(Updated Oct. 2008): Sadly I’ve learned that Menchie’s is not vegan as was originally reported. The sorbet is indeed dairy-free, however I’ve been informed that the ingredients contain Carmine, a red food coloring made from boiled & crushed insects (beetles to be exact). Yeah, gross. Don’t be surprised though as it’s used in tons of foods out there and is considered totally “normal”. Ick. So the moral of the story is, the sorbet at Menchies is dairy-free, but it is not 100% vegan. Consider yourself informed. My original post is below.
Do you ever feel left out by the whole Pinkberry thing? What’s a vegan to do in an age of mass frozen yogurt proliferation with nary a vegan option to be found among them? One option would be to head on back over the hill to Valley Village on the edge of NoHo for a dairy-free treat at Menchie’s.
Menchie’s could be considered one of the many Pinkberry knockoffs but they’ve got a pretty cool twist. Everything there is self service, from the yogurt to the toppings. You pick your size of cup and fill it with however much softserve goodness you want of whichever flavors you like, then pick your toppings. Your culinary creation is then placed on a scale and priced by weight.
They’ve always got at least one dairy-free flavor to choose from. This is the reply I recieved when I sent an email to ask if they carry anything vegan: “We typically have at least one non-dairy flavor everyday. Our non dairy flavors are sorbets rather than yogurts. Currently our sorbet flavor is Kiwi Strawberry.” The ingredients are not posted so I do not know if the dairy-free means it is 100% vegan or not. However given that it’s a sorbet (fruit+sugar+ice) and is advertised as dairy-free, I’m not concerned about something hidden being in there. Caveat emptor.
They also have delicious smelling waffle cones which I’m certain are not vegan… but they sure do make the place smell nice as they’re cooking. Ok, so then after you’ve got your cup of yogurt/sorbet stuff, you head over to the toppings sections. The first one’s got a nice selection of fresh locally grown fruit. Amongst the yummy yet non-vegan goodies like brownie pieces and cheesecake I was overjoyed to discover that they also had soft little bite-sized mochi nuggets (Japanese glutinous rice treats). The flavor is mildly sweet and the texture is perfectly chewy like a soft gummybear. The second toppings station has all the dry stuff like sweet breakfast cereals, nuts, sprinkles, candy pieces, etc… trust me, there’s a lot there for people to choose from and vegans will not be feel deprived.
On the occasion that I was there, the dairy-free flavor was “Mango Tango Sorbet”. I topped it with fresh mango and plenty of mochi- this combo made me one happy foodeater. The sorbet is very nice with strong mango flavor, slightly sweet yet also a bit tart. The fresh sweet mango on top livened up the whole affair and the chewy, gooey mochi-ness of it all was really making it work for me.
The colors inside are somewhat garish and I feel bad that the people who work there are made to wear those awful
costumes uniforms. Also, if you’re going to try and take a picture inside like I did, be prepared to get chastised by the manager who will tell you that photographs are not allowed. Isn’t it ironic how some of these places flip out on you for taking pictures when most likely all you’re going to do with them is turn around and send some free advertising their way? That said, I liked my mango-tango and mochi indulgence a bit too much to let the no-photography smackdown police get to me. After all I still got my picture, didn’t I?
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