When it rains big national food holidays, it pours! Saturday was the behemoth National Sandwich Day, while Sunday got its sweet tooth on with National Candy Day. And today the hits just keep on comin’: it’s Doughnut Appreciation Day! Who wouldn’t want to celebrate and appreciate the mighty doughnut? The origins of the doughnut are unclear, but it may have originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the mid-19th century. The process of deep-frying sweet dough has been around for centuries, but making a hole in the middle of it came about in 1847, when Hanson Gregory decided he had enough with the raw middle left behind by flash-frying. That little bit–making the dough into an “o” shape before frying it–revolutionized the doughnut and has made it the popular snack it is today. A huge variety of doughnuts can be purchased and nommed at national, international, and local bakeries that sometimes dedicate all of their efforts into making the best doughnuts around. Sure, you can get a Boston Kreme (note how the “k” denotes that it isn’t made with real cream!) doughnut from Dunkin Donuts or a happy glazed from Tim Horton’s, but with so many local bakeries cooking up some great doughnuts today, go the extra mile and appreciate a doughnut born and bred in New York City!
We’ve had quite a few national food holidays already celebrating doughnuts in one way or another. Days like Jelly Doughnut Day and Creme-Filled Doughnut Day are specific shout-outs to the mighty donut, while I highlighted some choice specialty doughnuts on Hot Mulled Cider Day, Lemon Meringue Pie Day, and Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. I can say with confidence that the most popular of New York’s doughnut joints, the ones that have expertise, originality, and just enough pluck to survive public opinion, have definitely been represented: places like the Doughnut Plant and Dough and Sullivan Street Bakery all have found their way into my blog posts. But there are some other great doughnut shops out there that you’ve just got to try!
Sometimes, to get the best doughnut New York City has to offer, you have to look beyond the doughnut shop to…a barbecue restaurant?! You read that right! One of the most celebrated and unique doughnuts to come out of the gate in recent years comes from Pies N Thighs in Williamsburg, where fried chicken and biscuits are served along with dense, cakey, delicious doughnuts. Their most popular flavor is the traditional cinnamon-sugar dusted variety, but you can also get unique flavors like grapefuit and ginger–which sounds more like a new flavor that’d pop up at Pinkberry instead of in a doughnut! Originally, these doughnuts were made only for breakfast, but now they’re cranking them out all throughout the day for your sugar fix. After all, fried is fried, right?
Pies N Thighs
166 S 4th St (between Bedford Ave & Driggs Ave), Williamsburg
“The best are found at Pies-n-Thighs, the hole-in-the-wall southern-style fried-chicken kitchen located in the back of an exceptionally seedy Williamsburg bar. They’re crisp-edged and properly dense, spiced with nutmeg, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Buttermilk and sour cream give them a subtle tang, and, because Pies-n-Thighs partner Sarah Buck, in her delightfully quirky way, cuts the batter with a large biscuit ring, each one is about the size of a Texas grapefruit or maybe an undersize boccie ball—which, unlike big bagels, isn’t a bad thing in our book.”–New York Magazine
“Pies ‘n’ Thighs makes Cinnamon-Sugar doughnuts in both yeast and cake form, but it’s the cake doughnut, dusted in the perfect ratio of cinnamon to sugar, which stands out. The scent is intoxicating when warm, and even once the doughnut’s cool, the crumb is tender and not the least heavy. There’s a bare hint of nutmeg and every bite guarantees solid satisfaction.”–Serious Eats
“These big, soft, sticky confections are available at the counter in fun flavors like ginger-grapefuit or pecan (which trumps the classic cinnamon-sugar). The fancier filled doughnuts collapse like dense stars and will require careful transportation along with a serious appetite. Go for the lemon-curd-filled pistachio or rhubarb jelly.”–The Village Voice
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“From my first glance at those donuts–those incredible, incredible donuts–behind the counter, I knew I was in the right place. Fried chicken like nobody’s mama EVER made. But if you’re smart, you’ll order your donut first, just to make sure you’ve saved room for dessert.”–Marc W.
“For dessert I noticed that their menu stated they were voted to have the best donut in NYC by New York Magazine, so I had to inquire. The waitress told me the special donut of the day was a grapefruit donut with a ginger glaze. I was sold. I brought this baby home and had it for breakfast the following day with a large cup of Nescafe. This piece of heaven was absolutely delish! Soft buttery dough with a tangy grapefruit flavor topped with a vanilla glaze and pieces of ginger. It was by far the best donut I have ever had!”–Leslie M.
Vegan friends who want to fully appreciate doughnuts today but want to stay clear of all those doughnuts with eggs, dairy, and other products that come from animals: rejoice! You don’t have to eat store-bought vegan doughnuts from Whole Foods or simply go without. Dun-Well Doughnuts is an all-vegan doughnut bakery that not only makes their baked goods animal product-free, but delicious as well! It’s caught the eye of many vegan food bloggers looking for a Krispy Kreme alternative, and even hit the top of The Daily News’s Best Doughnuts of New York list this year–now, that’s all doughnuts, so that’s a well-done feat for Dun-Well indeed! With unique flavors like green tea & ginger and chocolate candy cane, the originality of this place rivals its dairy-laden counterparts. Dun-Well isn’t just a fantastic vegan doughnut–it’s a fantastic doughnut, period.
222 Montrose Ave (between Bushwick Ave & Humboldt St), Williamsburg
“The secret to such a great-tasting doughnut is in the fresh, organic and locally sourced ingredients, including apple sauce, and a family recipe that has been passed down (and modified) over the years, say owners Christopher Hollowell and Dan Dunbar. In fact, the bakers still use Great-Great-Great-Grandma Barbara’s rolling pin from Germany to make the 30 dozen doughnuts baked in-house every morning. There are 12 flavors out of a catalogue of nearly 100 in rotation each day, including favorites peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and glazed. Vegan deserts have a tendency to overcompensate for their limited ingredients and often taste too sweet. Not so for the rich and sumptuous Dun-Well doughnuts, which are, in fact, done very well.”–New York Daily News
“he shop is quaint and comfortable, but the real star here is the vegan eats. Dun-Well’s donuts are not just for breakfast, but instead a gourmet dessert. Flavors like French toast, almond coco joy, green tea & ginger, chocolate candy cane, and s’mores cozy up with traditional flavors like Boston cream, jelly-filled, and classic glaze. The cast of flavors change daily, for new and exciting offerings to try. Any of the sweet flavors can be topped with a scoop of Lula’s vegan ice cream, for a decadent donut sundae.”–Inhabitat
“Honestly, they had me at vegan peanut butter and jelly doughnut. This vegan can’t wait to drop by Dun-Well the next time she visits New York, which will be soon but not quite soon enough. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited the best doughnuts in New York City (which must have a lot of doughnuts) are VEGAN!”–Ecorazzi
“Although it’s hard to go against Glazed (I mean, soooo good.), the Chocolate Peanut Covered will probably always be my favorite because it evokes a memory of being the first kid to get up on Sunday mornings. I was an early riser back then, so I got to ride to Casey’s General Store with my dad for a newspaper and Chocolate Peanut Covered Long Johns.”–Vegan and So Forth
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“These doughnuts are vegan, but about infinitely better than any other doughnut I have ever had in my life. I am not exaggerating. The flavors are unique and wonderful, like the Margarita doughnut or, my personal favorite, the Mexican Chocolate (chocolate glaze sprinkled with spicy red pepper flakes). It is impossible to really choose a favorite, though. The texture of these doughnuts are unreal. They are large, fluffy, soft, chewy, and so seemingly authentic you feel like you should ask again if they are vegan.”–Gabriella R.
“Delicious doughnuts! I can’t believe these are vegan but I am thrilled that they are. We took a side trip on an extremely hot day just to finally try these and it was well worth it. I grabbed the candy bar flavor, Peanut Butter and Jelly and the Vanilla frosted. The more unusual ( candy bar and PB& Jelly) were probably the tastiest. I only wish they had more flavors- like everything that is on their website, but it’s a rotating menu. The freshness melt in your mouth quality of the doughnuts is almost one of a kind nowadays when every corner is nothing but DnD’s. “–Tara K.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!