December in Toronto is not exactly when people are flocking to the local gelaterias and ice cream shops, but everyone from wide-eyed kids to Bay Street lawyers are heading to the funky Annex neighbourhood in Toronto to check out the arrival of Hollywood’s sweetest star – Menchies. Voted Best Ice Cream Shop by The MyFox Best of LA Hotlist three years running, and frequented by A-Listers such as Megan Fox, Paris Hilton, and Amanda Bynes, Menchies is not your average Fro-Yo joint. The concept is simple – a rotating menu of at least 12 frozen yogurt flavours with a toppings bar that looks like the stylish little sister of a bulk foods store. Menchies is clearly a shop of a different colour, fuchsia and lime green to be exact, bringing out the inner child in everyone. Their self-serve concept starts with either a cup or waffle cone cup ($1 extra), then allows giddy yogurt-lovers to help themselves to the rainbow of flavours available from their wall of soft-serve yogurt machines.
“Grab a cup and let’s head over to the Yogurt Bar,” exclaims a cheery fuchsia-clad employee. The Menchies team exudes a genuine warmth and perkiness, and are excited give drooling first-time guests lessons in building their unique creations. Heading over to the Yogurt Bar, I get my very own crash-course in Yogurt 101. Menchies carries about 12 different yogurt flavours that change weekly from a bank of over 100 recipes, with favourites such as Original Tart, White Chocolate Macadamia, Blueberry Cheesecake and dairy-free selections with fun, fruity names like Mango Tango Sorbet on the roster. Another smiling Menchie points to a stack of mini sample cups and invites me to try as many as I like before making a commitment to my big cup-o-fro-yo. Really? I can try them ALL? Likening this to a spoiler alert for a movie, I (only) try Cake Batter, Irish Mint, and Creamsicle before plunging in and pouring out a mash-up of Green Apple Tart, Original Tart, No-Sugar Added Chocolate, and a dash of Pina Colada. Now for some Snackage. Ladies and gentlemen, you heard me – Snackage. The toppings bar bares this urban dictionary term to describe the over 40 little treats to top off your fro’. There is something for everyone – fresh kiwi, cinnamon dusted apples, cheesecake chunks, sugar-free granola, almonds, and more. They even have sweet little Japanese Mochi, a pillowy soft and slightly sticky Japanese candy made from glutinous rice. I opt for a combo of Mochi, crushed almonds, kiwi, mango, and a few pieces Reese’s pieces to compliment the schizophrenic assortment already in my bowl. The crunchy cinnamon dusted apples are reminiscent of apple pie, and my favourite snackage of the bunch. At $0.49/oz, the mental tally I have made as I build my mammoth pile of yogurt-y goodness has reached about $15. Putting your cup on the scale is intimidating at first as everyone watches the magic number appear on the screen. Expecting a solid double digit, seconds before the moment of truth, I reach into my wallet for a $20 to discover that my yogurt mountain has garnered a meagre $6.25!! This really is the happiest place on earth.
Although I have about 3 too many different flavours in my cup, each one is bold, refreshing and distinguishable from one another. I am told by Menchies owner, Michael Shneer, that the yogurt tastes so good because it is made with real milk and not a powdered base. “It was fundamental for Michael to have a product that he could really stand behind. Good quality ingredients and something that tastes delicious was essential criteria,” states Yogurtworld Corporation first lady, Adell Shneer, Senior Food Specialist in the Canadian Living Magazine Test Kitchen by day, Menchie advocate by night. Husband Michael Shneer and his brother David travelled to Los Angeles to research the concept first hand before bringing the #1 Fastest Growing Restaurant Chain in the U.S. to Canada.
I pride myself on being somewhat of a Frozen Yogurt aficionado, and Menchies had me at Snackage. All Menchies yogurt is fat-free and Kosher, with a selection of flavours at each location marked dairy-fee, and sugar-free. Even better news is that a 100g serving of Frozen Yogurt contains about 112 calories and zero fat. The same serving of regular ice cream will set you back 230 calories and 14 grams of fat! Your belly will also thank you for the live and active bacterial cultures in the yogurt. It’s no wonder that image-conscious Hollywood glitterati have helped skyrocket Menchies to International acclaim.
Walking into Menchies is like watching the latest Disney flick, it is entertainment for the whole family. University Students and teens grab handfuls of Menchies stickers and temporary tattoos, kids are invited to share their creations on a chalkboard, and adults love the guilt-free aspect of having a delicious treat that doesn’t require an hour on the treadmill on the next day. Menchies is a blockbuster hit, starring their very own lovable mascot, who is undoubtedly the soft-serve version of Hello Kitty. As I devour my ridiculously delicious creation, I am already planning a return trip, and judging by the jubilant buzz around me so is everyone else. Menchies is disarming – strangers share tips with each other on how to make the perfect combo, what they have in their current cup, and how often they pop in for some Snackage. You can even take a pint home to satiate your addiction in between visits.
The arrival of Menchies in Toronto taps into one of the fastest growing foodservice trends today; the quest for a healthier lifestyle without sacrificing treats and favourite indulgences. Swirled with its star-studded reputation and make-it-your-own concept, Menchies is a delightful arrival as we head into the bitter Canadian winter. In my happy yogurt-induced haze, I stand for a moment outside the store watching passers-by do double takes and squeal with delight when they spot the inviting candy-coloured Bloor Street location. The Annex neighbourhood is abuzz, and will certainly find itself making headlines thanks to the Shneer brothers and their passion. True to its Hollywood roots, Yorkville is only a short limo-ride away, meaning the perky Fro-Yo joint will certainly be a destination for local and visiting celebs to satisfy their sweet tooth. Delicious, healthy, fun and with something for everyone, it has taken just a short few weeks for Menchies to become the coolest place in town.