One day, on a family vacation to California, Charlie and Zach Navar made their first stop at a frozen-yogurt shop. It was quickly followed, that same day, by their second stop, and then their third. Enamored with the self-serve frozen-yogurt business, the brothers dedicated the next two years to researching the concept by traveling to shops in other cities and even analyzing El Paso traffic patterns before choosing the ideal location for their own brand.
At Craze Yogurt, the Navars fill their self-serve dispensers with flavors such as apple pie, chocolate hazelnut, dairy-free Hawaiian pineapple, and electro lime, a cooler alternative to eating limes left in a light socket. After crowning their fro-yo with toppings, guests can feast at leather couches in Craze Yogurt's spacious, high-ceiling lounge, where coffee and tea drinks such as peppermint mochas and spiced chai lattes are also available.
Blake Buchanan opened the first Bahama Buck's in the summer of 1991—a tropical-themed hut that served shaved ice amidst the sweltering Texas heat. Although his business has now expanded to 30 locations (and counting) throughout Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, each shop embraces the same island atmosphere: palm trees stand proudly next to tiki torches, bamboo trim lines the walls, and a smoke monster floats through the parking lot every day at noon. Behind the counter, employees drizzle tropical flavors—from banana to watermelon and coconut—into cups piled high with shaved ice, cooling down overheated patrons. Guests can also opt for a helping of Island House Coffee, lemonade, or Paradise Fruit—a blend of island fruits topped with chocolate, caramel, and whipped cream.
Beneath glowing signs announcing the day's flavors, stainless-steel spigots dispense swirls of creamy treats at IceIt Frozen Yogurt. At the center of the shop, the Bottoms Bar wraps around an inner booth, forming a gauntlet of cereal and candy dispensers waiting to loose their crunchy contents to form a foundation tastier than Willy Wonka's chocolate undershirts. Next, fro-yo varieties such as pistachio, cake batter, and cookies 'n' cream fill cups along with non-fat choices such as new york cheesecake. Near the register, toppings such as fresh fruits and nuts wait for their final trip to the scale, after which visitors can haul their creations over to the pink round benches or sleek white chairs.
The Orange Leaf frozen-yogurt enterprise boasts nearly 200 locations, cooling tongues everywhere from Mississippi to Australia. At each colorful shop, customers have total control over their cups, first selecting a combination of yogurt flavors from dozens of low-calorie options and then swinging by the toppings bar to pile on pieces of fruit, sprinkles of granola, crumbles of brownie, or an entire family of gummy bears. Yogurt flavors range from pineapple, chocolate, and no-sugar-added vanilla, to more complex blends, such as strawberry cheesecake and Oreo cookie cake.
Valerie Herrera, a skillful cake manipulator and civil engineer, builds humble egg and flour foundations into towering dessert structures. The light texture of vanilla tres leches cakes ($20) wins over pitchfork-toting tongue mobs outraged at its unnatural fusion of three milk types, and strawberries doused in chocolate and dusted with sprinkles ($20 a dozen) tempt even even-tempered palates. Batches of nine walnut-infused brownies ($7.58) and batches of 24 carrot cupcakes ($21.65) prove desirable additions to any permanent dessert collection.
There's a reason the signature treat at Cindy's Frozen Custard tastes so flavorful. And that is because the staff makes it fresh every day. It adds eggs to sugar and cream to make it extra rich and smooth, then customizes its custard with a variety of toppings.