitter as the sordid tale of L.A.'s frozen yogurt phenomenon. Unless you've been holed up in a dark living room, tuned only to C-Span and hunched contentedly over a carton of Dreyers, you've no doubt heard of Pinkberry and the hype-driven PR machine that sparked the yogurt craze a few years ago. Since that time, meter maids, trademark lawyers, food bloggers, lab testers, and tabloid celebrities got involved.
In the meantime, in O.C., things were a bit calmer. For a while, Yogurtland and other bandwagoning independents enjoyed doing business in a Pinkberry-free zone. But with a recently opened store in Huntington Beach (Bella Terra) and plans to debut at least three more franchises in Irvine (Spectrum), Tustin (The District), and Newport Beach (Fashion Island), Pinkberry's finally brought the fight down to us.
But even before it snips the ribbon to its Irvine store, Pinkberry will find an old adversary crouched and waiting with gloves already laced. Red Mango just launched its Irvine outlet; the first in Orange County for the chain that purportedly started the trend in South Korea.
It swirls up the now familiar flavors of yogurt -- plain and green tea. Both are tart and icy, intended to be garnished with toppings of chopped fresh fruit, cereals, and mochi nuggets ($1.00 for one topping; $1.25 for two). At Red Mango, you'll be surprised that pomegranate is offered as a choice, but you'll be even more flabbergasted to find that mango is not (Reason: Not in season).
Those who prefer their yogurt sans accoutrement are charged $2.50 for a small cup.
The similarities between the two rivals are worth noting, especially the hollow center of emptiness you'll discover at the core of its swirl. This is the space where more yogurt should be, but instead, there's air -- a void with nothing but an echo. It's ingeniously misleading. But the ruse is par for the course in L.A.
The taste of their yogurt, in this humble blogger's opinion, is less puckeringly sour than Yogurtland; sweeter and more subtle. Delicious.
But still, I wonder how long before I tire of Red Mango as I did Yogurtland. Better hurry up Pinkberry. The clock is ticking. The boom times of this fad won't last forever. Remember tapioca milk tea?
17595 Harvard Avenue, Suite D
Irvine, CA 92714