Tart green tea or mint chocolate? Icy or creamy? Fresh fruit or mochi and lychee for toppings? For frozen yogurt aficionados, these are key elements in what makes a good cup of fro-yo. And serious frozen yogurt fans can be just as cultish in their loyalty to a certain style or brand of yogurt as any crazed pizza or hot dog lover can be.
But if you're one of the few who still hasn't found that perfect serving of frosty joy, here's a list you can use to seek out some of this town's finest frozen yogurt. Luckily, the frozen yogurt craze that hit LA a few years ago has died down a little bit so don't worry about having to wait in lines that spill onto the sidewalk to get your fix. Some lines, maybe. People eat more ice cream in the winter than in the summer, so rain may bring out the fro-yo junkies. Bring an umbrella. You can always use it to carry your fro-yo-to-go.
10. Golden Spoon: Their yogurt is a bit thicker and creamier than the tart vanillas and green tea yogurts of the world. The yogurt here is reminiscent of the way yogurt was when it first got popular. They offer a big selection of flavors that rotate daily. 16 locations throughout Los Angeles.
9. Pure Naked Yogurt: This tiny joint in Encino opened up a couple of years ago. Believe it or not they offer only one flavor of yogurt, a tart vanilla. Fortunately, it's very, very good. 17499 Ventura Blvd. Encino; (818) 461-0346.
8. 21 Choices: Don't go in looking for 21 flavors of yogurt, there are about six that rotate on a daily basis or 21 choices of toppings, there are more like 60 to choose from including nuts, fruit, cereal and candy of all kinds. The yogurt is old fashioned in both flavor and texture and if you like they'll mix in your toppings, a la Cold Stone Creamery. I tried it both ways and found mixing in the topping freezes them, but also gives the yogurt a grittier texture. 85 W. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena; (626) 304-9521.
7. Studio Yogurt: If you feel like you've stepped back into the 80's, you might be at Studio Yogurt. Of all the shops I visited this one felt most like an old Penguins. Not in their décor, but in their yogurt and topping choices. On the day I went there wasn't a tart yogurt in sight, but instead 10 selections including Irish cream, cake batter and cheese cake. 12050 Ventura Blvd. Ste. C105, Studio City; (818) 508-7811.
6. Humphrey: This place is like an old fashioned ice cream shop, the kind of place you'd take your kid on a hot summer day or for a treat after the big game. In addition to three frozen yogurt flavors, two vanillas and a chocolate, they also offer ice cream and frozen dipped bananas. But where they really score is with the toppings which include real chocolate chip cookie dough bits. 4574 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 906-2490.
5. Yogurtland: This self serve chain offers more than 10 flavors of yogurt, with familiar picks like vanilla and Dutch chocolate to more off the beaten path choices like taro and pumpkin pie. Citywide.
4. Pinkberry: It would be difficult to talk about fro yo without mentioning the chain that kick started the yogurt craze back up after it's hey day in the '80s. Their shops definitely earn an A plus for first impressions. In fact, it seems the look of the shops are almost as important as the yogurt itself. They carry their signature Original tart yogurt, which made them famous and three seasonal flavors, passionfruit, coconut and pomegranate. They have a big selection of toppings and their fresh fruit options are first-class. Citywide.
3. Menchies: This chain is for the control freaks in the crowd as they offer 100% self service, so you get to pick how big your serving is. There are four machines, each with two flavor choices and the option to swirl the flavors. There are more that 40 toppings and for buck they'll hook you up with a waffle cone bowl. Since it's self service, they charge you by the ounce. 11 locations citywide.
2. New Zealand Natural:This Kiwi transplant has small little shops with seating outside. They offer ice cream, sorbet and yes, yogurt. Although there are only two flavors, fruits of the forest and mango passion, it made the list because it's one of the only places I found that serves hard frozen yogurt that's very similar to ice cream. Thick and creamy it is a departure from what you may have come to think of as fro yo.
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4 locations in Los Angeles with 5 more coming soon.
1. Red Mango: This chain is also keeping it simple with just four flavors: original, green tea, pomegranate and "tangomonium", and less than 20 toppings. For every Pinkberry lover out there, there is a Red Mango fanatic who'll be quick to point out that this chain invented tart yogurt back in Korea. Either way, their flavors are quite tart with just the right amount of sweetness and a good balance of creamy versus icy. Eight locations citywide.