Monday, March 03, 2008

Icebee Picks Prime ‘Fro-yo’ Spot

I don’t get all this talk about the frozen yogurt craze in the Bay Area. Sure, we’ve got a few “fro-yo” spots opening up here and there, but I don’t see the long lines like they got a couple of years ago down in Los Angeles when Pinkberry came to town.

It’s not like there’s a fro-yo shop at every corner like Starbucks. “Fro-yo” wars? Ehh, it’s more like skirmishes—if they can even go to battle. (I’m still waiting for the big hitters Pinkberry and Red Mango to come to town.)

So all this is to explain why I haven’t really ventured out to check out any of the serious contenders since I visited Jubili on Fillmore. But this past weekend after seeing a movie at the San Francisco Westfield Shopping Centre, I went across Mission Street to check out the three-week-old Icebee Yogurt shop.

This would seem to be a prime spot for a frozen yogurt stand. Despite being stuck to the Fifth Street parking complex, it’s across from the Westfield center and just a stone’s throw from the Sony Metreon. So basically, lots of young mouths hungry for an after-movie treat.

The main twist to this swirl shop [get it ;-) ] is that it’s self-serve. So while some of you might feel intimidated creating the perfect looking frozen yogurt cup, it’s great for those who like to experiment.

You start off by picking up a container (it’s all the same size). You pay by the weight and when I was there, they were charging 43 cents per ounce, which really doesn’t sound like a lot. Don’t forget your napkins and spoon. I did, and had to backtrack.

There are tons of flavors to choose from. In fact, my criticism would be that there are too many flavors. Really, I think yogurt lovers are more into the tartness and toppings than the actual flavor of the yogurt. I’m old style and like the typical three flavors. At Icebee, there were about five stations against the wall, each offering two flavors. (BTW, there were no lines when I was on Saturday afternoon. I could take my time deciding and not offend anyone behind me, because there wasn’t anyone.)

I don’t know if the flavor changes often, but this is what I saw when I was there: Signature, Blueberry, Green Apple, Peach (it’s marked “tart”), Very Strawberry, Country Vanilla, Cable Car Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, Peanut Butter, Mango and New York Cheesecake. In the photo above, you’ll see my lame attempt to swirl together three flavors: Very Strawberry, Mango and Cookies & Cream.

Then you move on to the toppings. You hit the fresh fruits section first and I went for some strawberries, but nothing else really inspired me. It’s hard to reach some of them, but the girl behind the counter was ready to assist if needed.

Then you get the fun toppings (=more calories) such as mochi balls and gummy bears. I went for Oreo crumbles, which I love because Cookies & Cream is one of my favorite flavors but I have to say the black specs didn’t make my yogurt look very pretty.

Here’s my yogurt being weighed. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was throwing into my container, but I didn’t go overboard. I’m pretty good with portion control. My total was $4.25, which sounds about right for what I would pay at other fro-yo shops for a yogurt this size.

Here’s my creation. I really liked the Very Strawberry. It did have a distinct strawberry taste. The Cookies & Cream was OK (it did look like chocolate though) and the Mango had a slight tartness but no real perceivable mango flavor. Overall, the texture of the yogurt was very nice. Creamy and smooth. I liked the toppings that I got, too.

Icebee’s setting was very much like other fro-yo wannabes, with the frosted glass, tiled interiors and Swedish-like furnishings. Like I said, it wasn’t very crowded while I was there. I kind of liked the forest design on the glass mural.

I enjoyed my Icebee yogurt. I don’t know if I would love all the flavors (like I said, I really don’t need so many options), but I enjoyed the ones I did try enough to think I would get them again. This fro-yo spot has convenience on its side, so when there really is an all-out fro-yo war, my guess is that Icebee will be sitting pretty.

Icebee, 829 Mission St., (between Fourth and Fifth Streets), San Francisco. PH: 415.882.7800.


Anonymous said...

LOL that looks like a fun yogurt bar!I like that they have mochi balls too, wish it was closer to my work though...

Anonymous said...

I just went to a place similar in Sacramento this past weekend (loved it).
Having frozen yogurt for me, used to be the treat because there were more calories and bad stuff in ice cream. Fro-Yo was healthier and low cal. But by the time you put all the toppings and stuff on the frozen yogurt now, I could have had two scoops of some really awesome ice cream for the same calories!

Anonymous said...

I like how we can choose different flavors at once, but after I tried Yogurt Circle in Westlake Center, which has the same concept-free swirl, I think Yogurt Circle is better. I recommend u to try it. lol.

Anonymous said...

i go to icebees all the time with friends. its a really nice spot to hang out and the people are always friendly.
i agree that strawberry and cookies and cream are delicious, but i also recommend the blueberry which is a little more tart (like it says). peach isn't bad either.
whats great about this place is that after eating the froyo, you dont feel bloated, but contented :)