Yogorino stops at that one flavor. The others also offer the range of flavors you'd expect of ice creams and then some: mango, green tea, cheesecake, taro and lychee, to name a few.
And all three shops emphasize toppings, which range from healthy to not-so: fresh strawberries or blackberries; Muesli and granola, toasted almonds or walnuts, warm, drizzly sauces such as chocolate and dulce de leche, and cute and tasty squares of glutinous Japanese rice paste.
Phileo and Sweet Ending let customers serve themselves and then step up to a register to have their concoctions weighed and priced. At Yogorino, customers place their orders and a staffer does the measuring and topping.
Any way it's scooped, this is not the fro-yo of yore.
This version has a strong good-for-you factor.
Tony Tennant of the Portland-based YoCream International, said today's fro-yo contains probiotics that are said to aid digestion. And that's what today's consumers want, he said.
"You are tasting the yogurt cultures," he said. "It's real fermented yogurt."
And the tart frozen yogurt is lower in calories than most ice creams. Yogorino, Phileo, and Sweet Ending tart yogurts all have just 70 to 100 calories per four-ounce cup.
Darren Tristano, of Technomic, a Chicago-based research and consulting company that works with restaurants and food suppliers, says the popularity of this new fro-yo with toppings began in about 2005 with Pinkberry, a chain that opened in Hollywood, Calif.
Celebrity allure drove sales at first, he said. Soon other brands and franchises got into the act, and the treat spread East.
Cata Raisbeck, who owns Yogorino, calls hers "soft ice" because it tastes creamy but can be swirled into a cone. And she takes particular pride in informing customers that Yogorino's goes back to 1994 in Italy, and the Philadelphia shop is the chain's first in the United States.
That may not impress David Lawrence, 9. But he's become a regular, along with his mother, Luise Moskowitz, and his sister, Triona. The yogurt shop is an easy stopping point between the local library and the family's Fitler Square home.
"It's a convenience for where we live for a little treat that I don't worry about them having," Moskowitz said.
And if tart is not your thing?
Phileo Yogurt and Sweet Ending flavors include Pomegranate and Watermelon, Snickerdoodle, and New York Cheesecake.
Phileo owner Janet Woo says customers especially like the self-serve aspect. Shops such as Pinkberry, she said, have taken over New York, "but they are not self-serve."
Jessica Hopely, 25, who lives in Camden County and frequents South Street, is all for the self-serve.
"You get to pick as much as you want and what you want," said Hopely, who was at Phileo on a recent steamy afternoon.
But the cost can add up.
At Phileo Yogurt and Sweet Ending, customers pay 49 cents an ounce with one topping. Yogorino charges by cup size; the mini is $2.95 with one topping.
All three stores offer small samples, allowing customers to taste before they buy.
"Philly people are not familiar with the yogurt concept, so we have to tell people what it is," Woo says.
Greek yogurt, by the way, gets its thicker and creamier texture from the way it is produced, not from the introduction of gelatin or other stabilizers, according to the folks at Stonyfield Farm Co., which sells Oikos brand Greek yogurt. The product starts out the same as any other yogurt, with milk and an active yogurt culture, but before packaging the yogurt is strained to remove some of the excess whey and make it thicker.
On a recent visit to Yogorino, Gabriela Petrone, 8, didn't seem to care that the creamy yogurt covering her face is healthier than ice cream. She just liked the taste.
Contact Mary Frances Boyle at 215-854-5526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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