Sunday, March 30, 2008

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.

Red Mango
17595 Harvard Ave
Irvine, CA 92614
Red Mango USA website

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Comments on "Red Mango - Irvine, CA"

Blogger ChristianZ said ... (March 31, 2008 at 10:06 AM) : 

The three main reasons I go there over other yogurt places are: location, location, and location. And I'm not saying it tastes bad either.

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (March 31, 2008 at 7:02 PM) : 

they just opened another location in Crystal Cove (in Newport Coast)!

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (April 1, 2008 at 2:57 PM) : 

The problem with almost all of these places is the fact that they don't have the traditional flavor of Chocolate. Until they do, I'll never end up at one of these because my wife doesn't like any the tart flavors these places all seem to have.

Blogger elmomonster said ... (April 3, 2008 at 9:45 AM) : 

I find Yogurtland's tart yogurt too tart and Red Mango's yogurt too expensive (like you said). The best would be if Red Mango's yogurt was sold a la Yogurtland -- self serve and cheap. And I'd leave out the hollow middle.

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (April 6, 2008 at 7:42 PM) : 

Has anyone tried Kiwiberry across the street yet. I had the mango yogurt there, and it's good. Let me know what do you think.

Blogger Unknown said ... (April 8, 2008 at 8:51 AM) : 

You know it figures that Irvine would become awesome restaurant wise after I moved away for college. Damn, next time I visit OC to see family, I need all you OC food bloggers to give me a guided tour of my own hometown.

Blogger brekkie_fan said ... (April 24, 2008 at 10:16 PM) : 

My sentiments were/are exactly like Elmomonster's, the taste of Red Mango with the price structure of Yogurtland. Oh, and I was cruising home from Manila Groove tonight when I spotted ANOTHER Yogurtland being built off Newport. Of course, I'm not even counting the *other* one they're doing off Brookhurst. Geez.

Anonymous Social Weight Loss said ... (February 6, 2011 at 5:45 AM) : 

Thanks for sharing, great article!

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (July 15, 2012 at 9:28 PM) : 

His mother is responsible for arranging the rape of the teenage daughters of Orange County.
I suspect he got an "early start" and there are numerous rapes of children under 14 in this case.
He was not an "innocent" young teenager.

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