The lowly doughnut has gotten a makeover in Washington, D.C. The city’s doughnut scene has exploded in recent months, with the circular treat (and its accompanying hole) elevated from standards like plain vanilla glazed to those with inventive fillers and toppings, like lemon ricotta (in the kitchen at the soon-to-open Capella Washington, D.C. hotel), toffee bacon (Birch & Barley) and the “Twink-nut,” a creative play on a Twinkie (Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken).
We’ve tracked down the best of the best, seeking out everything from sweet treats at area restaurants to shops dedicated just to the doughnut itself. Here are a few of our favorites:
Washingtonians have flocked to Logan Circle gastropub Birch & Barley since it opened for pastry chef Tiffany MacIssac’s toffee-bacon, lemon-poppy-glazed and bittersweet-chocolate doughnuts, which are featured on the Sunday brunch menu. But the doughnut love has grown too much for just brunch. The team will open GBD (which stands for Golden, Brown and Delicious), a doughnut and fried chicken concept, in Dupont Circle in early April. Pop-ups have been hugely popular, often selling out in just a few hours. Expect even more inventive flavors, including grapefruit-campari old fashioned, Snickers and carrot cake, plus coffee in the morning, cocktails and a craft beer program in the afternoon, and of course, fried chicken.
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Hockey helped inspire this new spot. Longtime friends and native Washingtonians Elliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern (a pro who plays with the Montreal Canadiens) got the idea for their shop after a longstanding tradition of enjoying a post-hockey-game doughnut. Helmed by chef Jason Gehring — who has cooked in kitchens ranging from D.C.’s own Fiola and Poste to Baltimore’s Charleston and New York City’s famed Payard Bakery — the Metro Center shop is scheduled to open this spring after several successful pop-ups, dishing out a rotating array of flavors ranging from maple bacon to the aforementioned Twink-nut. The team is also working on a special fried chicken and doughnut sandwich that we’re sure will be delicious, if not exactly good for the waistline.
First unveiled at D.C.’s Metro Cooking & Entertaining Show this fall, District Doughnut realized that it had a viable business on its hands when its treats ran out in record speed. Today, it offers delivery services around the city as it hunts for a permanent space. Flavors range from the expected (original glazed) to the decadent (caramel apple streusel, coconut lime and cannoli). Email or call each day for a select number of D.C.-area deliveries, or stalk its Twitter handle for the next pop-up.
Any article about doughnuts in D.C. would be remiss to leave out Tabard Inn, where the cinnamon and sugar-dusted doughnuts with vanilla whipped cream are a staple of the hotel’s popular brunch menu. Freshly made to order, these sweet treats are a must-try. The restaurant may be elegant, but licking your fingers is encouraged.
While Fabio Trabocchi’s Italian fine-dining restaurant in Penn Quarter might not be the first place Washingtonians consider for doughnuts, food insiders know that its dessert menu disguises the treats by calling them by their Italian name — bomboloni. These Sardinian delicacies are made with ricotta and served with a sinful burnt honey gelato.
Sometimes, there’s nothing like the original. Mount Pleasant’s Heller’s Bakery has been serving housemade sweets and treats since opening in 1922. You’ll find more basic flavors here than at some area shops — think honey-dipped and chocolate-covered, though you’ll find cinnamon twists and Boston cremes as well — but these made-fresh-daily delicacies are perhaps the city’s best take on an American classic.
Photos Courtesy of Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken and Birch and Barley