Never have I seen a more complex battle among sweet things than the doughnut or donut. Even the spelling of this American classic is up for debate. Although I love all sweets, doughnuts did not necessarily strike my fancy. That is until five years ago when I discovered the Doughnut Plant in New York City….but we will get to that soon.
Before I became a dough-nie, the extent of my experience with doughnuts was Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, Shipley Donuts and maybe the local bakery that made one or two doughnuts along with their other staple pastries.
As I mentioned earlier, my love for doughnuts began with the Doughnut Plant, located on 379 Grand Street in New York City. I was on an American Airlines flight about five years ago reading the American Way Magazine where an article featured great finds in NYC. One of the mentioned venues was the Doughnut Plant owned by Mark Israel. Although it was a 2-3 line sentence about the locale, it was enough to get me intrigued. As soon as I got off the plane, one of my first stops was the Doughnut Plant. I was hooked. Here is what got me: #1) Innovation. Never had I seen a square doughnut. The purpose of the shape allows delicious filling to be injected in every square inch..no pun intended. # 2) The flavors. I had realized that I was not dealing with just any doughnut, I was introduced to a new realm…the gourmet doughnut. I tried the peanut butter and blackberry jelly yeast doughnut, a Tres Leches cake doughnut and a coconut creme yeast doughnut. Although the locale has grown and new flavors have been introduced since then, I can still say I am devoted to their PB&J, Coconut Creme and Tres Leches doughnuts. The only drawback is that this shop is only in NYC, Japan and Korea. For these reasons, The Doughnut Plant tops my #1 seat for best doughnut.
Quite a distance away on the West Coast is the lovely Seattle, one of my new favorite foodie destinations. Although this city has many doughnut shops, I have only tried Top Pot hand-forged doughnuts and coffee and boy, was it a good choice. One bite and I was done. I did not have to venture off and search for any other doughnut. Why do I like Top Pot? Well, it’s in Seattle and getting to the locale I visited was quite an adventure. My gal pals and I jumped on the earliest bus available. Fortunately we got on the right bus and initially, we were on the right track, however, we exited the bus a little too early and roamed around an unfamiliar neighborhood for an hour. We finally came upon a Veterinary Care facility and asked a nice gentlemen for directions on which bus route would get us to the nearest cross street of our destination. Fortunately, we weren’t too far away and finally made it to Top Pot. In essence, the fact that there was a comical journey to get to Top Pot is why these are dear to my heart. Although not as gourmet as the Doughnut Plant, these are damn good. Now when I go for doughnuts – I’m all in. I usually get a large assortment and conduct a sampling…because that’s only fair. We selected the Old-Fashioned, the Raspberry Bulls-Eye, Chocolate Old-Fashioned, the Bavarian Creme Bismark. There is something in the way these doughnuts are made…perhaps the hand-forging. There is a rustic perfection when you hold one of these. They are flawless. I may not have one on hand right now, but the flavor is memorable. It’s everything a doughnut should be. These may not have a unique shape, but they encompass the classic and awesome goodness that tops all other shops. Top Pot takes my #1 seat for traditional doughnut, but #2 seat all around.
Next on my list is Monuts Donuts in Durham. I love Monuts for one reason and one reason alone – the chocolate orange swirl doughnut. In general, they make light and delicious yeast doughnuts and also make dense and moist cake doughnuts. Their menu changes daily, so if you have a favorite like I do, you need to check social media to see their menu for the day. A nice bonus is that this shop offers more than doughnuts, like bagel sandwiches which are mighty delicious. However, this is still the battle of the doughnuts not bagels…this is why Monuts takes seat #3 on my list.
Just a hop skip and a jump…well maybe a little over a two-hour drive, is Britt’s in lovely Carolina Beach. What you get is a traditional yeast glazed doughnut hot off the fryer. This is a no frills doughnut shop. Your hardest decision will be deciding how many to order. Britt’s at Carolina Beach tops my list at #4.
Leonard’s Bakery malasadas top my list as #5. Malasadas are a Portuguese donut that is deef fried, covered in granulated sugar and stuffed with a delicious custard, coconut cream, chocolate cream & lilikoi cream. My personal favorite is the custard filled. Note – these are always hot, fresh & made to order. No stale donuts here, folks! This is a must visit when in Oahu. It’s a short distance away from Waikiki Beach, so don’t miss it.
So many doughnuts, so little time. There are many more wonderful shops that I have yet to try. Some of these include Voo Doo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, Do-Rite Donuts and Coffee in Chicago, Dough in Brooklyn and Doughnut Vault in Chicago. Whatever strikes your fancy, whether it’s a doughnut or donut, this American classic has come back in full force with a twist. What’s your favorite doughnut shop? I would love to hear your recommendations!