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Best Frozen Yogurt in Bay Area? (a.k.a. "Froyo")

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(I really despise the terminology, btw--it's sooooooooooooo gimmicky!)

I've never had Pinkberry or Red Mango, but I have had some frozen yogurt at different places:

Gelayo Gusto - Mountain View, CA - While they serve mostly gelato, they also have a frozen yogurt bar with quite a few toppings offered. I usually prefer plain yogurt flavor, and I thought that it was decidedly ok. Not bad and it's close to my office, so if I ever feel the hankering for some frozen yogurt, I know where to go.

Fraiche - Palo Alto, CA - I LOVE this place! It's so yummy, especially since everything offered is organic and locally-grown, and the yogurt is made fresh every morning! It's a little bit pricey, but it's quality stuff. They don't have a buffet of haphazardly picked toppings (like 10 different kinds of cereal), but they do have lots of fresh fruit, nuts, and a slab of (Scharffenberger?) chocolate that they shave off onto your yogurt, if you so please :)

And that's about all I have, as far as the places I've tried. I'm figuring this can be the comprehensive "Bay Area" frozen yogurt post. While I'm perfectly aware that another thread exists asking for Fro-yo recommendations (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/405026 a la Pinkberry, though), this should serve to be more up to date, as an increasing number of frozen yogurt joints pop up everyday here.

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  1. Thanks for starting this. I missed the boat on the froyo craze and haven't tried any yet. So I need some tips on what, if anything, might be good out there and what to skip.

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    Fraiche
    644 Emerson St Ste 110, Palo Alto, CA 94301

    Gelayo Gusto
    856 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Oh! thanks for linking the places, I forgot :)

      1. re: rworange

        After a taste of Quickly's froyo, I stepped next door to Clear Optomety, which was handing out samples on the sidewalk. It's the same YoCream product, but just tastes better some how. Maybe not being jostled in line like at Quickly helps. Here's the front entrance of CO, http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3134/2... and a shot of the inside lounge and yogurt bar area, http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3091/2... , it is lovely.

        Inside CO, I also had a taste of the lychee and liked it very much. It is a bit sweeter and the lychee flavor is very natural and pure. I asked for the nutrition info and it has added lychee flavor, malic acid, citric acid, and one or two other ingredients than the plain has. The nutritional labels in the binder are the same distinctive magenta color that YoCream's are, but with the identity cut off around the borders, so I'm pretty sure that's the manufacturer.

        To this honor roll of froyo places, I have to add Frutti in Saratoga. The natural flavor, which is formated in house only has pectin as an emulsifier. Everything else is what you'd use to make yogurt at home.

        Making the rounds of the new wave of frozen yogurt spots that have cropped up, I'm amazed at how few are doing anything original with the core product, the frozen yogurt itself. YoCream seems to reign supreme.

        It would make a good case study for MBA students. Give 100 entrepreneurs the identical product, e.g., YoCream original tart flavor, as the product "P", and turn them loose on the other elements of the marketing mix: place, price, promotion. Quickly has taken the price leader position with rock bottom pricing and no ambience. Others are trying to differentiate themselves with toppings, self-serve options, and cafe design.

        However, for me, it's all about the plain and basic frozen yogurt product, independent of the hype. So I'm not a good judge of these places on their other attributes and others will need to advise on what's "good".

        I'd love to hear about any other places that are making their own without prepackaged mixes.

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        Frutti Gelato & Yogurt
        18562 Prospect Rd, Saratoga, CA 95070

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Likewise, since I've all but given up and started making it at home regularly. Its about the easiest thing in the world to make with a simple, inexpensive ice cream maker. Imagine what these places could do with their big machines. The only one I haven't tried to make yet is taro flavor. Just not exactly sure what approach to take, but unless someplace pops up soon serving this flavor, I will have to bite the bullet and start making it. Wish me luck!

          1. re: chemchef

            I do love Fraiche and prefer it to Harmony. I am not exactly sure why, but I think Fraiche is less sweet. It is also less tangy, but it seems more refreshing. Both are good, but I too just decided to just make it at home. I just keep the Cuisinart freezer container in the freezer make up a batch in 10-15 minutes with my own yogurt and the amount of sweetness I want. To me it tastes just as good.

            1. re: jsaimd

              That's how I would describe the difference between Harmony and Fraiche as well. Fraiche is a bit lighter and refreshing; Harmony is a bit weightier and has more tang and little more sugar. I prefer Harmony myself, but like both.

      2. Yogurtouille - If I recall, they have eight flavors daily. There are a large number of toppings such as fruits, candies, and cereals. It's extremely crowded however, and the flow of people just doesn't...flow. It's a tight space with too many crossing paths, but there are plenty of benches along the sidewalks (placed by the city, not Yogurtouille). I prefer the tart flavors, but I do think they have an odd powdery taste/texture to them. The lychee is good.

        Clear Optometry - Yes, they sell eye glasses here. In fact, the yogurt was meant as a nice treat for patients and customers, but they decided they had a market for it. Walk on in - don't be put off by the shelves of frames. They're not going to start making sales pitches.

        The bubbly girls behind the counter are very nice. They only have two flavors daily, but there are plenty of toppings to add. Unlike Yogurtouille, this isn't self-serve and you pay per order, not by weight. However, they dispense a base into a cup, scoop in some toppings, and then finish up with a tall spiral of yogurt and more toppings painstakingly packed on. These are also tart flavors, but not as tart as Yogurtouille and I don't find it has the same powdery issue. And. They have at least six different flavors of mochi squares as toppings.

        Me? I would go back to Clear over Yogurtouille. The people are nicer (they smile at you), there's actual seating without fear that someone's elbow will get jostled and toss yogurt over you, and well, it tastes better. Oh, and it's less expensive. All good reasons to go back for a cool treat.

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        Yogurtouille
        407 South B St, San Mateo, ca

        Clear Optometry
        138 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: kauz

          i had yogurt at clear optometry last night. we were walking to dinner and handed a very large sample by a staff member on the sidewalk. after we ate dinner we went straight back to clear optometry. i found it really delicious and the SO is now hooked. much, much creamier and denser than yogurt bar on mission, which is the froyo source nearest to my current location.

          a word on prices... wow, great! maybe i've spent too long in san francisco, with $4 getting you a small sized plain cup that you finish quickly and easily and wonder where your $4 went to. at clear, it was $4.75 for a GIANT "small" that was too much for the two of us to finish, and as kauz said, painstakingly packed with fresh fruit. the mango was perfectly ripe and delicious. i really can't under emphasize how large the "small" was. in mentally comparing it to a half pint of ice cream (normal haagen daaz size), it was at least half of a half pint, whatever that is. a "small special" is $5.50? (under $6) and comes with three toppings.

          free ice water with strawberries floating in it by the cash register.

          i saw probably eight kinds of flavored mochi, but the mango alone was delicious. current flavor #2 is lichi, but the friendly counter girl said it was a lot sweeter than plain, so i didn't try it.

          the store owner happened to be in the store yesterday evening and was bustling around and chatting up the customers. she seemed like a really nice lady, and talked about how she came up with the idea after she went to LA some time ago, had the yogurt and decided she needed it up here somehow.

          how nice to sit on posh leather optometry store seating while enjoying a frozen treat.

          AND! very low reaction for my lactose intolerance issues.

          sushi sams + clear optometry yogurt = the perfect evening.

        2. I haven't had Pinkberry either, but I can tell you about Red Mango. So far, I've tried about 20 places that offer the new tart style of frozen yogurt. If I had to name my top 5, I'd include the two you've named, Gelayo Gusto and Fraiche, plus Harmony in San Carlos, Snowbunny in Healdsburg and SoGreen in San Francisco. More info by clicking the Place links. What they share in common is that they've developed their own unique product and one that's relatively unadulterated and tastes like natural yogurt.

          [I'll try to address rwo's question when my brain's not dead (frozen?).]

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          Harmony Frozen Yogurt
          1226 Arroyo Ave, San Carlos, CA 94070

          SoGreen Yogurt
          50 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94104

          Snowbunny Frozen Yogurt
          312 Center St, Healdsburg, CA

          1. I love me some Red Mango. It's the only place with the new tangy style of yogurt that's all the range that my husband likes and I like it more than Fraiche.

            Plus, you might see hunky Yul Kwon, Survivor winner, behind the counter since he's an owner. I saw him there on Sunday but was too shy to say hello.

            1 Reply
            1. re: katya

              On the Chains board, "jsgjewels" suggested a side-by-side comparison of Red Mango and Fraiche. Maybe you could comment on why you prefer Red Mango.

              I like Fraiche, however, it's almost a little too mild in personality. It is served very cold, so it is firm and somewhat icy, and that detracts from the ability to taste it's subtlety. It is less tangy, but also seems to have less counterbalancing sugar and is about as close to what just plain yogurt frozen in a machine would taste like. The flavor of the organic milk shows through, and that's about it.

              Red Mango has more of an acidic bite, but a sweeter profile as well. I taste the sugar upfront and then the tang in the back; they're not integrated. I don't like the kreemy texture, overemulsified for me, but I think the heavier texture is part of the appeal for those who don't like the iciness of the leaner styles. For me there's a flavor trade-off, as the emulsifiers and stabilizers (cellulose gum, guar gum, modified food starch, carraganeen, pectin) that achieve this texture in a non-fat base dilute the dairy taste. I did prefer the original flavor to the green tea which was much to chemically in the finish.

              Looking at the ingredient list on the website, http://www.redmangousa.com/, (click on the "Nutrition" tab and then select "Ingredients"), water is the largest ingredient. I don't think I've seen that anywhere else.

              When I tried Red Mango in May, after it had just been open a few days, Yul Kwon introduced himself, shook my hand, and thanked me for my business. Of course, I had no idea who he was other than the owner, and was madly trying to glance down at the newspaper article next to the register while speaking to him to figure out who he was. So, don't be shy, say "hello"!

              Which others have you tried and didn't like? If you haven't been there yet, I think you might like Cafe Delatti in Los Gatos. It is a denser style with added milk proteins as well, and I think the flavors and balance of tart/sweet are more harmonious. The tart flavor is an in-house formulation, not from mix.

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              Red Mango
              429 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              Cafe Delatti
              42 Elm St., Los Gatos, CA, CA

            2. The best frozen yogurt I've had in San Francisco is Caffe Ambrosia downtown.

              The plain is perfectly tangy, and they're significantly less trendy and expensive than the various franchise alternatives. They have six flavors a day, which they'll let you sample, and a fine selection of toppings. Their junior cup at $2.25 is plenty for me, with an extra $ for a generous amount of fresh cut mango (or blueberries or blackberries).

              It's not quite as high end as Harmony or Fraiche, both of which I detour for if I'm in the area.

              Probably worth making a comparison to high-end soft serve ice cream, like that offered by Pizzeria Picco (Larkspur) and Sketch (Berkeley). I adore the stuff at Picco (at least partially because of the incredible caramel, olive oil with salt, and El Rey chocolate toppings, along with the pizza afterglow and sitting outside in the sun in Larkspur). Still not sold on the Sketch makeover, although the Strauss Yogurt was always my favorite flavor of theirs.

              Picco and Sketch are unlikely to satisfy people who prefer ultra rich ice cream (i.e., Bi-Rite Creamery) in texture or flavor--but they hit the same urge that frozen yogurt does for me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Windy

                Harmony in San Carlos was my first taste of the new style frozen yogurt and I still prefer it over all others. However, it's been a year since the last time I was there and I'll have to return to see if I still like it the best.

                I'll have to try Caffe Ambrosia.

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                Caffe Ambrosia
                14 Trinity Pl, San Francisco, CA 94104

              2. I tried the froyo on Fillmore St., SF, (near Safeway, near Geary, across from the Subway sandwich). Sorry, I don't have the exact address. They only have three flavors: Plain, Peach, and something else. I really like the plain. It's very yogurty and tart. It is about $4.00 or so.

                1 Reply
                1. re: siulan_99

                  I think that's Jubili, good stuff.

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                  Jubili
                  1515 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

                2. While not a frozen yogurt fan, we spent a month in North Beach from mid-June to mid-July this summer, and my children urge me to mention Swirl Culture, which just opened on Green Street. Apparently the attraction is the myriad of toppings.

                  Grantham