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A banana split and a tower leaning at The Yogurt Mill

San Diego’s finest frozen yogurt has filled cups and cones for over 45 years in El Cajon

A frozen yogurt banana split, made with low-fat chocolate, nonfat vanilla, nonfat sugar-free raspberry yogurts, and topped with strawberries, chocolate chips, and crushed peanuts,
A frozen yogurt banana split, made with low-fat chocolate, nonfat vanilla, nonfat sugar-free raspberry yogurts, and topped with strawberries, chocolate chips, and crushed peanuts,

“But have you been to The Yogurt Mill?”

My wife noticed that I’ve recently spent more time writing about food in her hometown, El Cajon. However, as I’ve mainly focused on skewered and rotisserie meats, she suggested I try a different angle. I didn’t realize she was being literal.

Place

Yogurt Mill

935 Broadway, El Cajon

“Originally the building was a pizza place and was built to resemble The Leaning Tower of Pisa,” explains the Yogurt Mill web site. That must have been at least a half century ago, because the round, unmistakably askew structure has been a leaning tower of yogurt since 1977. Its unique appearance prompted the local teachers who opened the shop to give it the Mill name, presumably because the lopsided structure looks less like a 12th century Italian bell tower and more like a gradually sinking grain silo.

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A yogurt shop inside a storefront originally built for a restaurant likely called The Leaning Tower of Pizza

The oddball structure sure does catch the eye, all the way down to its rounded storefront. Even the cash-only counter inside the shop is round, like the hub of a wheel. A wheel that has cycled through successive generations of loyal customers. My wife spent a lot of time as a teenager, and now her kids will as well.

If I worried that this yogurt shop was all flash, no substance, I needn’t have. The yogurt proved preternaturally creamy. Each of the ten daily flavors on the menu (out of more than 60 in rotation) gets a notation declaring it nonfat, lowfat, or in one case I spotted, lactose-free. You can order one or two flavors poured into a plain cone ($4.75), or in five sizes of cup ranging to a “large with lid” ($10.85) or an even larger large, with yogurt stacked high above the rim ($11.80). If not poured carefully, I imagine that might emulate the building’s lean.

A round yogurt counter, inside a round building

My wife went for her high school usual: vanilla with hot fudge, in a “baby” cup ($5.30 in 2023 dollars). Given there are more photogenic desserts than frozen yogurt in a wafer cone or Styrofoam cup, I went a different direction, ordering my first ever frozen yogurt banana split. For $11, that gave me a chance to try three flavors of yogurt, loaded with three toppings. Available toppings ranged from fruit and nuts to all manner of candies and every color of sprinkles, and it may be worth noting that my server poured the yogurt before I selected my toppings. Whether or not he intended it, this kept me from taking a half hour to deliberate.

For flavors, I chose vanilla (nonfat), chocolate (lowfat), and raspberry (nonfat, sugarfree), and before these melted I chose candied strawberries, dark chocolate chips, and crushed peanuts as toppings. I dug in, imagining the chocolate would taste better than the nonfat and sugar free options, but by my third bite I forgot all about any distinctions, and simply enjoyed the ride. Ice cream who?

To be honest, I didn’t know that frozen yogurt was even a thing in the 1970s, but if The Yogurt Mill has been defying expectations like this since day one, then no wonder it’s endured.

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A frozen yogurt banana split, made with low-fat chocolate, nonfat vanilla, nonfat sugar-free raspberry yogurts, and topped with strawberries, chocolate chips, and crushed peanuts,
A frozen yogurt banana split, made with low-fat chocolate, nonfat vanilla, nonfat sugar-free raspberry yogurts, and topped with strawberries, chocolate chips, and crushed peanuts,

“But have you been to The Yogurt Mill?”

My wife noticed that I’ve recently spent more time writing about food in her hometown, El Cajon. However, as I’ve mainly focused on skewered and rotisserie meats, she suggested I try a different angle. I didn’t realize she was being literal.

Place

Yogurt Mill

935 Broadway, El Cajon

“Originally the building was a pizza place and was built to resemble The Leaning Tower of Pisa,” explains the Yogurt Mill web site. That must have been at least a half century ago, because the round, unmistakably askew structure has been a leaning tower of yogurt since 1977. Its unique appearance prompted the local teachers who opened the shop to give it the Mill name, presumably because the lopsided structure looks less like a 12th century Italian bell tower and more like a gradually sinking grain silo.

Sponsored
Sponsored
A yogurt shop inside a storefront originally built for a restaurant likely called The Leaning Tower of Pizza

The oddball structure sure does catch the eye, all the way down to its rounded storefront. Even the cash-only counter inside the shop is round, like the hub of a wheel. A wheel that has cycled through successive generations of loyal customers. My wife spent a lot of time as a teenager, and now her kids will as well.

If I worried that this yogurt shop was all flash, no substance, I needn’t have. The yogurt proved preternaturally creamy. Each of the ten daily flavors on the menu (out of more than 60 in rotation) gets a notation declaring it nonfat, lowfat, or in one case I spotted, lactose-free. You can order one or two flavors poured into a plain cone ($4.75), or in five sizes of cup ranging to a “large with lid” ($10.85) or an even larger large, with yogurt stacked high above the rim ($11.80). If not poured carefully, I imagine that might emulate the building’s lean.

A round yogurt counter, inside a round building

My wife went for her high school usual: vanilla with hot fudge, in a “baby” cup ($5.30 in 2023 dollars). Given there are more photogenic desserts than frozen yogurt in a wafer cone or Styrofoam cup, I went a different direction, ordering my first ever frozen yogurt banana split. For $11, that gave me a chance to try three flavors of yogurt, loaded with three toppings. Available toppings ranged from fruit and nuts to all manner of candies and every color of sprinkles, and it may be worth noting that my server poured the yogurt before I selected my toppings. Whether or not he intended it, this kept me from taking a half hour to deliberate.

For flavors, I chose vanilla (nonfat), chocolate (lowfat), and raspberry (nonfat, sugarfree), and before these melted I chose candied strawberries, dark chocolate chips, and crushed peanuts as toppings. I dug in, imagining the chocolate would taste better than the nonfat and sugar free options, but by my third bite I forgot all about any distinctions, and simply enjoyed the ride. Ice cream who?

To be honest, I didn’t know that frozen yogurt was even a thing in the 1970s, but if The Yogurt Mill has been defying expectations like this since day one, then no wonder it’s endured.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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