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Houston Takes a Stand in the Frozen Yogurt Wars

We all know that historically the coasts have had their beef. Hold on, Texans, think Biggie and Tupac - not flank steak and brisket. But now that rivalry has gotten serious. Yes, I'm talking about the cutthroat frozen yogurt wars - with Tasti-D-Lite and its 100-plus flavors (including things like Pineapple Cheesecake, White Russian and Burnt Sugar) representing the East, and Pinkberry with its tart, straight-from-the-Dannon-container taste and pseudo-healthy toppings taking over the West. So where does Houston stand in all this?

Well, we have our options. For those looking to go Cali-style, there’s Swirll, which opened this summer in the Rice Village. According to California transplants, this is the closest Space City has come to getting its own Pinkberry. Although Swirll loses points for not having its own theme song (Lady Tigra’s “The Pinkberry Remix” is a must hear), it gains them for serving up more than the two flavors (vanilla and green tea) offered at Pinkberry. The pomegranate and banana flavors are both big hits. Swirll seems to have no qualms about its product being almost identical to the West Coast originators, although one staff member told me, “Our formula is very similar to Pinkberry, but we modify it for the local palate. We adjust the degree of tartness. Some people say it’s the same tartness, but ours is much creamier because some people say that the Pinkberry is too icy.”

Those looking for that East Coast flava might have to wait. Even though Tasti-D-Lite has gone Lone Star (recently making its way to Dallas), it hasn’t taken over Houston just yet. Be glad. With a taste as fake as its hyphen-ridden and adorably misspelled name, Tasti has somehow succeeded in becoming “New York’s #1 Frozen Treat.” A couple of years ago I watched in horror as the swirl of fake dairy tackled the Big Apple, replacing salads, steaks and sushi. My own mother became a Tasti-D-Lite junkie, happily waiting in line twice a day for the stuff, often adding an additional 50 cents to the price of a large to ensure a suitable flavor.

Those looking to take a neutral stance on this issue might try the somewhat satisfying nation-wide and Dole-owned Robeks, where you can stand by and watch as scoops of yogurt are blended in with a variety of frozen fruits. And of course, for all you old-schoolers who want actual candy mixed right in, there’s still the lovable TCBY. You gotta give props to the company for not even pretending this stuff is healthy. – Sophie Rosenblum

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