Thursday, February 16, 2017

Yogurtland

Yogurtland is a franchise of froyo shops, with over 300 locations, including outside the US.  They use a self-serve, pay by the ounce, model.

What sets Yogurtland apart from other froyo establishments is the variety offered.  They have 16 flavors at a time (with options including tart, non-fat, low-sugar, dairy-free), and a minimum of 32 toppings (the location I went to had 46)!  I suppose it is also notable that they partner with Sanrio (creators of Hello Kitty), so have cutesy branding on their products.

Anyway.  I really like self-serve froyo, and particularly places with great toppings, so, Yogurtland held a lot of appeal for me.

I visited the Palo Alto location, located on University Ave, after dinner down the street at Oren's Hummus, around 7:30pm, with a group of 6.

The shop was empty when we arrived, including, um, any staff members.  I wanted to try a few flavors (I couldn't commit to picking just a few of the 16 without trying first!), but there were no sample cups set out, and, no one there to ask.  Finally, I just grabbed a few from behind the register and gave them to others (and myself).  Later on in our visit, while we were sitting eating our froyo, another group came, made their creations, and went to the register to pay, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Where were the staff?  I laughed when the customers started eating their froyo before the staff member finally came back, given that it is sold by weight, so, technically, that was very wrong.

The shop had a few tables, all for only 2 people, so our group needed to do some furniture re-arranging in order to sit together.  The staff member, after ringing us up, left again and disappeared into the back, so, she clearly didn't care that we were rearranging everything.  She also didn't care that the trash was overflowing.  I can't say that service was good.

The froyo was ... fine.  Really, not remarkable in any way.  I prefer the creaminess of Yoppi (stay tuned for review!) and the more intense flavors from JP Licks, but, at least it wasn't too icy and the topping variety was above average.
16 Flavors.
Yes, they have 8 machines, each with two flavors, at all times.  16 Flavors.  I'll admit, even to me, this was quite overwhelming.  I wanted to try ... all of them?

The lineup when we visited was:
  • Regular: Cookies & Cream, Salted Caramel Pecan, Coffee, Pistachio, Madagascar Vanilla, Strawberry, Dutch Chocolate, Toasted Coconut, Peanut Butter
  • Low sugar: Pecans & Praline, French Vanilla
  • Sorbet (non-dairy): Rocket Pop, Strawberry Lemonade
  • Tart: Plain, Mango, Guava Pineapple
I tried a bite of Ojan's sample of the mango tart, and it was fine, but, I wasn't in the mood for tart style froyo.  I didn't try any of the sorbets or other tart flavors.

As for the rest ... I didn't try coffee nor dutch chocolate because of the caffeine, nor strawberry because I don't really like it, but, uh, I think I tried most of the rest (either as samples, as a bite of Ojan's samples, or, in my actual creation).

Of the flavors I tried, they were all decent enough, except the pistachio, I'm not sure what it was, but there was something off-tasting about the pistachio.  The others were all decently creamy, not too icy, but, not remarkable.
46 Toppings!
I do care that froyo be creamy and not icy, but, really, I'm at a place like this for the toppings.  And Yogurtland had quite a few options.

The lineup started with the quasi-chilled items, all in bins on the left.

There were two sauces here also, sweetened condensed milk and caramel, both in Ghirardelli branded squirt bottles.  No hot fudge, no strawberry sauce, no marshmallow sauce, no peanut butter sauce, no butterscotch, no whipped cream .... a bit strange that they had so many toppings, but really lacked in the sauce department.

For fresh fruit, there was sliced strawberries, pineapple, mango, and kiwi.  Canned maraschino cherries, lychee, and mandarin orange segments rounded out the fruit options.  Next came boba (including flavored mango and mango popping boba) and jellies (including coconut).

Next came candy (peanut butter cups, chocolate caramel cups, toffee crunch, carob chips) and baked goods (brownie bites, cheesecake bites, cookie dough balls).

Separating the chilled toppings (19 total) from the dry toppings was a row of 5 shakers, with sprinkles (rainbow or chocolate), nuts (peanuts or almonds), and graham cracker crumbs.

Then came all the dry goods (21 in all!).  Here we had cookies (nilla wafers, cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies, frosted animal cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate rolled wafers), chocolate candy (butterfinger, malt balls, mini M&Ms, Peanut M&Ms, Reece's pieces, Ghirardelli chips), sugary candy (jelly beans, gummy bears, sour gummy worms, sour patch kids), cereal (granola,  Cap'n Crunch, Fruity Pebbles), and more (coconut, yogurt chips, mochi).  I was amused by the cookies in particular, as they were all full size.  Do people really want full size Oreos on top of their froyo?  I guess this makes it weigh more ...

There was a sticky honey cup on top as well, so I guess that counts as a 3rd sauce?
Peanut Butter, Toasted Coconut, Pecans & Praline, Cookies & Cream, Salted Caramel Pecan. And lots of toppings.
I still couldn't decide what I wanted, even after sampling all the flavors.  I somehow wound up with swirls of 6 different flavors.  I tried to take only a little of each at this point because ... uh, I basically had an entire froyo sampling all the flavors, but it is hard to really not take much at a time, and if you are taking 6 flavors, its basically impossible to wind up with a small serving.  Guess that is why they give you giant cups?

I thought all the flavors I opted for were fairly flavorful.  I wished the peanut butter was stronger, more like JP Licks.

I added mango and coconut jellies to the coconut froyo.  The mango was surprisingly fresh, decently sweet, and went well with the coconut froyo.  Points to Yogurtland for fresh mango.  I always like sweet slimy jellies, so those were a hit too.

To the cookies and cream section I added mochi, and it was soft, fluffy, and enjoyable.  Sometimes mochi can be hard or stale, and this seemed "fresh" too.  Maybe that is why the staff are never there, they are busy refreshing toppings?

I also added some yogurt chips for sweetness and crunch, and "toffee crunch", for, uh, sweetness and crunch to my other flavors.  The yogurt chips were pretty standard, but the toffee crunch was great, really sweet and crunchy as I hoped.  Perhaps a bit overkill on the pecans & praline flavor I put it on since that was already sweet, but, I'd get it again.

In fact, I'd get all the toppings I added again ... except the frosted animal crackers.  I'm not sure why I added those exactly, but, they don't really make sense in froyo.  I ate them after the froyo, and they were fine, but, yeah, not sure what I was thinking there.

I also added rainbow sprinkles, because I love sprinkles, but got annoyed at how much shaking was required to get any sprinkles out, so I gave up after a few shakes.

And finally, I drizzled on some sweetened condensed milk, because I wanted a sauce, and this was a bit novel.  It was kinda lost in the froyo, and too sweet, but, it was an interesting item for them to have (although, really, the sauce options were pretty lame).

Overall, I didn't love my creation, but it was fine.  Which sums up the entire experience.  It was fine.  I'd go back if someone wanted, but I wouldn't seek it out.
Yogurtland Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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