By Cassie Osvatics and Jordan Stovka
I’m not sure where I can trace the most recent craze of artisanal doughnuts, but, many an artisanal doughnut over at least the past year has made me want to say “hello, bandwagon, can I get a maple bacon doughnut?”
However, it’s been tough to find one in D.C., and I’ve tended to stick to doughnut hunting in other states. So Jordan and I took on the tasty journey to locate four doughnut shops in two days, sans Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme, for obvious reasons.
4th: Universal Doughnuts, Adams Morgan
This doughnut (or donut) shop does not have what it takes to refer to itself as “Universal Doughnuts.” They resell doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, which kind of seems like a cop out, and their website is completely misleading. They should not be able to call themselves a doughnut shop when they sell the same doughnuts that are left out in hotel lobbies and gas stations.
However, I did get a bacon egg and cheese sandwich while I was there, and that was decent. The bacon was perfectly cooked, but they offered sandwiches on only wheat or white, and the bread was a little stale, so that wasn’t great. Regardless, I was hungry and in need of a real protein source to balance out the massive amount of carbs from all the doughnuts.
On top of that, the service wasn’t great. They were super friendly, but they took way too long to take orders at the counter.
Jordan: I was confused as to why they didn’t have doughnuts other than Krispy Kreme, so I didn’t buy anything here. What a buzzkill.
3rd: District Doughnut, Navy Yard
This was our first stop on the doughnut trail. Their website boasts that they “hand-craft [their] doughnuts fresh from scratch daily using real, expensive ingredients and no preservatives,” which I can really appreciate. The shop itself is also super cute and the staff was friendly and prompt.
I got the Maple Butter Pecan doughnut to calm my maple obsession. The doughnut is only one of the few made of cake batter and is topped with a maple glaze and candied pecans. It was the cheapest dessert overall at $2.50.
The doughnut was really pretty, but it didn’t have a taste to match. The maple was too subtle to even verify that it was maple, and somehow the pecans were fairly tasteless. On top of that, it was really heavy, making me feel really gross after I ate it. I could taste the oil, leading me to assume that they might not change their oil enough. Would I go here again? No. If I was drunk? Probably, because I can’t get over their prices.
Jordan: Admittedly, I’m not a huge doughnut fan, so when I walked in the quaint little bakery, I was instantly drawn to the giant cinnamon rolls calling my name from the top shelf of the glass case. For about $4, I got a pretty hefty dessert. The bun was slightly sweet and just sticky enough from the icing to be satisfying, However, it really had no other redeeming qualities. I wouldn’t rank it anything but average.
2nd: Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, Columbia Heights
I was pretty excited to try this place when Jordan told me about it. The vegan bakery and cafe is best known for their cupcakes, which won Cupcake Wars twice.
On Sundays, they usually have doughnuts, but sadly, when Jordan and I got there on Sunday, they were out. However, they still had some delicious looking cupcakes and other baked goods available.
I tried the Peanut Butter Fudge and the Wheat Free Mocha, both at the somewhat steep price of $3.50. Both were amazing enough for them to still be our No. 2 on the doughnut review. The Peanut Butter Fudge was made of a chocolate cupcake topped with a creamy peanut butter icing, chopped peanuts and a chocolate drizzle.
The same could be said about the Wheat Free Mocha, save for the Mocha icing replacing the peanut icing. I wanted to try this because I spent a long time gluten free and found it really hard to find really great gluten free baked goods. Of course, if you are very strictly gluten free, there is the possibility of their products being cross-contaminated because the particles are in the air, so make sure to keep that in mind.
Otherwise, I couldn’t tell the difference between the consistency of the two cupcakes and I was really impressed with the way it held together but was still light and fluffy. They avoid the stigma of gluten free items being bricks.
Jordan: I was mostly excited to go to this bakery because of their vegan desserts, so I treated myself and ordered the Sweet and Salty Cookie and a Lemon Poppyseed muffin. The cookie was easily bigger than the palm of my hand and had a generous helping of chocolate chips strewn about. What tipped this off for me was the sprinkling of salt on top that added the perfect contrast to its usual sweetness.
The muffin tasted fresh, while the rich glaze complimented the lemon flavor perfectly.
1st: Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Penn Quarter
This one was a little more unconventional based on their other menu items, and they were created by two Capitals players, Elliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern. The bakery also has an interesting set up: the kitchen is located in the basement, and food trays are sent up in a tiny elevator, which makes their service super efficient.
I’m really glad we saved this place for last, and I can’t wait to go back and try more of their doughnuts — and maybe a fried chicken sandwich.
I got their Maple Bacon and Crème Brûlée doughnuts, and both exceeded my expectations. What I look for in a doughnut is the ability not to be greasy, that they’re light and fluffy, and don’t make me feel like I’m going to die immediately after I eat them. And, of course, taste. The doughnuts I had were all that and then some.
As a huge fan of the salty sweet combo of Maple Bacon doughnuts, I was really excited when I saw it on their menu, and it was absolutely worth it. The maple glaze was 100 percent real maple and not the artificial stuff. The bacon was cooked to perfection and didn’t have a bunch of fatty pieces like other places do.
The Crème Brûlée doughnut, though, was my favorite by far. I never expected something to blow maple bacon out of the water, but they managed. The burnt sugar outside was a beautiful invite to the flavorful custard on the inside. I didn’t know something could be that amazing, but here we are.
Jordan: The moment I saw the assortment of donuts on the counter, I was relieved that I’d saved my appetite and wallet at our underwhelming previous location. The Banana Salted Cashew caught my eye immediately, and I wasn’t disappointed. The dough was sweet but not greasy and embodied genuine banana flavor — as opposed to the artificial often associated with Laffy Taffy. The chocolate shavings and cashew accents made it that much better.
I took a bite of the Crème Brûlée, as well, and was pleasantly surprised by the custard filling that oozed from the burnt sugar crust.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t heavily partake in the Maple Bacon, but I pulled some bacon-free pastry from the bottom of the donut and was content with its taste.
Featured Photo Credit: Doughnut display at Astro Doughnuts in Penn Quarter. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)