I was as nervous as a schoolgirl.
A schoolgirl with a coveted reservation, I reminded myself. So what was I so worried about?
What if they forgot to write down my reservation? What if I get stuck in traffic or the engine accidentally falls out of my car as I’m crossing over the Downtown Connector? What happens if I turn up a few minutes late?
What if they’ve already given away my doughnut?!
Yup, all this angst was over a doughnut. Specifically, the Maple Bacon Cheddar flavor that’s only available on Saturdays at Sublime Doughnuts in Midtown Atlanta. Unable to get my greedy mitts on one as a walk-in customer on previous Saturdays, I’d finally resorted to phoning 24 hours ahead of time and reserving two. And disguising my voice slightly while doing so.
Turns out there was no need for me to feel embarrassed. Doughnut Desperation’s a common condition now in metro Atlanta, where a handful of shops are elevating the once humble fried ring to homemade high art. Take some truly left brain flavor combinations — Passionfruit Coconut Lime last week at Dutch Monkey Doughnuts in Cumming, Figgy Cream these days at Revolution Doughnuts in Decatur. Mix in the freshest, most natural ingredients, keep shelf lives purposely short to ensure tastiness and the end result is doughnuts that are almost impossible to resist.
And nearly as impossible to get ahold of. At least that’s how it feels at times.
That’s where we come in. We visited and talked to owners of five popular doughnut shops around town. If you’ve ever wondered when the “sweet spot” is each day for finding the widest variety of doughnuts, what sells out fastest and how to get around that, and who is and isn’t jumping on the cronut craze, read on.
If it’s Friday, this must be Orange Pistachio day
As Sublime puts it on its web site: “Variety subject to change depending on supply and/or mood.” And there are other legitimate reasons why almost none of these shops offers the exact same menu every day. Revolution Doughnuts offers about 12 daily “regulars,” like True Blueberry and Caramel Bacon, then adds Orange Pistachio and other “specialties” on weekends (Friday-Sunday) when there’s more staff to handle bigger orders and crowds. But even staples and specialities can change along with the seasons and availability of ingredients, explained owner Maria Moore Riggs: Summer’s peach and strawberry “sliders”(fresh fruit sandwiched between doughnut layers) give way to fall’s cooked jam-filled doughnuts. Pumpkin spice cake recently arrived and closer to December, there’ll be a white chocolate peppermint doughnut.
At Dutch Monkey, where Nutella Twist and Lemon Meringue are among some 15 “everyday” doughnuts, there are five or six additional specials on weekdays and as many as a dozen on weekends. Co-owner Martin Burge often takes cues from what’s in season at farmers markets. Once in hand, the recipes can change from day to day. When someone brought them fresh figs, they made them into donuts the first day, and the next day made corn cakes with figs on top. “After that, they were softer,” said Burge’s wife Arpana Satyu, “so we made a [fig] compote and put it inside the doughnut.”
The early bird gets the Nutella Twist
Whether it’s a staple or a more occasional specialty, certain flavors invariably sell out first. So it’s a good idea to show up early — and to understand that even that definition can change. “Every day it’s a brand new day,” said Jesus Balestena, owner of Dough in the Box in Marietta, who bakes through the night before opening at 5 a.m. “It could be 8 a.m. and we could be completely out of apple fritters,” he said of his shop’s most popular doughnut (along with the sour cream old fashioned). “Or at 12 [noon] we might still have a few left.
At Revolution, it can be hardest to get your hands on cronuts (see below) and filled doughnuts, like the Nutella Cream Puff or Revolution Cream Pie. “If you’re looking for a filled doughnut, get here before noon,” advised Riggs, who closes at 5 p.m weekdays and 4 p.m on Saturdays and Sundays.
But there can be a risk in showing up too early. Dutch Monkey’s Burge makes about 800 doughnuts a day (1,400-1,500 on weekends), starting at 3 a.m. But certain labor-intensive flavors — caramel apple fritter, lemon meringue — might not be ready right when the doors open at 5:30 a.m.
“The key is to come in early, but not too early,” said Burge. “If you come at 9, we may be sold out. 8 to 8:15 is the sweet spot for getting the doughnuts you really want.”
Are you on the list for a fritter?
Reserving doughnuts? Only in Atlanta — where one restaurant’s waiting list has a waiting list (the Club at Chops) and the ferris wheel has a VIP gondola — right?
In fact, though, it’s the opposite of snooty. At Dough in the Box, customers can call up anytime (if the shop’s closed, leave a message on the machine) and reserve as many or as few of whatever they want.
Yes, even just one.
“People call at 7 a.m. and say ‘Hey, can you save me an apple fritter? I’ll be there around 1 p.m.,’” said Balestena, a former customer who bought the shop with his wife, Dannia, three years ago. “We noticed that people were coming in and sometimes we were already out of their favorite doughnut. So we started telling them, ‘You know what? call us, and we’ll save it for you.’”
It’s almost as easy at Sublime, where the website reads “24 hour notice for specific flavors.” Sure enough, my Maple Bacon Cheddar doughuts were boxed and waiting for me on that Saturday morning when I arrived at 11 a.m.
While they don’t do reservations at Revolution, Riggs says customers can order and prepay (by credit card) a dozen doughnuts 24 hours in advance. Meanwhile, Dutch Monkey doesn’t have a phone in the shop — “Yeast doesn’t wait for phone calls!” their website explains — but it still takes reservations on Facebook.
“We have four or five people every weekday who put in orders on Facebook,” said Satyu, who noted that daily specials are also posted on the page.
If you’re eating a Caramel Bacon doughnut (a yeast doughnut with caramel glaze and generous studs of bacon), you’re at Revolution. If you’re eating a Maple Bacon Cheddar doughnut (savory base, thick maple icing and generous studs of bacon), you’re at Sublime.
But why should you have to choose between delicious breakfast foods when you can have them all rolled into one, courtesy of the Buttered Maple Bacon doughnut at Dutch Monkey? It’s two strips of Applewood smoked bacon wrapped around a standard yeast ring and fried. Served with a little container of melted salted butter and syrup.
“There was a Waffle House right down the street and I kept looking at it,” Satyu recalled. “I like waffles and steak and hash browns and I thought ‘How can we incorporate that into a doughnut?’”
Give us one good reason why not.
Cronut … or not?
The craze started — where else? — in New York City back in May. The half croissant, half doughnut hybrid was created by chef Dominique Ansel, and don’t you forget it! He’s trademarked the “cronut” name, and the website for his self-named bakery has a “Cronut 101” page describing the Studio 54-ish experience of buying in-person (“The line starts outside as early as 2.5 hours prior to opening”) and explaining that the “pre-order list” (limit: 6 cronuts) works two weeks in advance.
Merci, but no merci, say some of Atlanta’s best doughnut shops:
“Oh, please, croissants are so classic and perfect on their own, there’s no need to turn them into a doughnut,” said Dutch Monkey’s Satyu, explaining why they’re not joining the cronut (trademark) craze.”The reason he did so well is he didn’t make enough of them!”
At Dough in the Box, they’ve been making glazed croissants on weekends for the past three years.
“It’s the same thing,” Balestena said. “Except I don’t charge customers three or four dollars for it. Just a dollar.”
Sublime sells a pretty similar sounding Frosted Croissant, while the Cake Hag offers “Doughssants” only on Tuesdays and only by pre-order at email@example.com.
At Revolution, Maria Moore Riggs has gone from self-described “total skeptic” to “convert” where the cronut (trademark) is concerned.
“It didn’t sound good to me, deep frying croissant dough, but it’s unbelievably amazing,” she admitted. “That flaky buttery dough gets crunchy in the fryer…”
Topped with a maple bourbon glaze, Revolution calls the resulting little flavor bombs “cro-doughs.” Available on Fridays and Saturdays only, they’re one more reason Doughnut Desperation won’t be dissipating anytime soon.
Cro-doughs cannot be pre-ordered by phone, and customers are limited to just two.
“So if you come in with a partner, you can get four,” Riggs said with a slightly fiendish chuckle. “But if you come in by yourself and try to bring two more home to a friend … we’re not liking that.”
DOUGH IN THE BOX
What: 30 varieties of raised, cake and filled doughnuts available daily. Glazed croissants sold on weekends (Friday-Sunday), and specialties at holidays. Doughnuts are made in the softer, lighter and less dense “California” style.
Reservations: Pre-order for pickup available.
Extra bite: Recieve free glazed doughnut holes with every order, “even when someone orders one doughnut,” says owner Jesus Balestena.
Destination Doughnut: Buttermilk Cake.
Info: 3184 Austell Road SW, Marietta. 5 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily. 770-436-5155, www.doughinthebox.com.
DUTCH MONKEY DOUGHNUTS
What: About 15-18 “everyday” doughnuts, plus a handful of specials on weekdays and as many as a dozen on weekends.
Reservations: Pre-orders (large orders or specific doughnuts) must be made two days in advance.
Extra bite: Check the Facebook wall for daily specials, but nothing beats an in-person visit. “I kind of keep one (doughnut) as a surprise, I don’t publish it on the menu,” says co-owner/chief doughnut maker Martin Burge. “You walk in and find it here. I like to reward people who make the effort.”
Destination Doughnut: The Dutch Monkey, filled with dulche de leche and topped with bananas and chocolate.
Info: 3075 Ronald Reagan Parkway, Cumming. 5:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 404-482-3650, www.dutchmonkeydoughnuts.com.
What: About a dozen daily “staples,” plus specials (even more on weekends). Large doughnuts with a distinctive taste, whether made yeast style (soft and chewy), filled, baked cake (poundcake like) or cake style (crunchy exterior).
Reservations: Pre-orders by phone or in person at least 24 hours in advance. Payment must be made at time of order.
Extra bite: Many doughnuts are vegan (look for the “V” on the menu board and website) and the Dough-Nut ismade from almond flour and “may be” suitable for those following a gluten free/grain free diet.
Destination Doughnut: The Crunchy Mister, a savory take on the croque monsieur, with ham inside and gruyere cheese on top.
Info: 908 W. College Ave., Decatur. 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 678-927-9920, www.revolutiondoughnuts.com. Also available at Grant Park Farmer’s Market, East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, and Decatur Farmers Market.
What: Some two dozen delectably light and smooth doughnut varieties, made cake style (Red Velvet), filled (the signature A-Town Cream) and in creative flavor combinations (Salt & Vinegar).
Reservations: 24 hour notice for specific flavors and orders over two dozen.
Extra bite: Sublime “Burgers” combine doughnuts with ice cream!
Info: 535 Tenth St., Atlanta. 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturdays, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. 404-897-1801, www.sublimedoughnuts.com.
THE CAKE HAG
What: Primarily a custom-made cake, cupcake and cheesecake business, the “Hag” has recently begun offering a limited number of “Doughssants” on Tuesday mornings. You can also get “Doughnots,” made from the excess dough trimmings. Pre-order at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Info: 678-760-6300, www.cakehag.com.