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Restaurants / Openings

New Tex-Mex Yogurt Shop Shakes Up Bishop Arts Scene With Unique Flavors and Old School Love

Retired Real Estate Developer Goes Back to His Busboy Roots, Becomes a Dessert Entrepreneur

BY // 02.01.19

Ralph Isenberg, a retired real estate developer, decided to open YaYa Best Tex Mex Yogurt in Bishop Arts in the most unlikely month to open a frozen yogurt shop — December. The shop, located at 408 N. Bishop Avenue, went on to hold its official grand opening this week to promote its unique Tex-Mex spin on frozen yogurt flavors.

I figured that this would be the best time to go try out some Jalapeno and Homemade Horchata fro yo for the first time. After Isenberg was told over and over again couldn’t be done, he concocted a great Jalapeno flavor. The yogurt is vanilla based with citrus accents. YaYa uses dairy plus fruit purees to make its flavors.

All of Isenberg’s individually mixed flavors are now trademarked. Grandpapa Chocolate is a yummy Mexican chocolate flavor that combines Honey Hill Triple Chocolate, Nestle Abuelita, spices and malted milk. Chamoy Passion is a unique mix of Perfect Puree Passion Colada (passion fruit, coconut and pineapple), Chamoy right out of the bottle, Monin Desert Pear, Guava and Pineapple Chipotle. There’s also Veracruz Vanilla Bean, Strawberry Hibiscus, Aztec Coffee Blend and Tamarind.

Non-dairy flavors include Mango, Non-Dairy Coconut Milk and what will be called Corny Corn, which is a fro yo twist on elote. For $6.95, the corn yogurt is mixed with slightly frozen corn kernels, Salvadorian sour cream, cheese and spices. It’s then topped with red chili pepper and taco shell pieces.

Ralph Isenberg used to work in hotel and restaurant management, but had never done anything like ice cream mixology in the past. Being an Oak Cliff resident of more than 40 years and a regular consumer of frozen yogurt (Yogurtland was his favorite), Isenberg and his wife decided to open up a spot in Bishop Arts. But it couldn’t be a chain, that’s a landlord rule. Therefore a kind of boutique frozen yogurt experience was born.

Isenberg talks about YaYa’s as if he’s just going day by day, learning how to make his business thrive. He tells PaperCity: “It may have been my own naivety, but no one told me the rules. I broke the rules and did my own thing.”

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During our talk, he wore a classic Ice-Cream Man apron and a pair of comfortable brown shoes that his wife gave him after he first started working and was on his feet all of the time. He says that the best part of his day is putting on his comfy shoes in the morning.

The idea of “Tex-Mex Yogurt” was chosen by Ralph sort of on a whim. But there’s also some reasoning to it.

“I thought I could do something different,” Isenberg says. “Within three miles there’s a 65 percent Hispanic market concentration. There’s also a high concentration of education facilities.”

The shop aspires to attract a mix of people, including tourists and weekend foodie adventurers.

Isenberg explains how kids will come by after school and he loves making their day with a frozen treat. He also goes the extra mile for his customers.

“One day a group of kids came in,” Isenberg tells me. “Three of them wanted frozen yogurt. The other was crying because he wanted pie. So I went over to Emporium Pies and bought him a slice.”

Yogurt Without Borders

Another unique aspect of the shop is the diversity that YaYa’s strives for. There’s art all over the walls that expresses the union of American and Mexican cultures. The YaYa logo even includes the colors, red, white, green and blue to represent the U.S. and Mexico. One of the business’s hashtags is #yogurtwithoutborders.

YaYa’s has commissioned local artist Daniel Yanez to create a lot of their artwork. One of the coolest pieces is a large periodic table that includes images of the different yogurt flavors.

“My father was an organic chemist and professor,” Isenberg says. He attributes his natural mixology skills to him.

The cup art on the windows is also an idea that Isenberg wants to patent. For the holidays, he had Yanez put together a Christmas tree and Star of David out of frozen yogurt cups on the windows. There’s currently a design for MLK and a pig for Chinese New Year.

Isenberg aims to create the best experience for his customers and it really shows. He’s thought of everything. Plastic tasting cups with spoons are readily available so you don’t have to sample flavors by slurping it out of those tiny paper cups you usually find at fro yo places. He also has dividers you can place in your cup when sharing with a significant other or pal. So when you go out for Valentine’s Day, you avoid the fight of what flavor you want to share.

“I’m trying to anticipate all of the little things,” Isenberg says. “My biggest joy is that the role has reversed for me.”

At just 13 years old, this new yogurt entrepreneur worked as a busboy. He then got a job in hotel and restaurant management without a college degree. Not only that, he became the youngest manager at 20 years old.

“At 67 years old, this has rejuvenated me,” Isenberg says. “I love being back in the service business.”

YaYa Best Tex Mex Yogurt is open everyday from 11am to 10pm.

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