Thursday, July 16, 2009

List Making #3 - NYC Donuts

With all the hoo-ha this week about the appearance of Tim Horton's on the NYC donutscape and the impending Dunkin' vs. Tim's donut war (just try Googling "horton's dunkin"), I thought I should get in on the action. And since there's also been a flurry of food lists published lately (Robert Sietsema's at the Voice have been my favorites so far), I figured a top donuts list was in order.

Unfortunately, I've only had enough good donuts in NYC to wholeheartedly recommend a top three, but I stand 100% behind each of them. I haven't had Tim Horton's yet (or if I have - maybe years ago in Northern Michigan? - it wasn't a memorable experience), but I would be profoundly shocked if it was good enough to crack this list.

1. Peter Pan
See my previous donut-related post. Or Google it, Bing it, or Wiki it to find lots of words and photos devoted to this Greenpoint, Brooklyn institution/legend/landmark/temple of donut craftsmanship.

2. Doughnut Plant
To hell with simplified spelling, says the Doughnut Plant! Ironically for a place that clings to the old-school spelling, Doughnut Plant is the foremost purveyor of new-school donut flavors, the perfect yin to Peter Pan's traditionalist yang. The space is beyond minimal, but the flavors are anything but. Dean & DeLuca sells them, but you have to go down to the Lower East Side and try to get one still warm. Thinking about a warm Tres Leches donut from here almost makes me reconsidering making it #2.

3. Glaser's Bake Shop
Known more for their black-and-white cookies than for their donuts, Glaser's on the Upper East Side is the sleeper on this list. After many visits, I developed a favorite breakfast order: a prune danish and a sugar donut. I originally ordered the prune danish thinking it was something else and became an immediate convert. The sugar donut is nothing more than a simple fried ring dusted with sugar crystals, but it's perfectly executed and great for dunking in coffee. Glaser's also makes colorfully decorated donuts in honor of certain holidays like Valentine's Day, but note that they're currently closed for their annual summer vacation, reopening August 18th.

Honorable Mentions

Trois Pommes Patisserie
They only do donuts on the weekends and there's only two choices - jelly and mini-size jelly - but they do it well enough to easily earn an honorable mention. I saw someone mention the beignet-like quality of these donuts, and that sounds about right, especially in the case of the minis.

Donut Pub

A recent return visit to this place (on 14th St in Manhattan) reinforced what I had written previously - the Pub is pretty good but it's no Peter Pan. There's a good, wide selection of classic donut styles, but they're not quite executed to perfection. Still, there's a wide gulf between these donuts and Dunkin' or street cart fare.

Various Polish bakeries along Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint
Though none can touch Peter Pan, there are some other good spots to get donuts (primarily jelly donuts) in Greenpoint. Try any of the small Polish stores or bakeries (even The Garden market) and you're likely to find a good donut.

Pies & Thighs
This restaurant, located in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge (on the Brooklyn side), no longer exists and the one time I ate there I didn't have a donut. It's on this list because I saw the donuts, and I'm pretty sure they would have been excellent. I assumed that I'd try them next time, but the place closed before there could be a next time.

Street Cart Crueller Roulette
Every once in a while, I'll come across an iced crueller (though I've even had one or two good un-iced versions) from a coffee-and-donut cart that is actually pretty satisfying. Dense, sweet, and coffee-friendly, the crueller is IMO the safest choice if you're hard up for a donut and nowhere near any of the places mentioned above.

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