Frozen Yogurt Wars – The Bay Area

By grace.g.yang ยท June 4, 2008
Under: California,Cheap Eats,Desserts,FRO-YOLYMPICS

For our birthdays, Chris and I flew to San Francisco for a culinary tour of San Francisco and Napa Valley (more on that later). On my actual birthday, I went on a little frozen yogurt tour around the bay area. I started out by myself (lame, I know), but my friends Chris and Audrey met up with me later and we went to a lot of awesome places. Here are the judges:

1. Grace, birthday girl and founder:

Working the machines at Tartini

2. Chris, race car driver, contributor:

IMG_0070 (Small)
Sporting my awesome new wayfarers

3. Audrey, future lawyer, fan:

A picture of me and Audrey from way back in the day

Since the tour was put together last minute and I didn’t have access to a printer, I basically took notes on a notepad (still VERY official).

1:30PM I run into a guy eating frozen yogurt in the Westfield mall and demand he tell me where he purchased it. He told me to go across the street to Icebee:

Icebee is directly across the street from Bloomingdales and is known for their self serve yogurt:

They have a lot of different flavors, but I went with tart (the original flavor). They also have lots of different toppings:

I went with tart and kiwi as a topping (I get kiwi when I’m not with Chris since he doesn’t like kiwis):

It doesn’t look like a lot, but it actually cost $1.50! The yogurt is $0.39/ounce, which is actually cheaper than most places, but the guys in front of me were complaining that they somehow ended up spending $11 on a frozen yogurt (Icebee only has one size cup, so you usually end up putting more in your bowl than you’d like).

Pros: Self-serve, tasty yogurt

Cons: Only one cup size, no option for sampling (unless you wait 5 minutes to ask the cashier who was very unattentive)

Icebee’s final score: 4.0/5.0.

3:33PM After an uneventful ride on the Caltrain to Palo Alto, I get off the train to meet up with my friend, Chris. Chris picked me up in his new car (a beautiful BMW) and took us to Fraiche, a place I found after reading valleywag. Fraiche is located in downtown Palo Alto, apparently close to all of the start-ups/VC firms:

IMG_0061 (Small)

Fraiche is known for their housemade yogurt – they have plain, soy, and valrhona chocolate – after sampling all three, we decided to go with a plain yogurt with blackberries and mangoes:

Fraiche’s yogurt tasted like goat cheese to me (not tart, but slightly tangy). It didn’t have an unpleasant taste, but it was definitely different than the stuff I’m used to on the East coast. Their servings were quite large and the hole size was quite small:

They also have interesting toppings, including some jams that’s made out of ollaliberries:

I’d never heard of ollaliberries before, but apparently they’re popular in California because I saw them when I went to Napa as well. They’re a combination of loganberries and youngberries and it’s quite tasty (almost like a blackberry but sweeter and milder). One of the other special toppings was valrhona chocolate – they had a huge chunk of valrhona chocolate that they manually shaved (if you ordered it).

Pros: Make yogurt on site, soy option, really good fruit (the mangoes were very fresh), Blue Bottle Coffee (they sell the beans and serve the coffee – Chris told me that Blue Bottle Coffee is a big deal in the bay area), they’re always busy, and they sell kombucha.

Cons: Their yogurt tastes like creamy goat-cheese (in my opinion), they’re always busy (nowhere to sit and the tables were definitely not clean), a guy yelled at me for taking pictures.

Overall, I gave the place 3.0/5.0 and Chris gave the place 3.0/5.0 as well.

Fraiche’s final score: 3.0/5.0

8:00PM After my birthday dinner in Mountainview and a quick stop for boba milk tea, Audrey, Chris, and I head to Cafe Aroma. Cafe Aroma sells frozen yogurt, gelato, and savory items (hummus, toast, etc):

Audrey likes the place because she thinks their mochi tastes extra good and that it tastes the most similar to Pinkberry. They also have a frequent buyers card that gets stamped every $3 you spend – after 12 stamps, you can redeem the card for prizes:

We ordered a small frozen yogurt with mango, mochi, and strawberry (the mochi cost an extra $0.39):

They have cute fluted bowls and distribute the fruit evenly, which I like (and they give you a ton of mochi!). One disappointment – HUGE HOLE:

The frozen yogurt tasted exactly the way Pinkberry used to taste (I think it tastes a lot creamier than it used to) and we thought it was a tad tart. The texture was very granular (I like granular and smooth) and overall, we were pleased with the yogurt. The fruit was cut up into really tiny chunks (not appreciated) and we also didn’t like the decor (the owner told us that they’re actually turning into a franchise and it’s going to be self-serve frozen yogurt soon).

Pros: They serve gelato for those of you that don’t like frozen yogurt, they have a “yogela,” which is a combination of frozen yogurt, gelato, and toppings (I didn’t see it until after we ordered), and they have a frequent buyers program (something I’d definitely benefit from).

Cons: Small pieces of fruit, they used to have a 10% off coupon (which is instant gratification), and the entire place is under construction.

Overall, Audrey gave Cafe Aroma 3.75/5.0, Chris gave it 3.0/5.0, and I gave it 3.5/5.0.

Cafe Aroma’s final score: 3.42/5.0.

8:55PM Audrey and I walk into I Love Yogurt and find out they don’t have plain yogurt. Audrey walks out.

9:05PM We cross the street and almost miss the parking lot for Tartini, a newly opened frozen yogurt shop. Tartini also has self-serve yogurt (the newest rage in frozen yogurt), and they offer flavors like green tea, pomegranate, acai, raspberry, vanilla, lychee, and original:

I sampled most of the flavors (the acai and pomegranate were absolutely gross) but all of us really liked the lychee (it tasted like a combination between yakult and the lychee jello shots they sell in Chinese grocery stores). Since it’s self-serve, we went with half plain and half lychee with watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries:

The lychee and watermelon combination was absolutely amazing (we didn’t think that much of the plain yogurt, but we had to try it for the tour!). Tartini has a lot of interesting toppings, including lychee, logan, watermelon, and honeydew:

One disappointment – they didn’t have any mango!

Tartini just opened up a week and a half ago and business seemed a little slow, but we enjoyed our experience (Chris gave it extra points for having cute girls):

Pros: Cool decor, self-serve frozen yogurt, good toppings, pairfaits, smoothies, frequent buyers card.

Cons: Original had a weird after-taste (almost like the aftertaste you get after drinking a diet soda).

Overall, Audrey gave the plain a 2.0/5.0 and the lychee yogurt a 4.5/5.0, Chris gave the plain a 4.0/5.0 and the lychee a 4.0/5.0, and I gave the plain a 2.5/5.0 and the lychee a 4.0/5.0.

Tartini’s final scores: Plain: 2.83/5.0 and Lychee: 4.16/5.0

9:55PM We sat at Tartini for quite a bit before heading to the next spot, Blondie’s:

IMG_0087 (Small)

Audrey warned us that their frozen yogurt definitely doesn’t taste like other places we’d been visiting, but we decided to check it out. We went with a small plain frozen yogurt with mango:

I asked if the toppings were all fresh and the server assured me they were, however, the mangoes were definitely frozen chunks (they weren’t even fully defrosted!). The yogurt tasted really creamy and I thought it tasted a little like orange sherbet. Chris thought it was a little chalky and overall, we weren’t that impressed. They only had four types of fruit AND the frozen yogurt melted really fast. Bleh.

Pros: They sell other things, like cupcakes, which you can personalize. You pick the filling, topping, and it comes with a side of frozen yogurt.

Cons: The yogurt melts really fast, the fruit isn’t fresh (and they only have four options!), it tasted chalky, and the server lied to me (if your fruit is frozen, just tell me).

Overall, Audrey gave Blondie’s 3.0/5.0, Chris gave it 2.0/5.0, and I gave it 1.75/5.0.

Blondie’s final score: 2.25/5.0.

10:05PM Our final stop on the tour – Frozo’s:

IMG_0089 (Small)

Frozo’s looks like a laundromat (it might have been before they took it over) and they sell self-serve frozen yogurt as well. They have a lot of flavors, including plain, mango tart, and something that tasted like maple syrup. The plain was really heavy/creamy, and we decided we weren’t going to get any (but I’m still posting pictures!). Frozo’s has a ton of toppings you can choose from:

Pros: Lots of topping options, free wi-fi, self serve

Cons: The lighting made it seem like it was a laundromat, the yogurt didn’t taste that great.

Final Round Up:

First Place: Tartini’s lychee frozen yogurt! (Yes, I know it was a plain frozen yogurt tour, but the lychee frozen yogurt was so much better than any of the other stuff we had!)

Second Place: Icebee, although I was the only one that tried it ๐Ÿ™‚

Third Place: Cafe Aroma, the Pinkberry copycat

Fourth Place: Fraiche, even though I thought it tasted like goat cheese

Fifth Place: Tartini Plain

Last Place: Blondie’s

Thank you so much to Audrey and Chris who drove around the entire night and for having so much frozen yogurt! I have a video review, but I need to edit it, so please be patient! Also, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be uploading my entries from California – stay tuned!

Reader Comments

These all look so scrumptious – I can’t believe the city of New York doesn’t have self-serve fro-yo. So jealous!

Written By Always In Style on June 5th, 2008 @ 9:26 am

have you tried Whimsical Yogurt yet?
in San Jose, corner of Monterey Hwy and Curtner Ave.
at the, “Plant” shopping center.

Written By Shawna Futagaki on June 19th, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

I pretty much tried them all – more than once, so far, Sweet Sundays is the best. All their dry toppings are fresh because it seal up in a canister. Most place I’ve tried had stale topping esp. ones that don’t move.

Written By Hung Nguyen on September 8th, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

I’m looking for the absolutely tops in a self-serve, frozen yogurt franchise for North Carolina……what’s best……….

Written By Lucy on October 1st, 2009 @ 9:46 am

loved all the info on the yogurt spots. If you are back in northern california in june, please stop by our frozen yogurt store, Tutti Frutti, in san carlos (approx. 20 minutes south of san francisco) and check out our yogurts.

We are starting construction this month and hope to open beginning june. Stop by and taste.

see you in june???

Written By varda on March 31st, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

Add a Comment

required, use real name
required, will not be published
optional, your blog address