Friday, November 16, 2012

Time to Rank the Donuts

Fred the Baker (center)

Nothing compares to Palena Market when it comes to the area's best doughnuts, but man doesn't live on Palena Market alone (I realize I'm taking liberties... bear with me.) What do you do when you need a doughnut in the middle of the week... or even every day for that matter? We took a try at some other doughnut options in the nation's capital. For your consideration, we offer...

2Amys: I'd heard a lot about 2Amy's weekend doughnuts, so I took the .8 mile trip up Macomb Street to give them a try for myself. It was strange walking in to an empty restaurant (I stopped in at 11:00 AM) and the hostess couldn't have been nicer. I was told there was a six doughnut limit for take away, but I settled on two cinnamon doughnuts ($1.50 each.) They're good, but hardly great. For one thing, they come in two parts (one doughnut and one hole) so it's like getting a bonus bite for free. The doughnuts are powdered generously and taste of sweet cinnamon. They're soft, but not quite airy. They're miles better than pricier alternatives at Astro & GBD; but way behind Palena for the best overall doughnuts in town.

Grade: B

Cinnamon doughnuts at 2Amys

7-Eleven: Who'd have thunk it? 7-11 offers up a surprisingly fresh and tasty doughnut for just $.99. Keep an eye out for occasional sales, where you can snatch up 2 glazed doughnuts for a buck.

Grade: B+

7-Eleven's Chocolate glazed doughnut

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken: DC has officially hit the doughnut wall with Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken at 1308 G Street, NW (two blocks from the White House.) Astro's shoebox-sized space gives new meaning to the word claustrophobia... even before customers "line up" inside. Why folks bother lining up to pay $2.85 for subpar doughnuts at such a place is beyond me. The daily selection is displayed on an old cutting board, that looks like it came straight from the butcher's shop. When I stopped by, the sales associate appeared annoyed at having to name all eight doughnuts for a pair of tourists who wound up spending over 20 bucks. Hey buddy, if it's too much work: Why not label the doughnuts, so we don't have to bother you? I paid $2.85 for a yucky mocha special, that can best be described as a stale cup of coffee. Its cream center filling was all that saved it from an early visit to the trash bin. Can you imagine what their fried chicken tastes like?

Grade: F (Worst doughnut hole in the city.)

Astro's Mocha doughnut

Burger King: BK's Donut Holes ($1.59, available for a limited time) are five bites of old dough, stuck together with a splash of glaze. In other words: Take a stale doughnut from Krispy Kreme, microwave it and... Ta da! Gross.

Grade: F (How does Burger King manage to botch up everything?)

Burger King's Donut Holes

DGS Delicatessen: DGS' Hungarian doughnuts are officially called Teiglach, but whatever you call them... make sure you add delicious. Covered in honey syrup with a crunchy hazelnut brittle, you have to be careful not to gobble them all in one sitting. Ours were served nice and hot in an iron skillet, with a light dusting of sugar for one last bite of sweet goodness. An order sets you back a cool $7, but some things are worth the extra dough.

Grade: B

Teiglach at DGS Delicatessen

Duck Donuts: Duck Donuts offers a "Duckzillion flavors," but I prefer to keep it simple. Three doughnuts ($1.45 per) with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla coatings + a generous splash of chocolate fudge over the former. Served hot, with the most incredible cake you've ever tasted. My lone complaint? Waiting in line behind someone clueless/indecisive... especially on a Sunday morning.

Grade: B+

Strawberry, Chocolate & Vanilla Doughnuts at Duck Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts: Perhaps the most famous option, Dunkin' Donuts are definitely the easiest to find. I grabbed a couple of doughnuts at the Pentagon City location, across the street from Costco on December 12th. Lucky for me, it was two weeks until Christmas, and I was able to try DD's Holiday Star (with its delicious custard filling.) Fantastic! On the other hand, their glazed doughnut was dry and awful. A classic case of good and bad... affordably priced at $.99 per.

Grade: B- (The Holiday Star makes up for one of the worst glazed doughnuts I've ever had.)

Dunkin' Donuts' Holiday Star (top)

FireHook Bakery: Normally a favorite of mine, FireHook's pair of glazed doughnuts left me wanting this go around (December 20th.) Today's selection looked nice, but they were already starting to get hard. A great value at $1.05 each, I've had too many great doughnuts here, to believe this was anything but a random flub.

Grade: C+ (today) Normally one of the best doughnuts in town.

FireHook Bakery's glazed doughnuts

GBD: Golden Brown Delicious opened just over a month ago, one of two curious doughnut/fried chicken combos to invade the DC area. I don't get the connection; but I like doughnuts and fried chicken as much as the next guy. Ideally located at 1323 Connecticut Avenue (just south of Dupont Circle) GBD has a great chance to succeed. Sadly, the two doughnuts I tried weren't worth their $2.75 asking price. The Grapefruit Campari was comprable to a decent cruller anywhere else: The glaze and grapefruit zest flavors were faint at best. Meanwhile, the Bourbon Butterscotch didn't taste at all of butterscotch. The bacon adds a nice salty taste with good texture, but doesn't make much sense in its overall composition. Nice dough (not dense.) I'd be happier if they just made a simple doughnut that tastes good: Is that asking too much? Service was very good.

Grade: C- (These prices are getting way out of hand. Three bucks should net you an amazing doughnut: These aren't amazing.)

GBD's Bourbon Butterscotch (top) and Grapefruit Campari

Heller's Bakery: This Mt. Pleasant favorite gets more than its fair share of good press; but I'm at a loss as to why. Perhaps it's the lack of alternatives in the area (bakeries are a dying breed.) Choices are slim, and service is unenthusiastic at best. Doughnuts are under a buck, but hard as a rock (especially the Plain Cake offering.) The store's atmosphere is dated and rather uncomfortable, with a small seating area that was occupied by the kind of folks you expect won't be budging all day. Not exactly worth the trip to get there.

Grade: D (The glazed was OK, I suppose... everything else, not so much.)

Glazed and Plain Cake doughnuts at Heller's Bakery

Krispy Kreme: I still remember heading down to the K.K. on Route 1 South, many moons ago to take advantage of the "Hot Now" light. Nothing beats a hot, glazed doughnut at 2:00 AM! The Dupont Circle branch still offers fresh glazed doughnuts, but they're not baked in-house (only glazed.) And yes, there's a difference. Today (11/16/12) I grabbed a half-dozen for $5.09 and kept three for myself. The original glazed was OK (not enough glaze) and the Glazed Raspberry Filled was its normally tasty self; but today's hero was the Cinnamon Apple Filled with a delicious apple interior covered in cinnamon sugar (Yum.) All three were suitably fresh for late morning (just after 11) and fairly priced (each under a buck.) It's not what it used to be (what is?) but Krispy Kreme still manages to hit the spot.

Grade: B

Krispy Kreme trio

Giant Food: Grocery store doughnuts aren't usually something to get worked up over; but at $.69 a pop, how could I refuse? Giant Food at Wisconsin Circle has a small bakery, but still manages to push out a nice array of items... including the Vanilla Iced Doughnut (my choice for review.) Large in comparison to most doughnuts, I went gaga for Giant's heavy application of vanilla icing with sprinkles. The cake was a little on the dry side, but the icing more than made up for it. Given its low price and gernerous size, it may be time to keep an eye on your local grocer.

Grade: B-

Vanilla Iced Doughnut

Mama's Donut Bites: It wouldn't be fair to judge Mama's delicious Apple Cider Donut Bites on price, since they were literally giving them away as part of a promotion for the upcoming movie The Heat. That said, these tasty bites are worth a fiver even on a bad day. Normally $3 a bag (for six donuts) Mama's traveling show (it's a food truck) cooks on-site in apple cider, before dipping them in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Free toppings including homemade raspberry preserves make something really good, even better.

Grade: B+

Mama's Apple Cider Donut Bites

Migue's Magnificent Mini Donuts: So simple, yet sooo good. Set up outside Eastern Market's North Hall at 635 North Carolina Ave., SE, there's no fresher doughnut in all of DC. Migue's offers bags of delectable mini doughnuts ($3 for 8, $5 for 16) literally fresh from the fryer. Less than 60 seconds is all it takes, as the fryer scoops them out two at a time into a plain bag. From there, you the customer can dust them to your heart's content (I suggest cinnamon and powdered sugar.) Three bucks for 8 tiny bites, cooked on a fryer that's held up with wooden blocks? They must make a fortune; but it's well worth it. Incredibly, they're not at all greasy... just light and delicious. Sign me up!

Grade: A

Migue's mini donuts

Nothing But Doughnuts
: Home to the Dinosaur (8 inches wide) Yune Choi's Union Station eatery sells a nice assortment of regular size doughnuts too. I settled on a Maple-iced for $1, which Choi tried to upsell, 'Bigger is better!' He may be right. There was way too much maple frosting, overwhelming the rest of the doughnut (which was dry to begin with.) Nice owner, good selection, subpar doughnut.

Grade: C-

Maple-iced at Nothing But Doughnuts

Starbucks: It's bad enough forking over four to five bucks for a cup of coffee; but $1.50 for a doughnut? That's how much an Old-Fashioned Glazed will set you back at Starbucks; and I can't for the life of me understand why. That's because this 480 calorie (sobering, isn't it?) doughnut is nothing special. It's like a cruller, only denser with less flavor. Maybe it's meant to be dipped in that pricey coffee? Too bad I can't afford both.

Grade: C-

Starbucks' Old-Fashioned Glazed Doughnut

Zeke's DC Donutz: Zeke's had their official grand opening less than a week ago, so it was high time to return and try something new. That something turned out to be the single best doughnut in DC. The Raspberry Beret (ode to Prince's 1985 hit song) is A-MAZING. Although a touch on the doughy side, its raspberry sauce exterior is unbelievably decadent. Kudos for a heavy application of the aforementioned raspberry goodness (with a few stripes of chocolate for good measure.) Customer service is top notch (after a crafty upsell, one of the bakers stopped everything to show me a photo on her phone, of a savory bacon, egg and cheese doughnut available on weekends only.) That's how you win over customers!

Grade: A

Raspberry Beret at Zeke's

and click below to see

Palena Market
Red Apron Butchery
Zombie Coffee & Donuts