The Thrill of the Chill

Yogurt Bar provides yummy frozen treats and a whole lot more.
Vanilla and strawberry swirl with chocolate cookie chunks, sprinkles and frosted animal crackers.

There’s no denying the allure of a frozen yogurt shop; piling a cup high with your favorite flavors and topping it off with your own unique concoction of candies and crunchy toppings is heavenly. But what happens when you couple that with savory meal options and alcoholic beverages, too? Carl Sakamoto was willing to give it a try.

An anesthesiologist by day, Sakamoto had wanted to open a restaurant for years, but didn’t know where to start. When he started to see frozen yogurt shops cropping up across Minnesota, he steered his attention in a different direction. Last March, Sakamoto opened Yogurt Bar in White Bear Lake, a shop that offers 16 scrumptious frozen yogurt flavors, 40 toppings, including candies and fruits, as well as a few unexpected menu items.

“The Yogurt Bar features not only yogurt, but sandwiches and even alcohol,” says Sakamoto. “I bring in bakery bread and fresh deli meats daily, and we also have two red and two white wines, in addition to Surly beer.”

When Sakamoto first opened the shop, he pictured a kid-friendly place where moms could gather to enjoy a glass of wine, or dads could stop in for a beer while their kids enjoy the frozen yogurt. With eight machines and two flavors in each machine, yogurt lovers of all ages can also swirl flavors to make delicious concoctions by mixing flavors such as green apple and caramel —and it’s all made in-house.

Some yogurt shops rely on having yogurt that’s delivered in large frozen jugs, then they thaw them and dump them into their machines. But at Yogurt Bar, Sakamoto’s team blends fresh yogurt and milk with a mix to control the flavors they want to craft.

“There are recipes for everything,” says Sakamoto. “I’ve gone to every kind of yogurt shop and tested the products, and wanted to go with the products that I liked.”

To take a healthier route, Sakamoto uses skim or 2 percent milk in the mixtures, and also offers several dairy-free and lactose-free options. Plus, all of Yogurt Bar’s offerings are gluten-free and most are nut-free.

“We have anything from gummy bears to all the different candy bars to little balls filled with juice inside of them to sweet, chewy rice cakes,” says Sakamoto. “We also have a fun pop machine, and every day we brew fresh coffee, plus lots of different kinds of tea.”

Yogurt Bar swaps out flavors often, but fan favorites such as chocolate and strawberry will stay put on its roster. “We have a Greek yogurt and a salted caramel that will stay a while, and then we’ll just have a variety,” says Sakamoto. “We’ll use a sweet or a tart base and then we’ll add flavorings to it, like pistachio or Key lime to make a Key lime pie flavor.”

As for Sakamoto’s favorites? “The grapefruit and the peach tea are my two favorite flavors,” he says. “And I like the mochi because that reminds me of being a kid.”

Whether you’re looking to get some work done or are heading to Yogurt Bar to enjoy a heaping cup of frozen yogurt, Sakamoto has you covered. The shop, which seats 25, has a family-oriented ambiance, with a hum of quiet music playing in the background, and is decorated with neutral colors. A long bench stretches across the shop, with outlets spread throughout for students with laptops, and cozy couches are perfect for curling up on a chilly day in front of the fireplace.

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