With new super-chains Red Mango and Pinkberry taking over the city bedbug-style and both just opened at the corners of 14th and 6th, I thought it was time I checked out Village Yogurt, surely on the fast train to doomsville with Red and Pink duking it out nearby. What I found, however, was something completely different.
The Korean owner of the 27-year-old luncheonette, Mr. Jay Kim, explained that Village Yogurt is a bit of a misnomer, as the place sells very little frozen yogurt and mostly deals in delicious, healthy meals. The full name on the take-out menu reads: "Poochie's Natural Cafe (Village Yogurt)." Poochie was his son's nickname as a baby, because he was "small and dear," and Mr. Kim has plans to change the sign out front.
Mr. Kim and his vegan treats
On the menu you'll find plates of brown rice, veggie dumplings, chicken, and steamed vegetables in various combinations. I opted for the "Everything Super Fantasy," mostly because I could not resist saying that fabulous name out loud. I'm not a big eater of brown rice and steamed vegetables--could anything be more bland? But the Everything Super Fantasy was exceptionally flavorful, especially with Mr. Kim's special sauce, and made me feel virtuous just for eating it.
Mr. Kim's clientele is a loyal mix of health-conscious New Yorkers, including "ballerinas, office people, actors, trainers, and gymnasts," by which he means people who work out at the local gyms. He loves his customers because they are "a different class of people, gentle and nice," and he looks forward to seeing them when they come in.
Mr. Kim's wall of the not-yet-famous
Mr. Kim is sandwiched between a GNC and a shuttered bodega, on a stretch of 6th Ave cluttered with McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, and bank branches. When I asked if he was staying put, with all the changes in the area, he told me he sees no sign of shutting down, "I'm good. I don't bother anyone. This is a good mama-papa store. Why would the building man kick me out?"
I hope he's right--Poochie's is good for the health of the city and, apparently, to its romantic life, too, as a recent craigslist Missed Connection can attest:
VILLAGE YOGURT M4W 30 writes, "You asked about the udon and then went for the combo. It's a rare occasion when I'm so immediately connected to someone but when I made eye contact with you, there was something...no? It kind of blew my mind. Then your nice smile when I left really stuck with me. I hope your lunch was good."
I'm sure it was.