I miss visiting donut shops. Something I took for granted even as things began to change here in New York City. Going to grab a sweet treat on a long walk didn’t seem like something that was about to vanish from my already changing routine and it’s something I miss greatly. As more and more of my local favorites shutter their doors for the foreseeable future, things are feeling a bit bleak. Yes, there are still places open for delivery and I’ve been doing my best to support places around the city, but I miss stopping by and saying hello. I miss the friendly faces and fresh aromas. So, on a gorgeous Saturday morning, I braved the outdoors and walked a few blocks to my long-time staple, Dun-Well Doughnuts.
Inside, their tables have been removed and the counter is now covered in plexiglass with a small opening for monetary transactions (I used Apple Pay to avoid all contact) and a larger one for the staff to handout the orders. With three markers designated for patrons to stand, the vibe inside was not cheery and welcoming like it had been in the past, but rather strict and anxious. The staff was obviously thrilled for customers and greeted me warmly, but it was clear everyone was trying to minimize all interactions (verbal included). I was excited to see my go-to spot, get some face time with their lovely selection, and order my usuals while the option still existed. Exotic flavors escaped the menu this weekend, but standards like Blueberry, Lemon Poppy, Maple, and French Toast still hit the spot! Options are slim and supplies are certainly limited, but if you’re in the neighborhood and adventurous enough to escape your apartment, Dun-Well’s doors are still open and their delectable vegan treats might somehow taste even better now than ever before.
It’s a tough time for New York and our food industry is taking a particularly hard hit through this crisis. My options are slim, but my passion prevails. Thank you for being open, Dun-Well. I’ll keep stopping by as long as you’re around and open for business.
It’s hard to argue that there are better classic donut shops in all of New York City than Peter Pan’s Donut & Pastry Shop in Greenpoint. The neighborhood landmark has been an institution long before the hipsters made their way north of Williamsburg and the iconic fixture has since become a touchstone for many and that which others will be measured against forever.
Last weekend, two friends dropped off a box of Peter Pan donuts on the front steps of my apartment building (truly the next level of friendship during a pandemic) and my roommate and I devoured them throughout the day. While all of these donuts were lovely, the red velvet holds a special place in my heart (as I’ve previously mentioned) and during a pandemic, it seemed to taste even better than I remembered. The white cardboard box was neatly tied-up with a red string, but otherwise it was plain as could be, not a single piece of branding to be seen. Their old school aesthetics carry-on beyond their shabby interior (brilliant mint greens and other pastels giving it a retro-diner charm) and their simple donuts let their taste do all the talking. No need to dazzle with looks here, these simple, glazed treats are rich in taste and perfectly sweet (best cut with a strong black coffee). The cake donuts are soft and chewy and the yeast was light, fluffy, and just a tab bit sticky. While many other shops have popped up over the years, Peter Pan’s has never felt the need to try and fit in with these chic new stores. Look to their website for further proof that they’re in no way interested in the latest trends, but rather stick to the classics they’ve been creating for decades. In a neighborhood (and city) where changes are a part of every day life, there is a solace in the everlasting glory of this crown jewel.
As Jason and I have said over the past few weeks, local businesses need our support more than ever and donut shops are no exclusion. While many of our favorites have had to stop operations for the time being, a few spots in the city are still open for business.
Moe’s Doughs, located in Greenpoint, is known by many for their rivalry with neighborhood legend Peter Pan, but their tasty creations are well worth a visit and since many others have struggled to stay open, it felt exciting to support a business that is not part of my usual rotation. I went big for my order and got six specialty donuts delivered to my apartment. Samoa, Salted Caramel, Rainbow Cake, Snickers, Caramel Cheesecake, and Maple Bacon rounded out the order and each was more delectable than the last. Moe’s is a classic-style donut shop with light, fluffy yeast donuts that are perfectly fried and seriously sweet cake donuts that are dense to the core. There are traditional charms here much like Peter Pan and Donut Pub, but Moe’s takes the extravagance up a notch (and the sugar levels as well) making these truly dessert donuts and not so much a breakfast pastry. The Samoa tasted like a perfect replica of the Girl Scout cookie with flakes of coconut hitting the spot, the Salted Caramel exceptionally gooey, and the crispy crunch of the Maple Bacon brought splendid texture to the mix. Every one was wonderfully fresh, sticky, and a much needed sweet relief during such chaotic times.
As Jason previously noted, the COVID-19 pandemic is seriously impacting our local donut shops. In these times, I’m taking the most extreme cautions while still doing my best to support all my favorite spots and will continue to do so until this crisis is over.
For the time being, Doughnut Plant is still open for pick-up and delivery (no dine-in options) so this week I placed an ordered for my roommate and myself while we continued to work from home. In addition to some of my usual favorites, I added one of this month’s specials to the order; a fantastic Meyer Lemon and Poppy Seed available in both cake and yeast versions. Naturally, I opted for the cake and was wonderfully impressed by the chain’s latest creation. A perfectly tart sensation embodies the cake, without ever being too sweet or overpowering. As is customary with any Doughnut Plant cake donut, they go above and beyond with their batter and include key elements of the flavor throughout the cake itself. Poppy seeds are scattered not just in the glaze outside along some lemon zest, but in the treat itself giving the slightest crunch and a subtle injection of texture. It’s a light, refreshing treat, rich in flavor and satisfyingly moist.
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.
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.
Cereal and donuts. Two iconic fixtures of classic American breakfasts. On National Cereal Day, Dun-Well Doughnuts brought the two together in seven different combinations.
Peanut Butter Cap N Crunch, Cookie Crisp, Fruity Pebbles, Chocolate Cocoa Pebbles, Corn Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Muddy Buddy Pie adorned the line-up and they all met, if not exceeded expectations. The textures of the cereals in tandem with the soft, fluffy donuts themselves were quite the delight, flavors collaborating in the perfect fashion. If there is any fault to a Dun-Well donut, it’s that their frosting congeals in such a way that it shatters with every bite, often making it hard to fully capture the flavors so the Fruity Pebbles and Corn Flakes were a little much and not on the same level as the others. They were a bit of a messy ordeal, but every crumb was worth it. The Chocolate Cocoa Pebbles was delectable, the frosting was perfect and the crunch of the cereal felt the freshest of the bunch. The Peanut Butter Cap N Crunch was another great combo, but the Muddy Buddy Pie why the best of the heap. The pudding center and powdered sugar topping really took things to new heights. The chocolate and peanut butter combo mixed with Chex Mix was a true highlight and without question the best of the batch. Dun-Well is known for always throwing a twist into their classic, daily line-ups, but they really shine when they go all out like today and showcase their ability to go the extra step with their flavors without being too over the top.
I’ve written about my love for Donut Pub numerous times, but the iconic landmark always deserves attention. Located in prime Manhattan real estate, the 24/7 establishment is always great for a pit-stop to either kick-start your day, grab a mid-day bite, or a late-night snack and the Fruity Pebble donut is always an incredible choice.
Perfectly sweet vanilla icing covers the yeast donut and the bright, colorful cereal is a perfect crunchy topping that gives just a little extra flavor, but tons of new textures. It’s not as traditional as classic like Marble, Red Velvet, or even Boston Creme, however you cannot go wrong with this one. A long-time staple of the shop, it’s enough of a twist on a traditional donut without going overboard. The bright white icing lets the bold colors of the cereal really pop making it visually pleasing in addition to its fantastic taste. There’s nothing fancy with this one (no cereal milk frosting as an extra bonus), but sometimes you just need something to satisfy a sweet craving and the Fruity Pebbles does all that and more.
One of the newest editions to New York City’s growing donut shop population is The Dough Club, the city’s first Pon-de-Ring mochi donut shop. Located in Chinatown just off Canal St, the Dough Club specializes in the Japanese style that has been popularized around that country by their local Mr. Donut and uses fresh ingredients to serve up six unique flavors daily.
The shop itself is a small, narrow storefront with bright white paint and marble table on golden legs. It’s a clean, inviting space with a neon sign near the counter that reads “rollin in the dough” in brilliant pink. The donuts themselves are soft, light, and fluffy and the mochi gives them a nice, subtle chew. They’re also stunning to look at and like their sistershop next door, Taiyaki, these are some truly Instagramable donuts, but while they dominate in appearance, they lack in overall enjoyment. On my visit, I opted for the Purple Pebble, Miso Bacon, and the Cookies and Creme (I split them with a friend). In the pon-de-ring style, these donuts easily rip off into small, munchkin-esque balls that make them easy for sharing. The Purple Pebble had a nice sweetness and the added Fruity Pebble cereal gave it a solid crunch. The Miso Bacon really had a heavy smoked-meat flavor and not much sweetness as at all, a real savory treat that wasn’t my personal favorite. The Cookies and Creme was the most straight-forward of them all, the cookie adding some nice new texture to the dough’s light chew and overall was the most promising in flavor.
It’s nice to have a new style in town and not a rehash of the craft vs classic or cake vs yeast that exist in so many other shops.
Scores: Miso Bacon: 5/10 Purple Pebble: 6/10 Cookies and Creme: 6/10
For many, traveling is an incredible opportunity to see new parts of the world. You can explore cities, the museums, beaches, parks, and immerse yourself in the culture. For some, it’s also an opportunity to try the local cuisine and in my case, that means donuts. Last winter, I took some time off of work and ventured throughout the Eastern Hemisphere in search of donuts and records. The first stop along my journey was to Sydney Australia where I discovered Donut Papi, homemade donuts with classic and original flavors. Their shop is a quant little spot located on a not too busy corner in Redfern. A small glass case has the daily offerings and a few tables allow for a quick stop to munch down on these light and flakey treats. When I popped by the shop, I indulged in a Maple Bacon and Chocolate Hazelnut and I still stand by my claim that they’re some of the best I’ve ever had.
Last week, Donut Papi appeared on my Instagram promoting a tour through New York where they were tasting the best my city has to offer. Naturally, I reached out to Kenneth to get his take on his trip to NYC and the story behind Donut Papi.
How did Donut Papi get started? What’s the story? I started Donut Papi in 2015 as a hobby and started selling them to my colleagues and eventually got into markets and food festivals. My siblings always helps me, but my sister is very supportive and dedicated on helping me and eventually asked her if she wanted to be my business partner. From outgrowing our home kitchen, we found a commercial shared kitchen and worked there for almost two years and as we got busy with the markets, the kitchen got busier too and we found ourselves looking for a kitchen of our own. We decided to open a shop front as well with it and we are very happy with our decision.
How long has the store been around? Going three years this October!
Why did you come to New York? What inspired your trip? Before I started the shop, I follow bakeries and doughnut shops with strong social media presence, products and branding for inspirations. Most of them are in New York and I always wanted to check out if there are any difference with Sydney donuts to New York ones.
What were the stops and donuts you tried while you were here? What were your favorites? Our donut stops are: – Dough – Doughnut Plant – Doughnut Project – Donut Pub – Dun-Well Doughnuts – Du’s Donuts – Peter Pan’s Pastry and Donuts – Alimama (mochi donuts) – The Dough Club (mochi donuts) – Doughnuttery
Non-donut shops but with donut specialities: – Daily Provisions (cruller) – Supermoon Bakehouse
My top favourites are: – Daily provisions’ cruller – Dough: Hibiscus and Apple Cider cake donut – Supermoon Bakehouse: Honey and Lavender donut – Dun-Well Donuts: Lemon and Rosemary glaze
How did you like New York vs Sydney? New York is a very busy city and very much alive. Sydney’s city life is different. We are surrounded by these beautiful beaches and if the weather is great, most likely you would find more people there than in the city. On the other hand, New York’s offering is very broad and seems like it won’t be enough time to explore everything (and it’s never enough!) I love NY’s Art, food, music scene and would love to live there one day! That would be the goal.