This week's Monday Munchie is the frozen yogurt at Mr. Yogato. DC residents will remember that before cupcake shops became all the craze, frozen yogurt was the mom-and-pop dessert of choice, explaining the sheer variety of specialty yogurt shops that opened up (Tangysweet, Sweetgreen, Yogen Fruz, Iceberry, just to name a few). So what separates the wheat from the chaff in the crowded frozen yogurt race? Certainly the quality of the yogurt, but also the atmosphere. And it's because of that the DCWD's personal favorite frozen yogurt is Mr. Yogato, despite a number of closer yogurt shops.
What is it about Mr. Yogato that makes it so different? The mood is just decidedly more fun. Unlike Tangysweet's club-like lighting (which I don't really understand), Mr. Yogato is an understated and kid-friendly shop, filled with a few cartoon paintings on the walls and an SNES that sits on a kindergarten-sized table in the middle of the store (a console that is not only a throwback for everyone in their 20s/30s, but one that is always being played by someone). The atmosphere in general is low-key, relaxed, and has a tinge of the oh-so-familiar childhood wonder.
The other key aspect of Mr. Yogato's playfulness are the rules employed by the store that offer discounts on the yogurt in exchange for certain tasks. Answer a trivia question correctly (usually about geography [!]) and get 10% off. Get a stamp on your forehead declaring your love for Yogato, get an additional 10% off. Recite the whole Stirling battlefield speech from Braveheart in a Scottish accent and get 20% off. And the best one of all, have a frozen yogurt at Mr. Yogato for 30 straight days and get a flavor named after you (full disclosure: I have a flavor named after me at Mr. Yogato). This is why there's a giant white board on the wall that both tracks 30-day hopefuls, and the near-fifty flavors that have been claimed by Yogato Champions (heck, I think two guys on separate occasions went there for like 100 days straight).
Which gets us to the yogurt. Despite the panoply of flavors, Yogato only offers four at a time, two of which are always the standard soft and tangy. In point of fact, only 20 or so flavors even exist in reality (mine, for instance, had been "in development" for months though a recent switch means it's coming soon!). The yogurt is house-made and the menu is responsive to demand. Steve, the owner (and funnily enough, also an actual rocket scientist at his day job), is incredibly friendly and all about customer satisfaction; if a flavor isn't popular, it'll be adjusted or scrapped for a new one. The other point of note is the variety of toppings that can be added to your yogurt, ranging from the standard (fruit, sprinkles, chocolates) to the strange (agave nectar, wheat germ) to the secret menu. Oh yea, and the yogurt? Tastes great.
The vibe and the yogurt combine into an incredibly friendly, convivial atmosphere that's perfect for those warm, summer night dates sitting out on the patio with something sweet.
Taste Test: 4 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for: Late night dessert runs, Trivia nerds, Quirky people