- a sneaky photo taken at Pinkberry in NYC
UPDATE 9-11-2009 – YummyYo added to the list of reviewed stores (but not added to the scoring since a side by side comparison was not done).
It has been a hot, sweaty summer full of record 104 F degree days here in Austin, Texas. Luckily this Austin Comparison adventure is dedicated to tasting the cold, sweet, and delicious treat that has become a craze in America, tart frozen yogurt (AKA Froyo).
The tart yogurt craze first blew up in Asia, where tart yogurt products have been popular for many years in the form of candy, soft drinks, and even liquor. The craze only recently hit US shores via Korea in the form of the soft serve frozen yogurt store Pinkberry, which has been the obsession of many and a frequent destination for celebrities in NYC and LA. According to legend, after the “reality” show stars of “The Hills” mentioned Pinkberry, the stores’ popularity took off like a rocket. In fact, when Pinkberry first opened up, hour long lines (not unlike ones to get into an exclusive nightclub) formed around the block to get a taste of the sweet stuff.
Now a few years into the craze, enthusiasm for frozen yogurt has not cooled one bit – in fact, frozen yogurt stores have since popped up in cities all over the nation. Austin is no exception and tart frozen yogurt shops offering a wide variety of flavors and toppings can be found in many neighborhoods around town. This past weekend, the staff of FoodingBlog and friends got together to compare and sample the original tart yogurt and green tea flavors (the flavors available at Pinkberry) from four frozen yogurt shops close to downtown: Yogurt Planet, Swirll, Yogurt Spot, and Mambo Berry. Our judging was done based on several predetermined factors and all scores were averaged together.
And the Winners are:
Taste Champion (both original and green tea) – Mambo Berry
Yogurt Consistency Texture – Swirll
Best Store Dining experience – Yogurt Spot
Each store had pluses and minuses in different areas, so it was hard to declare an overall winner this time around – it really depends on what your priorities are! Mambo Berry tasted the best but seating is outdoors so you still have to fight the hot Texas sun. Swirll had the creamiest yogurt and great service, but we didn’t like the layout or location of the store. Yogurt Spot was a happy medium – providing a great store environment and pretty good yogurt.
For an in depth comparison that lists out the positives and negatives of each store in depth, keep scrolling down!
|Austin Froyo Comparison (5 point scale)|
|Mambo Berry||Swirll||Yogurt Spot||Yogurt Planet|
|Original Yogurt Taste||4.125||4.0||3.5||3.0|
|Green Tea Yogurt Taste||3.67||—||3.625||—|
- Mambo Berry Food Truck
We thought that Mambo Berry had the most Pinkberry-like taste and in general we agreed that this place had the best tasting yogurt overall. Like Pinkberry, they only offer two flavors, original and green tea, but they do both flavors very well. The yogurt had just the right amount of tartness and it was not too sweet or too yogurt-y. Service was great and you can get free toppings on certain days if you subscribe to their Twitter feed. We got some amazingly fresh blueberries that were perfect with our yogurt. The consistency of the yogurt is slightly icy and gritty, which was the only thing we did not like about the yogurt itself. Some thought that the green tea flavor was a bit strong, but others of us loved it. Having been to Pinkberry a lot, I think that the owners of Mamboberry must have the same supplier because the two taste almost exactly the same.
Unfortunately, like Pinkberry Mambo Berry is slightly expensive – a regular cup of yogurt is $4 and a large cup is $5. Since the store is a food truck, the dining experience isn’t that great unless you like sitting on picnic benches. That said, we felt that getting Mambo Berry Froyo to go would be great for helping to cool down while around South Congress.
- Swirll Inside
Swirll topped the list as being “the most” in many categories. Swirll’s product definitely had the most yogurt-y flavor (think Dannon yogurt) of any of the froyo spots. The consistency of the yogurt was great – the thickest and creamiest of the ones we tried. They also offered the most toppings of any of the places we went, almost 50 different options! The shop was the most busy / crowded store of them all – it was full of college students. Swirll is also the most expensive of all of the self serve places – 43 cents per ounce.
Unfortunately, Swirll had the smallest shop so we were all crammed into one corner by the door. Decor is very bright and orange, and loud boy band music videos were playing in the background while we were eating. They have free Wifi, but no free parking and no comfortable seating make it inconvenient to stay for long.
Taste wise, the original flavor was the most tart of any of the yogurt we had all day. We weren’t a big fan of the tart flavor, but there are many other options at this shop. The lychee flavor at Swirll was impressive and some of us liked the cake batter flavor as well. The very creamy texture of the yogurt lent itself very well to the more traditional ice cream flavors offered at Swirll.
Service here was great. One of the workers here walked us through all of the 16 options, personally answering many questions and providing small samples. This place would be great for those new to Froyo if they can put up with the crowds and parking.
- Yogurt Spot
Yogurt Spot had the nicest interior of any of the stores we went to. They had cozy leather upholstered chairs, booths, and couches, and the store itself uses the space well. Low key music played in the background and this place had a casual lounge feel. It seemed to be a favorite spot for college aged kids stopping in for a quick snack. There are big windows looking out onto the street so it’s bright inside and you have something to look at while you are dining. There is free Wifi at Yogurt spot and we would feel comfortable hanging out at the shop for a while.
The flavors at Yogurt Spot were good – the yogurt was not very tart so it’s easily palatable. The consistency of the yogurt was pretty creamy, but less so than Swirll. We liked the green tea flavor at this shop, but not as much as the one at Mambo Berry. Others thought that the blueberry flavor here tasted nice. The whole store is self serve and the cost of the yogurt and toppings is 39 cents per ounce. Yogurt Spot offers 12 flavors and 18 toppings.
Despite being on the drag, finding free parking isn’t that much of a problem (you can park in the Venue guest parking or on the street by Spiderhouse). Even though the store does a good deal of business, the place doesn’t feel crowded either due to a well designed store. The staff wasn’t overly helpful or excited here, that seemed to be the only drawback.
- Yogurt Planet
Yogurt Planet didn’t score at the top of any of our categories but came in 2nd in many areas. The interior is quite nice and and spacious, but the layout felt inefficient and it is not as nice as the Yogurt Spot. The colors are pretty very loud in this place and so is the music (making it hard to talk to friends).
The yogurt itself was not very creamy and slightly pasty in consistency. Yogurt Planet’s original tart flavor scored the lowest in our comparison, and some of us felt that a couple of the flavors tasted a bit chemical-y. There are some decent flavors though such as the strawberry and the Irish mint.
This store wouldn’t be our first pick to go for yogurt since the Yogurt Spot is only 2 minutes down Guadalupe but it would be a good place to stop after eating in the Triangle. There is a lot of parking here but this place gets packed with young kids and families. If you come here on a weekend with a large group, you might not get seating inside.
Yogurt Planet is also self serve and the product costs 39 cents per ounce.
In our comparison of remarkable downtown Frozen Yogurt stores, YummyYo in the 360 building was still pretty new and somehow flew beneath our radar when scouting out Froyo places.
I had the chance to swing by YummyYo a few weeks ago and it’s very solid. Their original tart flavor is probably a bit better than Yogurt Spot and their green tea flavor is excellent as well. I would rank them both as 2nd in taste behind Mamboberry. I also got to try their cookies and cream flavor which was surprisingly excellent (not chemical-y tasting like some of the other yogurt places around town).
The interior is close to being on par with Yogurt Spot, although due to it’s heart of downtown location, the seating area at Yummy Yo isn’t quite as large. Probably also due to the size of the shop, Yummy Yo has a smaller selection than the other shops in town, with 8 flavors vs 16 at most others. 4 of the flavors are there on a permanent basis and the other 4 swap out every once in a while.
Parking might be an issue since all of the spots close to YummyYo especially at night when everyone starts to filter into the restaurants and bars. During the day it isn’t so bad but you might have to pay a meter during the weekdays between 8:30-5:30.
YummyYo is a great option if you are downtown on west 2nd street and you want a quick dessert. I’m not sure how many people know about this place since it’s a little hidden and surrounded by so many other restaurants, but by all means check this place out and head over to the 360 building for a quick treat if you are in the area.
Photos taken by Peter Tsai