Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
One needs only to remember that the Metropolitan Bank Tower in downtown Little Rock was once called TCBY Tower to know that Central Arkansas is a place that cares about its "froyo." Nowadays, frozen yogurt tends to be offered in two varieties: one follows the "This Can't Be Yogurt!" mantra that strives to approximate ice cream down to the sugary flavors and candy toppings. The other bandies about the health benefits of their frozen treats and offers more tart flavors with slices of fresh fruit. Note that often the flavors offered at these stores rotate regularly.
TCBY This Little Rock-founded (now Utah-based) institution is a venerable cathedral to ice-cream-style frozen yogurt (complete with an ice cream cone stained glass window). But lately the chain has been making strides toward the healthier side of froyo with new flavors that embrace their identity as yogurt in all its tart and live cultured glory. An offering currently available only at the Little Rock and Harrison locations is "Yovana," a creamy (not frozen) parfait with berry toppings, that stands in marked contrast to the cones and cakes on display. Flavors include old fashioned vanilla, classic tart and white chocolate mousse.11418 W. Markham St. 221-9020. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 7 a.m.-midnight Fri., 11 a.m.-midnight Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.
Red Mango Red Mango and the Heights are a match made in boutique-style heaven. The store strives for retro chic (but not, apparently, for giving customers many places to sit; a massive couch takes up most of the seating area). The slogan is "Treat Yourself Well" and the health benefits of Red Mango's selection are proclaimed loud and often. The yogurt is served from behind a counter and only six flavors are offered at a time, but Red Mango does deserve props for having a dark chocolate flavor that actually tastes like dark chocolate. Other flavors include black cherry, Madagascar vanilla and pomegranate. 5621 Kavanaugh Blvd. 663-2500. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 12 p.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Orange Leaf The mural of Little Rock (including area schools) inside Orange Leaf is positively adorable. Seating is plentiful and cromprises funky low chairs and stools as well as outdoor seating. The flavors are standard variety and self-served. The "toppings bar" offers a large selection, including plenty of fruit. A discount is offered for customers who check in on Facebook. Among the flavors are mango, pineapple and brownie mix. Free wi-fi.11525 Cantrell Road. 227-4522. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sun.
Yogurt Mountain Taking the place of an old Verizon store in West Little Rock, Yogurt Mountain is one of the newest self-serve, pay-by-the-ounce froyo locations in Central Arkansas. Toppings are mostly candy, but a few not-very-fresh-looking fruits are available, too. Has a community board which, when we visited, included the card for Little Rock Roller Derby (as featured in a previous Natives Guide) and a silent auction for commemorative framed pictures of Ryan Mallett and Ronald Reagan. Flavors include pomegranate energy tart, a three chocolate mix and key lime pie. 12315 Chenal Parkway. 219-0814. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.
Three Flamingos Candy toppings and ice cream flavors reign supreme at Three Flamingos, yet its "Wall of Knowledge" provides detailed dietary information, which is more than you will find at most places. Every purchase includes a stamp card, which if filled with 10 pink flamingos equals a free small yogurt from any of its locations in North Little Rock, Hot Springs, Conway or Cabot. Among the flavors are strawberry cheesecake, watermelon sorbet and old fashioned peanut butter. 6929 John F. Kennedy Blvd., NLR. 835-4411. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 1 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Sun.
Fresh Cup The feeling we get from sitting inside Fresh Cup is of being in a big empty swimming pool. It is cavernous and empty with mosaic tiles that call to mind chlorine soaked summers. A television advertises local events and something called the "Fresh Cup VIP Club," which involves sending a text message to the number 90210. Flavors include Jolly Rancher Tropical Tremor Pomegranate Raspberry Sorbet (yikes), Reese's Peanut Butter, New York Cheesecake and Snickerdoodle. The caramel Dulce de Leche flavor was quite wonderful. Free wi-fi. 4816 North Hills Blvd., North Little Rock. 753-7993. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Key West The framed photo of Jimmy Buffet says it all: Key West is an ice-cream-style store heavy on Kokomo schmaltz and pastel island paradise complete with palm trees, flamingos, paper lanterns and a Conch Republic flag. Fruit offerings are scarce, but the "Candy Corner" can satisfy any artificial-flavor craving. Flavors include espresso, birthday cake and tropical sorbet. Free wi-fi. 105 Country Club Parkway, Maumelle. 803-9074. Noon-8 p.m. Mon.-Thu., noon-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun.
The Dreamy Spoon We would not have found this place if our token Maumelle friend (everyone has one, right?) had not led us to it. And what a find the Dreamy Spoon is: It's locally owned and meticulously decorated with an impressive mural, yet the atmosphere is quiet and subdued. The self-serve selection is plentiful and the toppings are well-stocked to match. According to its website, it occasionally offers a cactus-flavored confection. Flavors include acai berry, bubble gum and pistachio. Free wi-fi. 115 Audubon Drive, Maumelle. 851-2448. Noon- 9 p.m. Mon.-Thu., noon-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-9 p.m. Sun.