Have you noticed the latest treat craze? It's self-serve yogurt shops. They're popping up all over. You go in, grab a cup and serve yourself from the yogurt dispensers along the wall. Then you serve yourself from a wide variety of toppings, ranging from syrups to fruit to candy to cereal. You plop your creation down on a scale and pay by how much it weighs.
Three such establishments have opened this year in the Hoover-Galleria area: Red Mango, Yogurt Mountain, and Treat Your Self. We've tried all three, and far prefer Red Mango.
The yogurt selection is most limited at Treat-Your-Self, in the former Ben & Jerry's location at Patton Creek. (They also have one other location at Lee Branch.) It also has soft-serve vanilla and chocolate custard, but they weren't very good. The topping array is wide, however, especially if you're into the more candy side of things. In fact you can even buy candy to go by the pound.
Yogurt Mountain is a Southeastern chain featuring 16 rotating flavors of frozen yogurt and more than 50 toppings. They advertise that their yogurts contain probiotics. The Hoover location is on Highway 150 next to Starbucks across from the Galleria. A second Birmingham location is located in the shopping center where Whole Foods is located. We thought it was better than Treat-Your-Self but not as good as Red Mango. And the purple and green color scheme is a bit overwhelming.
Our favorite is Red Mango, which is further south on Hwy. 31 near the Riverchase Parkway intersection, in the same new strip mall as Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Red Mango, a chain that originated in South Korea, stresses the health benefits of its yogurts, with active cultures, no high-fructose corn syrup or other artificial ingredients -- which means your strawberry yogurt will have just a hint of pink, no dye. This is also frozen yogurt that tastes more like yogurt, with that distinctive tang. It's a bit disconcerting at first, and works better with certain flavors, like fruity or tropical ones.
The toppings are not as extensive as the other two, but they are extremely fresh. The fruit toppings are the star -- strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi, and of course mango ... freshly cut up, beautiful and tasty. There are other healthy toppings like granola and nuts, and some candy/cookie/cereal toppings as well. Unlike the other two, at Red Mango you also can have them make you a smoothie, or probiotic iced teas.
This is the only Red Mango location in Birmingham at the moment, although their website says another location will be opening up at McWane Center soon.
Just heard from the franchise owner of the local Red Mango. If you're on the opposite side of town from Hoover, there's now a location closer to you, in the new Shops of Grand River outlet mall near Leeds.