Eating + Drinking

Next-Generation Doughnuts

You already ate your way through Dough and Doughnut Plant, so our own Jess Bender hunted down the doughnut spots you haven’t tried yet.

Photo by Jess Bender

If you haven’t already guessed, we’re HUGE doughnut lovers at the WSWD?! office. I may be the biggest fan of all; many of my personal stories revolve around doughnuts. My favorite one involves my boyfriend gifting me a half dozen ube (purple yam) doughnuts from a Filipino pop-up to celebrate our first anniversary. You’d be right in assuming that my doctor is not a huge fan of my diet.

When I was asking for under-the-radar doughnut spots around New York City, I kept getting the same answers. Dough? Been there. The Donut Pub? Done that. Doughnut Plant? I practically live there. I knew I had to do some additional sleuthing to uncover the yeasty, cakey, circular pieces of dough that more people should be talking about. After taste-testing dozens of doughnuts from around the boroughs, here are the ones I’d Homer Simpson drool over.   

Photo by Mikhail Herrera

If you like Sullivan Street Bakery…you’ll love A-Roma

When I lived in Hell’s Kitchen, Jim Lahey’s tiny haven of baked goods—particularly his zesty lemon and vanilla bean bomboloni—had a weekly residency in my stomach. Finding a custard-filled Italian doughnut that made me swoon as much as Sullivan Street Bakery’s did has been a hard task, but years of searching finally led me to this old-school gem on the outskirts of East Williamsburg.

Bakeries around Williamsburg tend to sell goods that aren’t budget-friendly—I recently saw an Oreo cake slice going for $8.50 in a Bedford Street bakery—but two miniature bombolone at A-Roma run for under $4. So I forked over four Washingtons and tried the classic vanilla custard and a hazelnut creme, both catering to sweet-toothed millennials. They were dreamy, pillowy clouds of sweetness and light (not to mention confectioners’ sugar…it was the wrong day to wear black). They were airy enough that I wouldn’t feel bad eating multiple bombolone in one sitting, which I ended up doing that morning.
475 Grand Street, Williamsburg

If you like Queens Comfort’s Donut Diva…you’ll love Black Label Donuts

As a born-and-bred suburbanite from Nassau County, the Long Island Railroad was the bane of my existence for a long time. So while I was slightly hesitant to make the trip from Penn Station to Bayside for Richard Eng’s doughnut pop-up inside famed Japanese matcha parlor Nippon Cha, his rotating menu of sophisticated cake and yeast varietals piqued my interest. LIRR fearers will be happy to know that the trip itself is more than pleasant; it showed off the bucolic side of Queens and ended up being less than a half hour from Manhattan.

When I saw the two cake doughnuts offered that day, chocolate five-spice cake and soba honey–whole wheat old-fashioned, I was reminded of Montana D’Alessio Barbieri’s ambitious Donut Diva pop-up inside my old favorite fatty haunt, Queens Comfort. The comparisons stop there, though. While Donut Diva makes cake doughnuts that are grandiosely gluttonous—my boyfriend and I barely managed to finish off the decadent peanut butter and Nutella drizzled banana bread doughnut, despite how delicious it was—Eng’s chef-driven creations allow his flavor combinations to shine without being too hefty. The chocolate cake doughnut was heady with herbaceous aromas of cloves and star anise, while the plain exterior of the old-fashioned masked a delightfully moist interior with sweet buckwheat and pockets of honey.

Those who prefer yeast over cake will be happy to know that those are readily available, as well—what can’t Eng do with a doughnut? I was a huge fan of his rosemary–olive oil lemon curd and strawberry rose petal–filled takes (there’s no shame in eating a box of doughnuts on the train, right?), but a special shout-out has to go to the pop-up’s matcha crème brûlée doughnut. You know the sensation when you crack the caramelized top of a custard dessert with a spoon? It feels twice as glorious when you break into it with your teeth.
39-34 Bell Boulevard, Bayside

If you like Underwest Donuts…you’ll love Du’s Donuts and Coffee

The famed Wylie Dufresne went from the highly ambitious WD~50 to the modern pub Alder…to opening a doughnut shop specializing in cake doughnuts? Yeah, that seems like a logical career path to me, too. But while I recall liking (but not necessarily being overly impressed by) Alder’s French onion soup rings and très chic pigs in a blanket, I was absolutely blown away by what Dufresne’s team is boxing up in his doughnuttery on the ground floor of the trendy William Vale Hotel.

My original plan was to try the two flavors that most intrigued my gut—peanut butter yuzu and pomegranate tahini—but a big, doughy wrench was thrown my way when I laid eyes on the aesthetically pleasing layout that was bestowed upon me. So naturally I ended up buying all 11 flavors available that day…and an extra doughnut for myself; the trip from upper Manhattan to Williamsburg took some energy out of me.

Similar to the raved-about Underwest, Du’s doughnuts—or inner tubes, as Dufresne refers to them—range from the classic (cinnamon apple covered in granulated sugar, strawberries, and cream reminiscent of your childhood Nesquik) to the obscure (pistachio pink lemonade, Mexican hot chocolate with zings of cayenne). My office mates had a blast tasting Dufresne’s wickedly fun offerings, but the honey fennel pollen (probably one of the most sophisticated breakfast bites I’ve had this year) and the kaffir corn cruller (the cashier wasn’t lying when she told me it had a Froot Loops aftertaste) were doughy game changers.
107 North 12th Street, Williamsburg

If you like Dough…you’ll love Daily Provisions

Most sweet New Yorkers got their first taste of the twisted cruller at either Peter Pan Donuts in Greenpoint, Krispy Kreme, or Donut Pub at 3 a.m.; I had my first one at a local bakery close to my childhood home when I was 5 years old. Despite the heavy breakfast of bagels and cream cheese I ate every Sunday morning growing up, I still made room for the monstrous doughnut in my growing stomach. The vanilla glaze may have been a little cloying if it was on any other doughnut, but instead it was the perfect complement to the light airiness of the choux pastry. This doughnut was what dreams were made of for a chubby kid like me.

What Fany Gerson of Dough did to breathe new life into yeast doughnuts back in 2010, Danny Meyer has done for this underappreciated doughnut seven years later. While his new café has only a few varietals—the traditional glazed, rustic cinnamon, and the maple inspired by the cruller’s New England roots—Meyer manages to make all three stand out in their own regard. All are baked in-house in an underground bakery, and each cruller has a crisp exterior that would never make you think that the interior was as light as air. The sweet coatings are equally inviting (but not overpowering), although it’d be fair to say that the cinnamon clearly needs to be renamed  the “Churro Cruller.” I guarantee it would instantly go viral.
103 East 19th Street (between Park Avenue South and Irving Place), Gramercy