September 5, 2013 | by Jonathan Howard
Mixing it up
Menchie's, dining, Bryan DeRosa, gay news, Washington Blade

Bryan DeRosa of Menchie’s on U Street. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

If variety is the spice of life, new frozen yogurt shop Menchie’s (1939 12th Street, N.W.) has it in spades with 14 rotating flavors, nearly 50 toppings and the chance to get as much or as little as you want.

Danna and Adam Caldwell founded the Encino, Calif.-based chain, which offers self-serve frozen yogurt with a wide selection of toppings. The name Menchie’s comes from the Yiddish word mensch, meaning “good person.” Each person at a Menchie’s franchise wants to help the guest have a positive experience, enjoy their mix and come back for more.

Menchie’s has nearly 100 rotating flavors including a range of regular, low carb, low sugar and non-dairy yogurts. Menchie’s also has its own private label of yogurt allowing its staff to develop their own flavors and distinguish themselves from other frozen yogurt establishments throughout the United States. Menchie’s frozen yogurts include live and active cultures (a digestive aid not often found in frozen yogurt) and meet quality standards established by the National Yogurt Association.

When one walks into the playful store on 12th Street between T and U streets, it’s easy to get excited. I felt like a naughty child filling sample cups with one of the 14 flavors (or two flavors swirled together), something one is encouraged to do before deciding. Each flavor seemed better than the last and the more I tried, the harder the decision became.

But before I put myself into a self-induced diabetic coma, I stopped tasting and decide on a flavor. I chose the red velvet, a rich and creamy yogurt that replicated the flavors of my favorite cake incredibly well. I topped it with a bit of coconut and some white chocolate chips. My husband decided to go with half a cup of chocolate and vanilla snow swirl and half a cup of Dole pineapple and coconut swirl, with a bit of strawberry topping. We paid — 39 cents per ounce — and sat inside, though outdoor seating is also available.

As we sat, shop owner and friend Anthony Aligo, who’s gay along with his business partner Bryan DeRosa, pulled up a chair and joined us. Seeing that my husband had two distinctive flavors in his cup, Aligo said, “I’m looking into getting cup dividers so that you can have his-and-her cups, or just keep your flavors from touching.”

Aligo is clearly a man after my own heart, because I would have had another flavor, but I didn’t want it touching my red velvet concoction. Aligo spoke excitedly about the flavor options, the toppings, and even showed us a picture of the biggest cup of frozen yogurt he’s seen so far — a mile-high mix of flavors and toppings costing a little over $18.

“She walked out of the store with it, but I was just worried it was going to topple over onto the ground, I don’t even know if she managed to eat all or any of it,” he said.

Aligo opened Menchie’s because “he wanted a place for our LGBTQ family to be able to congregate and socialize as well as cater to our youth so that they always have a safe place to be.”

His favorite thing about the store is to be out from behind the counter and socializing with the customers. He’s working hard on outreach, partnering with local businesses as well as organizations like SMYAL so Menchie’s can live up to his vision. He says business has been strong since the July opening.

Menchie’s is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11a.m. to midnight.

Menchie's, dining, Bryan DeRosa, gay news, Washington Blade

Menchie’s on U Street owner Anthony Aligo (far left), store manager Sarah Null (second from the right front row) and store owner Bryan DeRosa (far right) with other employees. (Photo courtesy of Menchie’s on U Street)

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