Supporting local donuts during the pandemic

Donuts

Most of our local independent donut shops are small businesses. Some have been around for a long time, while others are just getting off the ground. Some had just opened or expanded before the COVID-19 pandemic, and are struggling.

No matter their history, local donut businesses rely on foot traffic for either their whole business or a big part of it, and that is being affected right now. Also, most of these companies employ hourly workers, whose hours or entire employment might be threatened by the decrease in business.

However, most local shops now have online ordering, delivery and even gift cards, which you can use to help them stay afloat during this time. If you’re not comfortable with pickup or delivery, a gift card provides revenue to the business now, and you can use the card later. I put together a collection of links below – if I missed any, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them.

New York City

Westchester, NY

Road trip: Honey Dew Donuts – Mansfield, MA

Honey Dew Donuts

Last weekend, I was traveling for a family event and stopped off at Honey Dew Donuts in Mansfield, MA. I learned that it’s actually a chain (corporate and franchise) localized in New England, with 145 locations from Rhode Island to New Hampshire.

The idea of a “local chain” isn’t that common in the donut world anymore – while we have a few chains in NYC, most donut shops today are either ultra-local (single location) or national (Dunkin’, Krispy Kreme, etc.) – so it was cool to check out Honey Dew.

The Honey Dew experience felt like Dunkin’ with nice upgrades built in – the customer service was ultra-friendly and helpful and the donuts themselves were much higher quality. I wanted to try a bunch of different flavors, so I got a dozen, and I asked the employee helping me for recommendations. She was more than happy to assist, and reminded me that anyone getting a dozen donuts in Massachusetts better not forget a Boston Cream. And when their signature “Mansfield” donut was sold out, she gave us the last three donut hole versions instead.

I tried a bunch of flavors, and my favorites were the Chocolate Honey Dip, Blueberry Cake (I always try blueberry) and Cinnamon powdered. The first two reminded me of the Peter Pan/Donut Pub style (deep fried plus sweet glaze), but on the lighter side, while the Cinnamon was my favorite. It was super light and almost refreshing.

Overall, it was great to support a business like Honey Dew that has been going for so long and has had success with the multi-location regional model. I’ll definitely be back.

MAD Donuts grand opening – White Plains, NY

MAD Donuts

I was lucky enough to stop by the grand opening of MAD Donuts in Westchester Mall yesterday, and I was so happy for owner Matt and his family. While NYC is flush with gourmet and specialty donut shops, we are desperately thin where I live in the northern suburbs, so it’s exciting to have MAD open and changing that.

Matt and team did a great job on the aesthetics of the shop – it’s bright white inside and welcoming. The location is also prime, near a corner on the Retail 3 level across from the few chain eateries remaining now that the 4th floor “Savor” food court is open.

I knew I had to try the apple fritter, which is so big that it gets its own display case. I decided to stick with the Fall flavors theme and pair that with the caramel apple cider.

Apple fritter and caramel apple cider from MAD Donuts in White Plains, NY

Other flavor options on opening day included pumpkin pie, cranberry iced, vanilla bean glazed, chocolate iced, PB&J, lemon meringue and brown sugar custard.

The apple fritter deserves the attention and press it’s been getting – the flavor balance and texture are awesome. You get a crunchy exterior, a touch of sweet with the vanilla and cinnamon icing, then a fun interior with soft apple bits and the classic yeast donut dough. The caramel apple cider also was great – not too sweet, which I really appreciate, with great apple flavor. The two together were a great pairing.

Scores: Apple fritter – 10/10; Apple cider caramel – 9/10

I am so pumped that MAD is open, and so happy to support a local small business owner where I live. You can follow MAD Donuts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Dunkin’ Apple Cider donuts

DD apple cider

If you can find these, they are fine. Oddly, they were sold out where I live for most of the past few months, and now Dunkin’ has pivoted to their Halloween specialty donuts, which I expect sell much better than apple cider. I was able to find the donut (not hole) version a few times, and they are a traditional cinnamon sugar donut with a light apple flavor. Interestingly, the cinnamon donut from the normal Dunkin’ menu is more of a cinnamon powder style, so this apple cider take is a nice variation. Pretty good and definitely worth buying if they have them, but not worth hunting for.

Dunkin’ Fall lineup blog post

Score: 7/10

Seeking local donuts

Whenever I travel, I try to find a local donut shop to check out. As I wrote about last time, they can be hard to find. Sometimes that’s because Dunkin’ dominates and there really aren’t local options; other times, it’s because they are tucked away.

I recently visited Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is generally dominated by Dunkin’ and a local chain called Honey Dew. However, I got lucky a few years ago when I discovered Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery, where they make classic donut flavors like cinnamon sugar (below), old fashioned, chocolate-iced and Boston creme. Getting a large iced coffee and a truly fresh, homemade donut, then sitting on the picnic tables outside, is an incredible way to start the day.

Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery

This past weekend, I decided to go on another donut trek, this time about 30 minutes north of where I live, to Peekskill, NY. There, tucked into the ground floor of the Peekskill Brewery, is Peaceful Provisions, a tiny outpost for small-batch donuts. From the outside of the brewery, you would never know there is a donut shop inside. But once there, I loved their small, yet impressive selection of donuts, which were mostly filled creations like their special maple pecan donut filled with cherry compote.

Both of these experiences were so awesome, but I had to seek out these locations and really explore to find them. Local donuts definitely exist, but they are not always obvious or easy to find. These spots may not have big signs, ad campaigns or locations in every rest stop on the highway. But when you track them down, they are pretty special.

Donuts in the suburbs

I don’t live in NYC anymore – I am very much in the northern NY suburbs. What that means is my donut home life looks like this:

Bottom line – the options are limited. A few years ago, I felt very lucky to benefit from a deal that Dough did with Whole Foods stores in my area, which meant I could get some of their “beasts of yeast” along with my weekly groceries.

What’s interesting is that the NYC suburbs have proven to “work” for donuts – Boxer Donut in Nyack, NY and Glaze Donuts in New Jersey have shown that. But for some reason, my area lacks independent donut shops, and the big NYC donut brands have resisted moving north outside of those wholesale deals.

Word on the street is that we are getting a Duck Donuts in Mamaroneck, NY soon. Duck is a national franchise chain, so not quite the same as the incredible independent brands we have in NYC, but at least it will mix things up a bit.

Tradition over quality

When I was younger (I think around 10 years old), my Dad would go to a local bakery every Sunday morning to get donuts. It was always a dozen in a white cardboard box, and the two flavors I remember the most were chocolate frosted and jelly. I don’t know if they were high-quality, artisanal or good at all – I just knew that it was a tradition we did every Sunday that brought members of the family together.

Now, every Saturday morning, I have a similar tradition with my daughter. And even though I’ve had some of the best donuts in the world by working in New York City, we go to Dunkin’ Donuts. Why? It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s a tradition. Her favorite flavor is Boston Kreme, although she can be tempted by a seasonal flavor. I usually go with a classic jelly or sometimes a coffee roll if I want something more hearty. Are they the best-tasting donuts? Nope! But in this case, it’s not about having the best. It’s about the tradition of being together, of chatting in line, of discovering the latest seasonal flavor. It’s about how donuts can bring family members together.