When it comes to running a business, brand reputation and overall experience are as important as the product itself. A donut may be a 10/10, but if the service and experience are poor, that can almost be more memorable than the taste.
In the case of our quest, we look beyond the donut itself and towards the experience and service that comes along with each store and location. Earlier this year, I was on a trek through the Eastern Hemisphere and made sure to stop for donuts at every city along the way. When I arrived in Seoul, South Korea, I found a shop called Old Ferry Donuts. Their aesthetics were sharp, clean, and modern and their donuts were large, yeast-filled concoctions of pure bliss (I had a tiramisu and a peanut butter on my visit which you can see at the top of this post). For a token of my travels, I looked to see if the shop had anything for sale that I could take home and when I saw the staff all had on matching shirts, I asked if one was available for purchase. Unfortunately they were sold out so I settled for a tote bag instead. As I was leaving, a woman ran up to me and handed me one of their branded take-away boxes and some of their stickers as a sign of gratitude and as an apology for not having what I actually wanted to buy. It was such a kind gesture that made me feel excited and acknowledged as a customer who had traveled a long way to their store. I followed their Instagram account and still like their photos with a fond memory of their delicious donuts and cheery customer service.
Recently, I saw a post that showed their shirts had once again become available for sale. I messaged them on Instagram and asked if they would be able to mail one to me in New York. They told me that the shirts would be available soon and if I reached back out in a month, I could order one. I thanked them and told them about my visit earlier in the winter and much to my surprise they replied to let me know they remembered me and would let me know when they were ready for shipping. I sent them my name and address and when the shirts were ready, I got a package in the mail. As if that wasn’t enough, the package not only had the shirt, but more stickers, and a hand-held fan with their custom artwork.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Jason on how to deliver world class customer support, but a lot of it comes down to his motto of “service wins.” A brand can totally capture and retain loyal customers through effective service with human touches. The odds of me being back in Seoul to visit Old Ferry Donuts any time soon are rather low, but I check their social media frequently and only have the best memories and feelings towards their staff and their business. I’ll be a fan of theirs for life and do my best to replicate this moment and quality interaction in my job for years to come.
Peter Pan Donuts and Pastry Shop is a Greenpoint, Brooklyn institution known for their classic aesthetics and old-time vibes.
Unlike so many other up and coming artisanal shops that you’ll read about on this blog, Peter Pan sticks with tradition and it’s apparent from the moment you walk in to the shop. Trays of hand-dipped donuts line the trays behind the counter and the entire staff wears matching diner-esque attire. In a shop where tradition is key, I keep things simple and at Peter Pan, that means the red velvet. Deep-fried and hand dipped in delicious glaze, it’s a classic that leaves no room for mistakes. On the inside, the dough is soft and moist, begging to be torn apart to eat in small bites or to be shared amongst friends. The chocolatey goodness is light and never intense, a classic donut in the truest sense of the term. It’s simple, basic, and totally delicious. A staple that should be in ever rotation.
Chocolate Caramel Brownie from Du’s Donuts is a high-concept cake donut from the mastermind Wylie Dufresne.
A rather new player in the scene, Dufresne’s chic shop is a sleek, cash-only spot located in Williamsburg’s luxury William Vale Hotel and the donuts served up are not your averaged fried-up treat. Dufresne puts the same amount of hard work and science into these tasty treats as he does his other culinary creations and the passion comes through in each bite. The Chocolate Caramel Brownie is a rich experience, full of mouth-watering flavors in each bite. The dense cake is topped with crumbled brownie bits and drizzled in delectable caramel which results in an intense, but deeply satisfying treat. This is no light treat, but almost a full meal on its own.
The Black Gold (aka Brownie Batter) is a classic yeast donut and one of the regulars from The Doughnut Project
Doughnut Project serves up some of the best yeast donuts in the city. Their particular brand is a light and airy mix that feels both satisfying, but not quite too overpowering like some others in this variety. Taking a basic vanilla flavor of dough and topping it with rich, delicious chocolate and sea slat makes for a perfect combination. In addition to the molten chocolatey goodness, the treat is also topped with dark chocolate cookie crumbs and a dash of sea salt which heightens the flavor and takes it a step beyond your classic chocolate frosted donut. Despite the rather large size, the donut is perfectly delightful and hits the spot without leaving you too full – a perfect start to the day or late afternoon snack.
The Carrot Cake donut is a standard filled donut at Doughnut Plant.
Doughnut Plant has a wide range of classic cake and filled cake donuts which they’ve been churning out since the mid 90s. Carrot Cake, a rich, dense carrot cake donut with cream cheese filling, is not only a supreme example of such donut, but showcases their ability to combine remarkable texture with a delectable filling for an artisanal creation that is just as traditional as it is exploratory. The vanilla glaze, with bits of walnuts and carrots, pairs brilliantly with the slight spice of the cake which changes things up from the traditional vanilla or chocolate than tend to dominate the scene. It’s daring enough for one looking to expand their palette and still not a stretch beyond a modern classic.
The Strawberry Cake donut is the May 2019 Flavor of the Month at Doughnut Plant.
Like Doughnut Plant’s signature cake donut, the Strawberry is dense and moist. A darker cake makes up the body and gives a subtle and delectable taste, but with just a hint of the fruit flavor. The icing was a bit crunchy and flaked off by the time I got it out of the wax paper wrapping, but I appreciated the lightness in flavor. Not at all overwhelming, it actually left me hoping for something a bit more intense. Unlike some of their other classics, I didn’t see any actual use of the fruit in the donut which may have led to the lack of total flavor. Still, the consistency and texture was fantastic and satiating.
We’re two dudes who are passionate about donuts. So passionate that for the last year, we’ve made it a weekly tradition to try new flavors and old favorites from the best places in NYC. Now, we’re sharing our discoveries with you! Every week, we’ll share updates on the best donuts from NYC and beyond for your reading (and future eating) pleasure.