Let’s talk doughnuts. One might venture to say they’re the perfect dessert. Pillowy, buttery, sugary and carb-y, doughnuts haven’t met a day they couldn’t make better. They’re as much a part of American culture as Superman and movies about prom (seriously, how many do we need?). New York City has a healthy collection of doughnut-focused purveyors, including standouts Doughnut Plant on the Lower East Side, Dough in Bed-Stuy and Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop in Greenpoint. Today, however, we’re focusing on something a little different. Here are a few places where doughnuts are an unexpected surprise, not the main attraction.
Paid for through the generosity of Kickstarter “dough-nators”, this restaurant’s doughnut machine makes small cakey doughnuts, which are sold plain or dusted with either cinnamon-sugar or powdered sugar, three for $4 or a dozen for $15. I think all those who donated should feel vindicated. These doughnuts (available to-go or with your sit-down meal) are wonderful, with an appealing crust and a surprisingly moist interior, escaping the mealiness that sometimes befalls similar style doughnuts. Overall, one of my favorites on the list.
Doughnuts at 606 R&D: powdered sugar, plain and cinnamon-sugar
This homey East Village restaurant known for its juicy burger and shareable comfort food also churns out fresh doughnuts. I came in at an off-hour and was treated to made-to-order doughnuts in three flavors: powdered sugar, caramel and chocolate hazelnut with sliced almonds (for $1.75 a piece). These doughnuts were so hot the powdered sugar topping had caramelized by the time I opened my to-go container. According to Grub Street, the secret ingredient is mashed potatoes in the batter. They did have a very unique taste–my favorite was the indulgent chocolate hazelnut–though may have spent a few seconds too long in the deep fryer.
A trio of doughnuts from the Brindle Room
Chinatown Mini Cakes, Several Locations (Different Owners)
Okay, so they’re not REALLY doughnuts in the traditional sense. They’re mini cakes, a Hong Kong street food made from a pancake-style batter that is poured into a special griddle (see below). The result is a web of quarter-sized ovals with a crisp exterior and a soft, slightly custardy center. At 15 or 20 for $1, depending on location , they’re hard to pass up.
Hot cakes at Canal Street purveyor Ling’s
Fresh, made-to-order doughnuts are available everyday starting at 11:30 a.m. at this go-to counter of Dumont Burger in Williamsburg. They can be had in a variety of sugar dustings–cinnamon, lemon or ginger–and, if you get the 9-order,with dulce de leche or chocolate dipping sauces. They have a nicely browned exterior and soft, satisfying, albeit slightly dense innards. Three bites for $4, or nine for $6 isn’t the most amazing deal, but totally worth it for the MTO factor.
Cinnamon sugar doughnuts with a gratis–thanks to the lovely cashier–dulce de leche dipping sauce
Sullivan Street Bakery
These filled Italian doughnuts, or bombolini ($3.50 each), at bread whisperer Jim Lahey’s cafe -bakery are the bomb…olini (I’ll show myself out). They have a tremendous amount of flavor in the actual dough–a testament to their quality since yeast doughnuts not fried correctly often taste mainly of grease. The raspberry filling (one of several offered) is tart, sweet and potent, with none of the artificiality of chain-style jelly doughnuts.
Raspberry bombolino at Sullivan Street Bakery
Ray’s Candy Store
Not only is Ray’s one of the only places in the city to get freshly-made beignets to go, it’s also THE only place to get them at 4 a.m. after a raucous night out in the East Village. Ray’s has been an Alphabet City institution since 1974, and though the surrounding area continues to transform at some-would-say alarming speeds, Ray’s is a time-capsule of a grittier era, when the ‘hood was filled with junkies and artists. These perfectly serviceable beignets come buried under a mountain of powdered sugar. As in, I had to turn a few over in the below photo, so you could tell there were actual doughnuts hiding under those sugar peaks. Six will you set you back $3.50, or if you’re really hunger, you can get 12 for $6.50.
An order of six beignets at Ray’s