On your first visit to a Fruzion cafe, you may need to reset your expectations of a fruit cocktail. Here, it’s a mix of freshly cut fruits bathed in fresh juice with a choice of creamy and nutty toppings—a colorful medley that’s both substantial and refreshing.
Forget the soft and syrupy canned version of fruit cocktail. And don’t expect to find the makings of alcoholic mixed drinks here. With Fruzion, husband-wife owners Mike and Mary Yacoubian are reshaping notions of fruit cocktails to match the fresh and healthier version they know from their familial Lebanese-Armenian roots.
With an artful eye, Mary demonstrates an arrangement of fresh fruit ingredients in a tall glass mug that reveals the vibrant layers and swirls from a pour of juice. She crowns the overflowing cup with a dollop of cream or gelato, and then adds pistachios, almonds and honey.
You’re encouraged to customize your own combination of strawberries, mangos, bananas, pineapples, kiwis, or papayas. The juice choices include blends of several of the same fruits, plus an avocado-milk and a coconut-pineapple blend.
But for the indecisive, the expansive pictorial menu wall at Fruzion includes many helpful suggestions. The top selling cocktail bears the cafe’s namesake, Fruzion, mixing all the fruits with a strawberry-banana juice.
Whatever your mix, you can give your fruit cocktail a Lebanese finish by getting it topped with a cream called ashta. Commonly used in Middle Eastern desserts as a custardy filling, ashta offers a neutral milky flavor with a mouthfeel similar to ricotta. It brings a smoothness that contrasts the bulky bites of fruit, and since Fruzion makes ashta without sugar, it’s sweetened with a drizzling of traditional honey or rosewater syrup.
Other options to add creaminess to your concoction include whipped cream, gelato, or even ripe avocado as a vegan option. “We cater to a large vegan population, so we can do just fresh juices with sorbet,“ Mary said. The interplay of creaminess with plump fruit and crunchy nuts creates a satisfying symphony for your mouth. Unlike a fruit cup or smoothie, the fruit cocktail is a desserty treat that allows distinct flavors and textures to mingle for a different taste experience in each bite.
If your ice cream cravings overrule your fruity intentions, Fruzion also offers an inverse preparation: ice cream cocktails with a gelato base and fruit toppings. Among the nearly 20 gelato or sorbet flavors on display, ashta gelato is a popular pick.
“That’s our specialty. And if you noticed in the gelato case, that’s the one we have the least of. We sell out,” said Mary, adding fondly that she remembers her father giving her ashta ice cream with crushed pistachios as a child.
Where Mike grew up in Montreal, Canada, fruit cocktail shops have hooked customers well beyond the large Lebanese community. When the Yacoubian family settled in Los Angeles where Mary grew up, they realized an opportunity to popularize the concept here. Even without a background in the restaurant business, they ambitiously opened a location in Chatsworth three years ago and a second location in Glendale shortly after.
Beyond the fruit cocktails and gelatos, Fruzion also assembles made-to-order crepes and Belgian waffles with your choice of ingredients. “We customize all orders to fit the customer, whether it be for taste or dietary needs,” Mary said.
The crepes have been a particularly strong draw for Fruzion, adding even more versatility to the menu with sweet or savory fixings. Crepe orders come together swiftly, using a wooden spreader to lay an even coat of batter across the wide circular surface of a specialty crepe griddle. Within moments, the crepe is deftly flipped with a turner, then transferred to a plate for accessorizing.
The nearly 16-inch diameter of the crepe gives Fruzion plenty of room play with different folding techniques. Some crepes wrap around the fillings on three sides and others are folded into layers, creating a bed of pastry for ingredients to be piled on top. Though the crepe looks deceptively thin and delicate, the ample folds give it a heftier chew that makes for a filling meal. Couples may even find a single crepe order ideal for plate-sharing.
“Our portions are huge, so they normally feed approximately two,” said Mary.
Crepes and waffles can be stuffed or topped with fruit, ashta, gelato, or savory ingredients such as ham and cheese. The top seller on the menu is the Juliette, filled with Nutella, strawberries and bananas. Since Nutella is the most requested filling, even for custom orders, Fruzion goes through several dozens of 7-pound buckets each week.
To diversify your palate, you can try some of Fruzion’s culturally inspired options. The Yerevan crepe reflects the Yacoubians’ own Lebanese-Armenian heritage, filled with a thick, spreadable yogurt (lebni) and seasoned cured beef (basturma). The 1001 Nights crepe was influenced by Middle Eastern stuffed pancakes known as atayef, which are filled with cream and nuts. Likewise, Fruzion’s crepe is topped with a mound of ashta and covered with chopped pistachios and peeled almonds, while fruits and honey or rosewater syrup add sweetness. And the Latin-inspired Mango Tajin fruit and gelato cup has the red chili Mexican seasoning sprinkled over fresh mango and mango gelato.
The vastness of the menu speaks to the endless custom possibilities of “fruit creations,” a description that Mike and Mary combined to come up with the name Fruzion. Still, there are more available items that aren’t yet displayed on the menu. Feel free to ask about their chocolate-dipped fruit, “sushi” crepes (wrapped around fruit instead of fish), and waffles on a stick. You can also get toppings of Lotus biscuits and cookie spread or Kinder chocolate spread, products that are well known in Europe and the Middle East.
“We listen to our customers,” Mary explained. “If we get requests, we try and offer it.”
In addition to the 56 menu choices spread across the wall above the cash registers, the available combinations are enough to feed you day or night. In fact, Fruzion’s busiest hours are after 8pm, particularly on the weekends when they’re open till midnight. While the Glendale and the Chatsworth locations offer the same menus, the Chatsworth shop also features an outdoor patio with a string of lights for late nights. For updates on special menu items, check out Fruzion’s Twitter and Instagram pages.