SWEET ALLURE The siren call of frozen yogurt.
By the time you finish reading this article, another froyo lounge may have opened in Rhode Island.
"What's a froyo lounge?" you say.
You could start by asking the nearest teenager, who probably still has gummy bears and half-melted "Cake Batter" yogurt stuck in their braces from the last visit.
Or you could cruise around the state with an eye for those brightly lit parlors with neon-painted walls; rows of metal-armed machines awaiting customers' sweaty palms; plastic trays overflowing with sprinkles, cookie bits, candy corn, and diced strawberries; and a cashier's counter that looks like a miniature highway weigh station.
To put the trend in perspective: Lincoln, Rhode Island has two froyo lounges within half a mile of each other. In a span of six months during 2012, the Oklahoma-based franchise Orange Leaf ("American's Frozen Yogurt™") opened storefronts in Newport, Kingston, Warwick, and East Greenwich, with two more in Cranston and Westerly opening soon, according to their website. Meanwhile, rumors on Hope Street in Bristol and Wickenden Street in Providence indicate that two more froyo lounges are on their way.
We at the Phoenix are conflicted about this. On one hand the chilled, colorful goop that pours out of those machines is damn addictive, as the name of Narragansett's "Froyo Fix" lounge seems to acknowledge. This, combined with the chance to dispense as much as we want and top it with cookie dough balls, banana slices, snow caps, and Reese's Pieces . . . well, it's our inner chubby kid's fantasy come to life.
On the other hand, every time we eat at a Yo-Mix or a Fruitzzy, we feel like we're cheating on our old standby ice cream joints.
To froyo or not to froyo?
This is the existential question of the summer. And we're here to help you think it through.
Face it: froyo lounges are the future. The surfaces are shiny. The blinking screens on the wall play Pixar movies or announce the day's flavors. The speakers play the newest, bounciest, synth-inflected, Auto-Tuned pop. And the toppings include glistening orange globules called "Boba poppers." This ain't no science fiction novel. This is dessert in 2013.
Plus, froyo lounges are healthy — sort of. We don't exactly take FroyoWorld literally when they say their product is connected to "a healthier lifestyle that enhances your body and beauty." But their bevy of low-fat options and toppings like granola and almonds are hard to deny. Even if we do slather our froyo towers with Nilla wafers and chocolate syrup, the chilled air and polished tiles of these places makes us at least feel fitter. And the self-serve model (ingeniously) places the guilt squarely on us, not the store. In a froyo lounge, your health is in your hands.
Speaking of self-serve, what's more American than choosing your own adventure? This is dessert of the people, by the people, and for the people — just like Honest Abe would have ordered it. You want to top that salted caramel pretzel-flavored froyo with more caramel and more pretzels? You want to fill your cup with a dollop of yogurt topped with a mountain of gummy worms and coconut shavings? That's your inalienable right, as long as you can foot the $0.49 per ounce tab.