Red Mango - Irvine, CA
|I'm a culinary skeptic. Whenever I hear about a new food fad, Sprinkles, Pinkberry, South Beach, or Atkins to name a few, my gut reaction is doubt. As the frozen yogurt craze that swept Los Angeles trickled into Orange County, I was determined not to be taken in, resisting cajoling, bribery, and other forms of peer pressure. However, I was eventually lured to the Dark Side through the clever application of a 50%-off coupon by family-run Beach Cities Yogurt & Gelato in Huntington Beach. Curse my Taiwanese penny-pinching genes!|
When friend, OC Weekly columnist, and fellow Orange County Food Blogs contributor Elmomonster broke the news that the Red Mango yogurt chain had arrived in Irvine, I knew I had to pay them a visit. A Korean franchise business, Red Mango was purportedly the inspiration for the first Pinkberry operation in LA. Pinkberry went on to spark a frozen yogurt fad that, as the LA Times quipped, launched 1,000 parking tickets.
The first thing that struck me when I stepped into Red Mango's Irvine location was the sparseness of the decor. Despite the futuristic furniture and brightly colored posters, the shop was unable to escape the chilly, antiseptic, freshly mopped atmosphere that permeates most purveyors of chilled desserts. It's a disconcertingly soulless feeling. I was also surprised by how Spartan the menu was. Two types of frozen yogurt, Original or Green Tea, and a double row of toppings dished up by the youthful staff. It was a far from the self-serve, weigh-to-pay frozen yogurt model I'd grown accustomed to.
I ordered a 4oz Green Tea frozen yogurt ($3.50) with two toppings ($1.25); blueberries and mochi bits. With my first bite, it was evident that Red Mango's frozen yogurt was a high quality product. Full-flavored, gently sour, and with a smooth mouth-feel, it filled my mouth with a creamy presence. The blueberries were fresh and sweet, popping like juice-filled bubbles. The mochi had a pleasantly chewy texture that added body to the dessert. However, as I finished my frozen yogurt, the other flavors faded, leaving only the sourness behind.
4oz is half of a cup, an amount of food roughly equivalent to what can be held in the palm of one cupped hand. Breaking it down to cost per unit, I'd paid about $1 per ounce, not counting the additional money added on for toppings. By way of comparison, the other frozen yogurt chain in Irvine, Yogurtland, charged 30¢ per ounce, had 3-4 types of tart and an additional 4-6 other frozen yogurt flavors, and a self-serve toppings bar with more options. There was a difference in quality to be sure, but it wasn't great enough to justify a 300% markup.
I like Red Mango and I may end up there once or twice a year. But, I have serious reservations about its ability to compete for market share in the frozen yogurt niche. With places like Beach Cities Yogurt & Gelato and Yogurtland offering better return on investment, and with the name recognition of the ever-expanding Pinkberry juggernaut, Red Mango may find drawing cost-conscious customers difficult in the current economic slump.
17595 Harvard Ave
Irvine, CA 92614
Red Mango USA website