Thu 5 May 2011
Call it Pink-o de Mayo. Today at 6 PM, the District’s first outpost of Pinkberry, the California-based tart yogurt purveyor, opens with a bang – and a giveaway. As of this posting, almost 1,200 Pinkberry fans have indicated on Facebook that they will be there for the opening, which will be celebrated with free yogurt and prizes.
Why so much excitement? Aren’t we already awash in TangySweetGreenYogFrozBerry establishments offering variations on this theme? We are, and it’s Pinkberry’s fault.
Pinkberry’s commitment to fresh, never-frozen toppings and eclectic yogurt flavors – and its massive success – provided a blueprint for dozens of other entrepreneurs all over the country. As far back as 2007, West-coast transplants and other Pinkberry groupies were clamoring for the flavor here in the Washington area. But Pinkberry wasn’t about to drop a shop in the District just to check a box. According to local licensee Kamran Ahmed, it was important to the brand that they find the perfect combination of location and atmosphere to make their mark in DC. While they searched and then navigated the bureaucracy that is DC real estate and permitting, local competitors opened up to meet the demand.
Now the brand that started it all in America is here for you to taste for yourself. Does it live up to the hype? We took a first look yesterday and have plenty of details and photos after the jump.
Perfect location? Check. Located on the block of Connecticut between M and N, it’s in a great spot to catch Dupont Circle foot traffic and workday lunch crowds. There are plenty of quick-service and sit-down dining establishments within a block’s walk, and the lure of frozen yogurt is likely to be hard to resist on hot summer days. And their late night hours (til midnight Monday through Thursday and until 2 AM Friday and Saturday) are sure to be popular.
The former jewelry store has been transformed to reflect the Pinkberry aesthetic, with a pebbled floor, walls that radiate a cool blue light and modern white tables with brightly colored seating. Guests queue up along the right side of the space and place their order at a counter with an array of fresh fruit toppings, as well as some decadent sweet options.
The menu invites you to select “any toppings that fit comfortably in the cup,” which translated to four or five when we saw them making medium-sized samples. It’s up to you whether you go with the fresh fruit options (did I mention that the only freezers in the store are the ones up front that keep the yogurt chilled?) or sweets like the “luxe” milk chocolate crunch, praline hazelnut crunch, and the whipped cream-like aerated “Swirly Whip.”
But first you need a base. Pinkberry makes their yogurt in-house at each location, blending milk by the gallon with yogurt cultures and natural ingredients to make six tasty options. Choose from the tangy original or one of five flavors, including rich and silky chocolate as well as fruit-based pomegranate and mango. A seasonal fruit flavor will rotate in on a regular basis – right now they’re offering flowery lychee, but they’ll be subbing it out for mega-hit watermelon by the end of the month. The sixth flavor, an earthy green tea, will be swapped out for a new flavor, salted caramel, at the same time.
When you receive your yogurt creation, pay attention to the presentation. Your server will offer it to you with two hands, in a gesture reminiscent of the formal presentation of tea (and business cards) in Japanese and Korean cultures. This little bit of ceremony helps to reinforce the feeling of a relationship that is more than mere transaction. Throughout our conversation, terms like “adult,” “refined” and “boutique” were used to describe Pinkberry’s flavors and experience.
The Dupont Circle location is the first inside the District, but it’s the second shop for the local licensee team. Their first, which opened in Fairfax Corner back in October, has been doing solid business despite the colder weather. And there are plans to bring more locations to neighborhoods like Clarendon, Leesburg, and possibly even Georgetown and National Harbor. As evidenced by this store, it’s all about location for the team – they’ll take their time to find the spots they think are “just right” for Pinkberry.
In addition to the standard cups, you can get your yogurt in a cone, blended into smoothies or layered with fruit and granola in a tangy take on a parfait. You can also buy the yogurt packed to-go and take it home or – if that sounds like too much effort- have them bring it to you through their catering program. The Fairfax Corner location just made a company-wide newsletter for catering a Pinkberry fan’s wedding!
If you’re willing to wait to taste it for free, make sure you line up for today’s 6 PM opening. If not, you should probably expect to wait anyway when you visit this summer…