A few weeks ago we ate at a new spot on Main Street in Newark called Indian Sizzler. The tiny spot used to be a TCBY, or "The Country's Best Yogurt," a national chain that formed 30 years ago and spread across the country like wild fire in the '80s and '90s.
Just as soon as we wondered what had happened to the market for frozen yogurt, we stumbled across two fairly new yogurt spots just down the street, at YogoBerry and Yogurt City. Both places featured plenty of toppings, a variety of about eight different flavors, and a fun, colorful atmosphere.
Thinking it was just another college town fad (like the restaurant that sold only cereal for a short while), we dismissed the idea that yogurt was indeed back as a self-sustaining dessert shop. Until we dropped in at Berri Yummi on Naamans Road.
A third yogurt shop in the matter of a few months? (They opened Dec. 17.) We thought it must be more than a fad at that point, and so we stopped in around 3 p.m. on a Wednesday to find the place packed — a Nick Jr. happy hour of sorts.
Bright pinks, reds and greens adorned the walls, kids from grade school to high school age were sampling the different flavors while parents forked over bills at the cashier, and even twenty- and thirtysomethings dug into their cups of frozen yogurt.
We walked in the front door at Berri Yummi and were immediately assisted with the process, as an employee directed us to the tiny little sample cups (think paper ketchup containers at the old Roy Rogers), located to the left of the register.
As owners Lyman and Caroline Chen told us, they're all about letting customers sample flavors before making a decision. "We want the customer to have the chance to decide for themselves what they like, rather than taking a chance on a certain flavor, paying for a cup, and then not liking it," Lyman said.
On the day we stopped in, original tart, sugar-free vanilla, milk chocolate and wild strawberry were the standard flavors. The specials included root beer float (sweet and creamy), mango (light and icy), birthday cake (reminded us of vanilla icing and ice cream) and red velvet cupcake (wow).
Then there were the toppings, beginning with the fresh fruit and natural stuff: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mango, kiwi, lychee, almonds, granola and toasted coconut flakes.
After we passed the fruit station, the sugary toppings were on display: Oreo bits, sprinkles (or jimmies, if you prefer), mochi chunks, gummi bears and worms, Butterfinger and Snickers bits, M&Ms and chocolate chips. Even Cocoa Puffs and Fruity Pebbles were ready to be scooped on top.
Most of the yogurt is either non-fat or low-fat (22 grams per half-cup), but it can get less healthy depending on what you add. But, no matter what you add, the price is always the same, no matter the flavor: 49 cents per ounce (minus the cup weight).
Considering this particular yogurt shop opened up in the dead of winter and was still crowded in the middle of the afternoon on a cold March day, it's probably safe to say that the yogurt fad is making a comeback and is here to stay.