If ever you are having a bad day and need a place to go to eat your feelings, it's worth a trip to the east village to visit a little frozen yogurt shop called 16 Handles. My friend Rachel offered to escort me to this oasis of happiness yesterday and while I wasn't a fan of going south of 14th street, I would now go back every day if I could. It's a beautiful thing, this yogurt shop. Here's why.
16 Handles is on second avenue and 10th Street right in the tattooed Bohemian heart of NYU. I met Rachel (and Retta, her soon-to-be-born baby girl) at a coffee shop on 6th street and second avenue and we walked past the wafting Patchouli and piercing pagodas of Saint Mark's Street up to the glistening, colorful beacon of light called 16 Handles. The decor of the shop was much like any Pinkberry or Red Mango - minimalistic and really bright - but it seemed out of place amongst the dark, grungy bars and dusty bong shops of the east village. I was drawn towards it like Patrick Swayze in the last few minutes of Ghost, sucked toward a frozen yogurt heaven. We walked through the door and I immediately saw what all the fuss was about. Rachel explained that the thing that distinguishes this shop from the rest was that its name was not solely a reference to a well-known 80's film, but to 16 different flavors of frozen yogurt. And you get to mix your own! We chose a cup (large) and started pulling the handles to dispense the creamy goodness. I immediately became ten-year-old Michelle at the best part of the Golden Corral salad bar - the "soft serve" station. I mixed and matched like I was making a slurpee at the 7-11. In honor of research, I reasoned, it would only be prudent to sample as many flavors as possible. Right? I squeezed out cookies and cream, dulce de leche, pomegranate tart, New York cheesecake, peanut butter, and pistachio. As expertly smooshed more cheesecake yogurt into my cup, I happened to notice the nutrition facts that were prominently posted next to the handles. Not bad. 25 calories and 0 grams of fat per ounce. The nutrition facts varied from flavor to flavor, but they were all relatively healthy (well, as healthy as frozen yogurt can get). I finished my multicolored masterpiece and proudly showed my work to Rachel. "Ooh, nice. No toppings?", she queried. Toppings? I really was in heaven.
I scooted down the hall of handles towards the massive topping bar. Everything you could ever put on ice cream was displayed in a panorama of sweetness. Hot fudge, caramel, sprinkles, coconut, fruity pebbles, cookie dough, yogurt covered raisins, and at least eight types of crumbled candy bars beckoned me from the bar. I appreciated the selection, but only chose to scoop out cookie dough so as not to disrupt the flavor combination I had just created. Rachel and I walked to the front of the store where we met a cheerful young lad named Paul. He nodded knowingly at my excitement, "First time?", he asked. "And definitely not the last", I replied. As he weighed our treats, Rachel told me that she would treat me to my treat! Little did I know it would be a big treat. That will be $13.98. Oy. Thanks, Rach. I guess we had pumped more than a few ounces of frozen yogurt. We sat down and dug in. It was dreamy. MUCH better and significantly more like ice cream than that chemical-tasting Tasti-d'lite crap. We ate and ate. I must say that my favorite was the dulce de leche, but the pomegranate tart was an interesting and complex surprise. I looked up as a stunningly beautiful woman was paying Paul (heh, heh) for her yogurt. "I think I've seen her somewhere. Is she in movies?". Rachel shrugged and we continued shoveling. I looked up as the manicured woman's driver let her into the back seat of a slick black Escalade and walked around to the front seat to speed down second avenue. Well, I thought, if I were rich and famous and had a driver, I would do exactly the same thing. This stuff is good, people. Like, take-the-subway-south-of-14th-street-on-a-Sunday good.
We finished our treats, grabbed a couple frequent flier cards from Paul, and waddled out of the shop a little less rich, a little less skinny, and a lot happier than before. Thanks, Rachel. I'm so going back. Next time, though, I'll take the Escalade.