Friday, May 13, 2011

A Beginner's Guide To The Yogurt Mill

The tower of yogurt
If you live in East County, chances are that you not only know of The Yogurt Mill, but you are also probably a fan. For those of you not familiar with the Mill, I took some pictures last night that I will use to illustrate an beginner's guide to this El Cajon standby.

1. Finding Yogurt Mill - If you're coming by freeway, just take Interstate 8 to the Mollison Avenue exit. Head north to the corner of Mollison and Broadway and look for the unique leaning tower tucked back a little between Rodeo Market and a dentist's office. You'll know you're in the right place if you see a Starbucks, Panda Rice, and Subway since they share the same parking lot.

The line from our son's point of view
2. Expect a line - If you go during the day, you may often avoid the crowds, but if you go in the evening, you will likely end up waiting in a long line. Last night was an ordinary Wednesday in May that didn't coincide with school vacations nor particularly hot weather. Still, at 8:30 pm, we faced a twenty minute wait. Though our son was the one who originally requested we go to "Yo-gurt Miiiiiiill," the longer we waited, the more squirrely he became. I explained to him that in life we have to wait for a lot of things, but luckily, in this case, the wait is worth it. He agreed.

3. The line forms to the left - If you happen to get in line right when the line is just starting to spill outside, do not stand so that it heads straight out into the parking lot. This is dangerous! That is why there is a sign on the door with instructions to form the line to the left. You may not think this is a big deal when if the line is just a few people deep outside, but it is common that before you know it, there will be twenty or more. Don’t be surprised if you see the end of the line reach the dentist’s office! This brings me to the next point: Read the signs!

4. Read the signs - As mentioned above, there is a sign about forming the line to the left, and yet people don’t seem to read signs, because we will occasionally arrive to find the end of the line in the middle of the parking lot. We sigh, “Rookies,” and the staff also seems to sigh as they end up having to come outside to redirect the line. The staff is obviously trying to get a few important points across to customers, because there are a lot of signs and most of them repeat the same thing. I can just picture a weary employee muttering, “There is a sign that says we do not accept cash. Why did that customer go ballistic that we won’t take their credit card? I guess it’s time to make another sign...”

5. Bring cash - There are in fact several signs inside the Mill that spell out that cash is king, but just so you know before you go there, I’m writing it here: BRING CASH! I admit that it is jolting to go places these days that don’t accept plastic, but this is one of those places, so just make sure to stop by the ATM on your way.
6. Check Facebook for daily flavors - Yogurt Mill always has about ten flavors to pick from. There are five flavors that they offer daily: chocolate, vanilla, coconut, strawberry, and peanut butter. The other flavors, which include no lactose and nutrasweet options, rotate each day. In the past, we’d hear people call in to see what flavors were being offered on a particular day, because regulars definitely end up waiting for their favorite ones to come into rotation. Now, though, it’s easy to see what flavors are up by checking Yogurt Mill’s Facebook page. I’m personally waiting for York Peppermint Patty’s turn.

This lady came prepared with a coupon.
7. Bring coupons - Plan your visit ahead of time and save yourself a little money. There are always current coupons available for Yogurt Mill, whether you find them in local circulars or if you simply do a search online and print them out. The staff is so used to taking coupons that they do not blink when you present them. Just make sure the coupons have not already expired and that they are actually printed out. I’m guessing that is a rampant enough problem, since there are plenty of signs posted about proper coupon use.

Child size on left; Baby size on right
8. Expect large portions - If you’re on a diet, then you might like how you can control your portion size at self-serve frozen yogurt shops. This is not the case at Yogurt Mill. You don’t serve yourself, and the portions are huge. If you used to frequent the Mill in the past, you’ll remember the insider lingo of getting your sizes “dropped.” I think the logic was that they piled yogurt so precariously high that it was necessary to drop whatever size you ordered into a larger cup. Thus, if you ordered a “Child” size, it ended up in effect being a “Junior” and so forth. It was a fun thought, but perhaps in an effort to save our environment from the doubling up of Styrofoam containers, dropping is now a thing of the past. You’ll see that the new size options simply assume the larger size cups, forgoing the internal layer of smaller cups altogether. Thus, today’s “Child” size is now yesterday’s starting “Junior.” As it is, the smallest size available—the “Baby”—is so generous that this is the size I get for myself and my son. As filling as it is, the name pressures my son into thinking that it’s not enough: “I don’t want a Baby size. I’m not a baby!” I have to tell him, “Too bad. I know you’re not a baby. But, at Yogurt Mill, Baby is what you get.” (Just so you know, out of all of the times we’ve been to Yogurt Mill, I have yet to see anyone ever order a cone!)

Our daughter's frozen yogurt mustache
9. The toppings won't disappoint - In recent years, self-serve frozen yogurt shops have popped up all over the place. My husband I have gone to some of them, thinking that it’s fun to be able to add a whole assortment of different toppings. But, having been to these novel newer shops, I have to say that there is something to be said for sticking to the classics. I think that sometimes having too many options is not always the best thing in terms of quality. At other shops, I may end up piling on ten different toppings, but is it really more satisfying than when I get one topping at Yogurt Mill? Not in my experience. The staff at Yogurt Mill somehow seems to add toppings in just the perfect way. They layer toppings throughout the yogurt--except for the baby size, which just has a single layer on top--so that you are able to enjoy toppings with each bite the whole way through. As someone who is prone to worrying about ridiculous things like budgeting toppings as I eat, this is a detail that I appreciate.

The police cars of the officers waiting in line
10. You might find yourself in the midst of local heroes - When you have young children, you learn that firefighters and police officers are akin to major celebrities. In popular culture, people may make jokes about how police like to frequent donut shops, but in El Cajon, it is much more likely you’ll find them at Yogurt Mill. It is actually quite common that you will see a fire truck or police car parked outside of the Mill, but luckily, the only emergency is usually just one involving a yogurt craving. The exception is that one time when we were in line, there was a girl who actually collapsed and had a seizure. While no rescue workers happened to be present then, they did arrive in record time. And, after the girl was safely carried away by ambulance, the remaining rescuers decided that they may as well make the best of it and stay to enjoy some yogurt before heading out. I couldn’t think of a better reward for a job well done.


  1. YUMMY! And good to see you post about EL CAJON!! i used to go to that Yogurt Mill ALL the time when i was working at The Daily Californian, eons ago... thanx for the reminder!!

  2. Thanks i took the liberty to post this on facebook =P Figured this was a worthy blog to post, i hope you don't mind seeing yourself on Yogurt mill's Facebook =D Thanks for being a true YM fan we truly appreciate it!

  3. The Yogurt Mill makes me proud to live in El Cajon because it represents that place where you first go to as a kid because your family and friends love it and want to share it with you too. :) I really don't think it's much of a stretch to ask, how can anyone not love The Yogurt Mill? I always look forward to Summer because that's when my friend and I go to The Yogurt Mill on hot summer nights, get our yogurt, and sit on the tailgate of our truck enjoying every last spoonful. :) Thanks for posting this! The Yogurt Mill deserves a wealth of praise.

  4. Sad that they don't drop the yogurt anymore but I guess it was kinda pointless and a waste of styrofoam. Miss the yogurt mill though...sooo good.

  5. My dad took me to ym for the first time a few weeks ago and i loved it soo much i took mt husband. Now we are all ym fans this placer is the bomb. Hands down