It’s hard to beat a classic and not only is Peter Pan one of the best classic donut shops in the city, but serving up a Fall classic flavor like Apple Cider is one of the most perfect pairings.
The outer surface is covered in a hard sugary glaze, a perfect protection for the inner deliciousness that is filled with a rich flavor. The dough is soft and chewy, a perfect setting for the delectable taste that comes with every bite. Slightly over-fried, there is a small crunch from the sugary coating giving a nice, contrasting texture to the softness inside which holds the real flavor of the donut. This is about as classic as it gets and for a New Yorker, it can save a trip to a farm stand where you might be able to snag a warm, fresh version one of these guys, but from a city standpoint, it doesn’t get much better than this. Peter Pan isn’t doing this “for the ‘gram” and their donuts aren’t always the most attractive visually, but their imperfections are what make them so wonderful. These are hand crafted and made with love, not churned out via machine in mass quantities and the old-school vibes add a certain something that makes them so special. It’s a perfect glazed donut that unveils itself with each bite, never overpowering and always perfectly subtle.
With a new season comes a new menu from Brooklyn’s Du’s Doughnuts and like so many other shops around the city, they’re embracing Autumn with apple goodness.
While so many others are serving up their best version of some kind of Apple Cider / Cinnamon / Sugar concoction, Du’s has also rolled out their take on Caramel Apple. It’s an immediate attention grabber on looks alone. Covered in an almost neon green glaze with a caramel drizzle, this one is hard to miss upon first glance and is a cool, creative take on the farm stand staple. The vanilla cake is a subtle base for this treat, but the real flavor lies in that vibrant green frosting. The incredibly sweet shell knocks out any other taste that comes along, as an almost pure, candied sensation rushes over your tastebuds. The green apple taste is similar to hard candy and an extra tang sticks around for a bit of an aftertaste. There’s a little crunch sprinkled on top as well for some extra texture. Overall it’s a tad aggressive and while it will certainly satisfy the most extreme sweet-tooth it may be a bit much for the average consumer.
These days, Pumpkin has become the ubiquitous flavor of Fall to (in my opinion), an unhealthy degree. Whether it’s beer, bread, or the spiced latte, the festive gourd seems to be the official flavor for any food this time of year. However, the dudes from Donut Club are firm believers that if you’re in the North East, Apple is still the apex of Autumn and with that, we’re presenting the best in the region starting with Dough’s Apple Glaze.
Properly displayed as Apple Glaze with wildflower honey and almond streusel, this is of course another one of Dough’s monstrous creations. As is typical, the donut is a very heavy yeast variety, massive in size, but not necessarily in taste. The apple glaze is sweet and refreshing, a perfect fall pick-me-up, and the almond streusel gives it a bit of a cream cheese-y taste which is complemented nicely by the wildflower honey. While the gooey frosting really carries the entire flavor of the donut, the sheer volume of the treat is still a bit over-powering. Eating one whole donut from Dough still feels like an accomplishment and their seasonal offerings never veer from their classics. The taste of the Apple Glaze screams “perfect fall dessert” and while I still think it’s not to be missed, the overall result feels like a traditional Dough donut: big on texture and freshness, but just a bit short in flavor.
Doughnut Plant has spent 2019 celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary with monthly specials ranging from Black Sesame and Yuzu to Pumpkin Seed and Apple Cinnamon. In addition to these seasonal surprises, the local legend has introduced a brand new creation: the sourdough doughnut, aka the sourdoughnut, a six year in the making creation and a cool new addition to their cake and standard yeast offerings.
Flavors of the sourdoughnut range from Orange to Pistachio to Cacio de Pepe to Dark Chocolate, the later being the one I opted for on my first tasting. The sourdough brings to the table a light, airy option that doesn’t carry the intensity of their impeccable cake masterpieces and provides a nice alternative to the standard yeast donuts. The fried, crispy exterior is wonderfully flakey and the natural yeast provides a noice moisture and richness that takes over every bite. There is a subtle taste that is just, well, sour enough to make the flavor linger just a bit longer than your typical donut giving it a unique, fresh finish, perhaps best washed down with some strong coffee. Covered in a bold glaze frosting, the dark chocolate is a bit overpowering and while it’s large in size, it’s not too heavy and a rather satisfying serving. In a scene dominated by two major varieties, it’s cool to see a new direction for donuts and obviously pleasing to see it done from true masters of their craft. While it doesn’t outrank its predecessor and isn’t going to become my new go-to, it’s a fun new addition to some of the best in the game.
Yes, the blog is Donut Club NYC, but the tagline reads “two dudes on a quest for every donut in NYC (and beyond)” so I’m happy to be writing our first ever non-NYC entry. Federal Donuts is a Philadelphia joint that specializes in Fried Chicken and Donuts (a killer combo) and has a few locations across the city.
On the donut side, they specialize in two things: “Hot Fresh” and “Fancy.” Your “Hot Fresh” donuts are flash fried and then covered in an assortment of sugar. They’re, as you’d expect, hot and incredibly delicious as they’re made to order. The “Fancy” variety is more of your traditional cake donuts with intriguing flavors. On my first visit, I opted for a few, but the Mississippi Mud is the one that will be featured here. It’s a dense cake donut that make your mouth immediately swell with saliva on first bite and it’s covered it rich cookie and peanut crumble giving it even more flavor. The chocolate here is over powering and each bite seems to become more and more sensational, the flavor somehow heightening with each mouthful. There’s an added dark chocolate drizzle underneath the cookie crumble so the chocolate overload on this one is no joke and certainly not for someone looking for a light treat. Still, despite the intensity of the donut, it’s fresh and moist which really helps the texture and is what stops the donut from becoming too much of a good thing.
The Salted Caramel Pecan is a wonderful vegan donut from the masters of Dun-Well Doughnuts in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Falling below the radar of the monstrous Dough donut, Dun-Well has become a low-key player in the yeast donut scene with a second location on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan as well as distributing to Whole Foods in Williamsburg and other various locations. Their donuts are made up of light, fluffy consistency and they’re not nearly as overwhelming as some of their larger counterparts. So what truly separates them from the rest? Not only are their donuts some of my personal favorites in the city, but they’re vegan too. The Salted Caramel Pecan is a regular on the store’s rotation and it’s an underrated gem on the menu. Covered in a sticky frosted glaze, the caramel is buttery and sweet, melting right into your mouth and it’s topped off perfectly with pecan crumbs that give the treat an added crunch. These are sweet and mighty concoctions, but they’re perfectly sized to be filling, not stuffing. The light, airy dough is wonderfully flakey, chewy, an incredible consistency that still feels small batched and not overproduced. It has a classic-style taste, fresh and delicious and fits the old-school vibes of the shop’s interior and vintage charm.
As I mentioned in my last post, there is a great debate amongst donut aficionados as to whether cake or yeast donuts are the superior form. I still plan to weigh in on that topic in a future post, but first I’m going to review the latest from Du’s Donuts, a formerly cake exclusive establishment that just released their first yeast creation: Peach Cobbler.
When it comes to yeast donuts, nothing comes close to the mass of a legendary Dough donut, but Du’s is knocking at the door with their latest endeavor. Almost double the size of their original cake styles, their yeast donut is surprisingly dense with hardly any air pockets, a characteristic that feels pretty standard for the yeast variety, making each bite full of chewy goodness. The dough itself is a pretty standard vanilla base that is moist and rich with texture which actually gives it more of a cake-y feel and has much more chew to it than I had expected. The air-y nature of most yeast donuts was nowhere to be found on Du’s version, but nevertheless it was perfectly fresh and the absence of a sticky glaze helped lighten the load. The peach frosting and cobbler crumble on top gave the donut its burst of flavor, the fresh fruit making it a perfect late-summer snack, adding to the refreshing nature of the treat. While Du’s cake donuts are dense and pack a punch in terms of texture and mighty flavors, the yeast donut was a bit of a different affair, one focused mostly on the dough and less on the flavor.
On a recent weekend donut trip outside of the city, Jason told a friend of ours that Boston Creme was my “Suburbs order.” In the city, I’m all about the fun, experimental flavors, but when I’m in the Suburbs, there’s nothing better than a classic glaze or filled donut. This got me thinking about my passion for donuts and how they began with my love for a classic (being from Massachusetts, this means a loyalty to Dunkin’ Donuts), but have evolved into a love for craft donuts.
Jason previously wrote about Tradition over quality and that certainly speaks to how I grew up. However, once I moved to New York, that quickly changed. Like many desserts and sweet treat trends, craft donuts have been a recent hit across the city popping up alongside many staples and classics from coffee shops and diners to hole-in-the-wall (pun intended) shops remaining from grittier days of the city’s past. For many, a classic could be anything from Dunkin’ and Krispy Kreme to Donut Delight or landmark city locations like Peter Pan or Donut Pub. Classics entail a deep-fried dough covered in a sweet and sugary glaze or chewy, yeasty donut injected with jelly or cream.
When work brings us downtown, Jason and I often meet up at the Pub for a quick classic to start the day, but we regularly try the flavors of the month from our favorite spot, Doughnut Plant, which falls into the craft category. By now, artisanal, craft food is nothing new to the city and world-class donuts exist around the world, not just in the United States. Still, New York City is home to some of the best variety of craft donuts and going on adventures to try the latest creations was a huge inspiration to starting this blog. Now, craft vs. classic isn’t the same debate as cake vs. yeast (I’ll save that for another post) because in my opinion, there are great opportunities for both options. In the city, it’s hard for me to say no to all of the wild inventions that some of these shops create, but going back to the comment that sparked the idea for this post, there are times when a classic hits the spot. Luckily, I live in a place where both are widely available and I’m not too often forced to make a choice, but more often than not, I’m trying craft selections from my favorite joints across the city. Truth be told, however, Dun-Well Doughnuts might be the best middle ground donut in the city and they’re only a few blocks from my apartment, so really, I’m often consuming the best of both worlds (they’re vegan too)!
So yes, these days my donut consumption is mostly comprised of some of the cities finest, artisan concoctions from the likes of Doughnut Plant, Doughnut Project, and Du’s, but craft donuts help keep the inspiration for the review section alive. Still, while craft might be the top contender now, I will always hold a special place in my heart for something that reminds me of the past. Getting to share both with my friend is truly the best.
Located right on the border of Williamsburg and Bushwick sits Win Son, a Taiwanese-American restaurant that since opening in 2016, has slowly been gaining notoriety as one of the borough’s (and probably the city’s) best new places to eat. Their exquisite selection of home-style cooked food is a must try for brunch and dinner a like and there isn’t a thing on the menu I wouldn’t recommend. So, when it was announced last summer that Win Son would be opening a bakery across the street from their restaurant, my mouth began to salivate. Fast forward to today. The bakery still hasn’t opened (originally it was scheduled for February 2019), but with the summer has come a “soft-opening” on Sunday mornings at 11:00 AM featuring their first samples: sweet potato soft serve and, you guessed it, donuts! Black sesame mochi donuts to be exact. They also have a full espresso bar serving up Variety Coffee.
As you may have gathered from reading this blog so far, mochi and savory donuts aren’t generally the treats that Jason and I tend to eye, but when your favorite neighborhood joint makes a donut, you’ll try it.
Last week, their selection sold out rather fast, so I made sure to get in line just before they opened as to not miss out on these sweet rounds. As the line stretched down the block, I made my way into the shop, which is clearly in its final stages of preparation (brown paper still covers many of the windows and the whole place still had that new smell mystique), and ordered my mochi donut (currently sold for $2). Served hot and fresh out of the oven, it tasted like the best fried dough I’ve ever had. Covered in powdered sugar, the mochi gives it some extra chew and the black sesame is barely present, only adding a slight, subtle flavor that gives the donut just a little boost. Unlike so many other donuts across the city, this was a perfect breakfast treat that still left me with an appetite. Paired perfectly with strong cold brew or some powerful espresso, it’s the perfect snack to pick up on the way to work or to hold you over while you wait for a seat across the street. When they officially open in a few weeks, you better believe I’ll be back in line to see what other magical pastries these chefs can whip-up and if the rest of their menu is anywhere near as good as this donut, they’ll be near impossible to resist.
The Donut Pub on 14th and 7th has long been a New York donut institution. Since opening in 1964, this 24/7 establishment has been serving up some of the city’s finest “classic” style donuts. In other words, they’ve been around long before the craft donut craze and their simple treats are still some of the best the city has to offer.
On the inside, the 14th street location has an old-school diner vibe. Racks upon racks of donuts line the fluorescent lit store and counter seats flank the length of the shop giving diners an up close and personal experience with the servers who continuously bring out fresh donuts throughout the day. Everything here is pretty basic from the donuts to the coffee and even the breakfast sandwiches that someone must still order. It’s a bit of a time warp, but that is what gives it its charm. Everything here looks like it’s been this way for decades and while the flavors have stepped up a bit (they offer their own version of the cronut, simply called “croissant donuts”), the shop still has that old New York essence.
Earlier this Summer, however, Donut Pub did something they haven’t done in their fifty-plus years of operation. They opened a second location. Located just off Astor Place, their “downtown” location is almost an exact replica of their classic establishment, but with an apparent upgrade. The layout is the same and so are the donuts, but everything downtown has a whole new shine. The walls are sparkling white and not a faded yellow, the neon glows with classic, bright colors (hitting that sweet spot of nostalgia, but still cool), and the walls are adorned with pleasing visuals. Walls of ceramic donuts line the store giving it a cutting new-edge feel.
The new spot doesn’t have the same character as its older brother and it doesn’t have that same old spirit, but when the donuts are the same and as good as ever, it’s hard to not still feel excited. Having survived for decades on customer loyalty and simple, honest to goodness donuts, it’s nice to have another spot to pick up these wonderful delights and if the new freshness isn’t quite your thing, you can always fall back to the classic, and when you’re there, grab a marble, blueberry, or red velvet glaze. You won’t regret it.