By Betsy Rothstein - 01/27/09 03:54 PM EST
It’s not just cold. It’s freezing. Snowing. It’s you-can’t-feel-your-toes cold. Your fingers are like icicles.
But look over there. It’s yet another new frozen yogurt café, the third to pop up in Washington over the past two months.
Caliyogurt, by far the creamiest of the bunch, arrived one month ago in the heart of Adams Morgan, amid tattoo parlors, ethnic restaurants and biker bars.
“This is my favorite restaurant,” a 7-year-old girl eating an original yogurt laden with miniature rice cakes and fresh raspberries declares. “It’s not so cold,” she adds. “I don’t freeze my teeth on it.”
Oddly, the colorful, circus-like café, with tangerine tables and black stools, is packed for a Sunday afternoon. Alongside patrons of all ages, she eats with her mom and younger siblings, who are also enthralled with the yogurt.
Her 5-year-old brother, who is eating plain yogurt chock-full of jellybeans, insists he doesn’t care that he’s not really eating ice cream. “I love everything on this as much as ice cream,” he says, digging out the red jellybeans.
Their 2-year-old sister makes her way to the table carefully. She wobbles down a short flight of stairs to the table, her yogurt, varicolored jimmies and M&M’s flying out of her cardboard cup with every step.
A sampling of various yogurts reveals the mango to be a big hit. Paired with plump, juicy blackberries, the light mango flavor and densely creamy texture mix with the tart fruit to make it a delight — before an hour passes, mango has sold out.
The green tea yogurt is not for everyone, but mothers around the café can be seen trying samples of it. It has a spinachy aftertaste, causing a male companion to remark, “I don’t know whether to eat it or apply it to my face.”
Danny Yun, owner of Caliyogurt, says people tell him his yogurt is more creamy and tangy than the others. “I like my taste,” the Korean-born owner says.
He says he doesn’t worry about the cold weather. “With the tea, I don’t need to worry about the wintertime,” he says.
Three weeks ago, a sisterly spin-off of Tangy Sweet in Dupont Circle opened in Chinatown.
Similarly designed by the elegantly modern Kube, it offers a sweet new twist on its Dupont Circle sibling. This café has the new Red Velvet Cupcakery just next door. Since the cafes have the same owners, Aaron and Canada Gordon, patrons can enjoy their cupcakes at Tangy Sweet.
David Guas is the creator and executive pastry chef behind Red Velvet.
The signature Red Velvet cupcake is worth trying. The red cake is fluffy, moist; the thick frosting gingerly hints of cream cheese, making it not overbearingly sugary, as some frosting can be. The effect is a cupcake that comes together in a near-perfect combination of delectable cake and subtle sweetness.
“Stupid good, huh?” the man behind the counter at Tangy Sweet says, perfectly summing up the high-quality cupcake.
Tangy Sweet, which has a tropical feel with bright lime-green and mango lassi-colored walls, is quiet on a recent Thursday afternoon, but every so often, a patron or two wanders in. The original yogurt has a distinct tanginess to it, both verifying the name and urging cravings when you least expect it. Like the other yogurt cafés, fresh fruit —blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, blackberries — heightens the dessert.
The third, but not-to-be-missed yogurt café, IceBerry, opened two months ago in the thick of Georgetown at M and 30th streets. The décor, tropical like the others, features a fluorescent green wall.
On a recent Monday afternoon the crowd is not swelling, but the owners say the weekends attract bigger numbers.
Just then a brunette with dark-rimmed glasses comes in all giddy over ordering her boss yet another smoothie. “Yes, my boss wants another. He loves them. He wants all berries,” she says, acknowledging that this is her boss’s second smoothie of the day from IceBerry. She nixes the berries and settles on pineapple, banana and mango.
By far the best yogurt here is the honeydew melon, cool and light — like the sherbet that arrives between courses to cleanse the palate at an upscale restaurant. Other flavors include the original (simple, plain), strawberry (very bold, sweet taste) and chocolate (tastes like the soft-serve ice cream at Dairy Queen).
On the whole, the texture of the yogurt here is icier than the others.
IceBerry is a family-owned business run by the Gu family. Originally from Korea, they have IceBerry stores in Chantilly, Va., and Reston Town Center. A cousin has a shop in Miami; another cousin owns a shop in Springfield, Va.
“We like natural frozen yogurt,” says James Gu, who is translating for his father, Johnny, who cannot speak much English. “When I taste others, it tastes a little artificial.”
James Gu says he doesn’t worry about the competition of other yogurt cafés. “We don’t care if they open up near us or not because we are very positive about our success,” he says.
He says he and his family eat the yogurt, sometimes up to three times a day. “Like rice, it can be like a meal,” he says, explaining that it’s just as good for breakfast as it is after dinner.
Because it is winter, yogurt proprietors are trying gimmicks, however subtle, to lure patrons in despite the cold.
At Caliyogurt, there are Tavalon teas, loose teas from India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia and pastries and cake if yogurt doesn’t cut it. The teas come in Black, Oolong, Green, White and Herbal. They have enticing names, such as Serenity, After Dark and Jasmine Dream.
While the new Tangy Sweet has the alternative offerings of cupcakes and freshly roasted coffee, IceBerry also has coffee — Seattle’s Best that comes in the form of lattes, cappuccino, regular and decaf.