Not since TCBY's 1980s heyday has frozen yogurt been so stylish in Wichita. During the past several years, the city's gone from zero frozen yogurt options to bunches, as the Pinkberry craze has ever so slowly migrated eastward from California.
Wichita's newest frozen yogurt option is Orange Leaf, a franchise that has one month-old store on the west side and one week-old store on the east side. (Plans are under way for a third store near Central and Greenwich, possibly by next month.)
ON THE MENU: Orange Leaf offers 16 flavors of frozen yogurt every day, and the choices rotate all the time. You can always find favorites such as strawberry, chocolate and peanut butter, and on any given day there's also New York Cheese Cake, cookies and cream, cherry, mango, peach, original plain tart and more. After the flavor (or flavors) have been selected, customers then top their yogurt with fresh fruits, candies and cereals from a colorful topping bar.
DON'T-MISS DISHES: The yogurt at Orange Leaf is good — it all has a nice, firm texture and is as satisfying as ice cream, custard, gelato or any other frozen dessert. And many of them are labeled as low-fat or no-fat, which makes it all the better.
Of course, the problem is that Orange Leaf makes it way too tempting to go overboard. The yogurts are all dispensed from self-serve machines installed — conveniently at kid level — all along a shimmery orange-tiled wall.
Customers have only two bowl sizes to choose from — huge and even huger, so it's hard to control portion sizes. Parents particularly need to watch over kids, who unsupervised, would likely vend themselves a pound of yogurt.
And that's probably exactly what Orange Leaf is hoping for because it charges customers by the ounce. (Though the price, 39 cents an ounce, is pretty reasonable.)
But even those who do shut off the yogurt spout at a reasonable time then find themselves tempted by all manners of sprinkles, chopped-up peanut butter cups, Oreos, chocolate chips, nuts and more. And the ounces just keep inching up.
On several visits, we liked nearly all the yogurt flavors. Some of the fruit flavors, such as strawberry and peach, taste extra, extra sweet. Others, such as peanut butter and coffee, are too-die-for decadent and rich.
Some of the best combinations we invented: a half peanut butter, half chocolate bowl topped with chopped-up peanut butter cups and Reece's Pieces; and a half vanilla, half strawberry topped with fresh chopped strawberries and blueberries.
The possibilities are nearly endless, though, and it's as fun to make the yogurt as it is to eat it.
AMBIENCE: Funky, hip and modern. The bright room is decorated with vibrant and oddly shaped orange plastic tables and chairs and a coordinating orange couch. The yogurt is dispensed from two walls covered in beautiful orange tiles, and so far, everything is kept neat and tidy. The west-side store has an interesting Wichita mural on the wall, featuring the Keeper of the Plains, Intrust Bank Arena and other local landmarks.
PRICE RANGE: The price is 39 cents an ounce, which is reasonable as long as patrons fill their bowls with caution. Each time we've gone, our average price per bowl was about $3.50.
SERVICE: Most of the servers we've encountered have been teenagers, and some are friendlier than others. We've always been offered instructions upon entering, and our only off-putting experience was when we asked for a cup of water and were told we'd have to buy a bottle.
Ratings reflect the critic's judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6321.
Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt
Three forks out of four
7730 E. 37th St. North, 316-440-0923, and 8918 W. 21st St., 316-351-5713
Hours: East store: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1 to 10 p.m. Sundays. West store: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; noon to 11 p.m. Sundays
Type of food: Frozen yogurt and toppings
Web site: orangeleafyogurt.com