Sadly, if you don't live in NYC or LA, you probably don't yet know about Pinkberry frozen yogurt, and all the knockoffs. But if trends are any indication, you probably will soon enough because there are already more than 50 Pinkberries in California alone.
So what's so special about it? Well, for starters, the original flavor is sour, as in real yogurt culture sour (though there's some controversy over how much real yogurt is in the mix). Second, the only other flavor available is green tea (up until recently). Lastly, no one really knows what's in it or how to knock it off 100% successfully (in terms of its smooth texture and unique flavor). The secret recipe is so guarded, Pinkberry employees tell me that they're instructed to rinse out the unmarked yogurt mix cartons before disposing of them because people have been going through the dumpsters trying to sample the contents.
And that leads us to probably the most interesting thing about the yogurt: the huge number of imitations popping up, despite that they haven't figured out how to knock it off successfully (can you tell I'm a real Pinkberry devotee?). Of course, the most curious thing about this is: Pinkberry itself is said to be a knock off of the South Korean chain Red Mango. Indeed, Pinkberry was started in LA by Korean Americans Shelly Hwang and Young Lee, so there could be truth to the claim.
And while there are Red Mangos opening up in LA too now, Pinkberry clearly has a stronghold, as you'll see from the imitation store names I found all within a 2-mile radius of my house. (Believe me, there are MANY more than just these below). Also note how the stores imitate the cool, clean modern design of the Pinkberry franchise (most of Pinkberry's furniture, and even their floor, comes from Design Within Reach).
Here's one of the many Pinkberries in my neighborhood. On weekend evenings, the line goes out the store and way down the block.
Here's Red Mango, said to have come up with the original recipe in South Korea. It's good, but not as smooth as Pinkberry.
(check out all the hilarious knock-offs after the jump)
Berri Good isn't so Berri Good by my standards, but, hey, cute signage!
Berry Nutty on the other hand is okay if I'm really hurting and can't make it all the way up to Pinkberry, a mile away.
I've never tried Iceberry, but they also have smoothies there, which means they aren't yogurt purists.
Same with Gelatoday. They sell more than just Korean-style frozen yogurt. I think you can even get pizza at this particular one.
In addition to the original flavor and green tea, Green Apple also has, surprise, surprise, Green Apple flavor. They also sell crepes and salads"¦ again, this is not for the frozen yogurt purist.
Kiwibear is, oddly enough, a knockoff of a knockoff! Kiwiberry is the original, which, of course, is a Pinkberry knockoff. And it tastes like it.
Snowberry wouldn't let me photograph their storefront"¦ needless to say, I've never tasted their knockoff attempt.
Yogurtberry is another one that mostly gets the flavor right, but doesn't really come close in terms of texture. It's much harder than Pinkberry and they don't have coconut shavings in their mix-in bar. (Gotta have coconut).
Snowpod doesn't quite compare to our yogurt yardstick either, despite that they have a few Macs set up and offer free Internet browsing while you eat. Just for giggles, I loaded the Pinkberry Web site when I was there last and left it up for the next person who happened into the store.