While some people are still debating whether doughnuts are a breakfast or a dessert, others are moving ahead into savory snack and spiked doughnut territory. One thing is for sure: Doughnuts are as hot now as they were during their previous comeback in the 1930s. The December 1933 issue of Restaurant Hospitality’s forerunner, American Restaurant magazine, advised readers how to “Cash In On The Doughnut’s Popularity.” In that era, too, Americans were doughnut-conscious, although they were moving away from “the ‘sinker’—that heavy greasy doughnut of the good old days….”
Eighty years ago, restaurant-goers wanted chocolate or vanilla-iced cake doughnuts rolled in coconut, or plain doughnuts dipped in orange icing with grated orange rind. Spice doughnuts and honey doughnuts were also on the list of popular varieties
By comparison, today’s specialties are much more adventurous, and sometimes more sophisticated. Doughnuts are taking on Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flavorings as well as globally inspired icings and toppings. At Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, NY, for example, chef/operator Tom Colicchio’s brunch menu includes cardamom-iced doughnuts with lemon crème.
Elsewhere around the country, doughnuts are paired with casual dining classics such as burgers or chicken. At Federal Donuts in Philadelphia—where the menu includes coffee, doughnuts and fried chicken — the doughnuts are rolled in custom-seasoned sugar blends such as Turkish mocha and strawberry fennel. A range of creative topping flavors includes maple bacon, green tea sesame, and spicy peanut butter and jelly.
At Gourdough’s in Austin—a specialty doughnut spot housed in a vintage Airstream trailer—the trailer operation has inspired a restaurant where 23 different types of doughnuts will be offered along with burgers, appetizers and entrees. Gourdough’s has built its reputation by serving doughnuts fried fresh to order. Hungry customers can order a substantial doughnut like The Boss Hog ($5.50) that features pulled pork and potato salad, drizzled with honey barbecue sauce. Other choices include gooey dessert inspirations, like Cherry Bombs ($4.50), glazed cherry-topped doughnut holes with cinnamon, sugar and cake-mix topping.
Speaking of desserts, doughnuts demonstrate great versatility. Sam & Harry’s Steakhouse in Schaumburg, IL, offers Ricotta Doughnuts. They’re served warm, tossed with vanilla sugar, glazed with caramel and topped with crème fraiche and spiced roasted pears, then finished with Blis Bourbon Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup. At Smokey Bones locations, dessert offerings include the Hot Bag O’ Donuts, featuring cinnamon sugar doughnuts served with chocolate and strawberry dipping sauces.
In addition to savory snacks and enticing desserts, doughnuts may be drawing inspiration from cocktail menus, too. Delightful Pastries in Chicago recently introduced spiked doughnuts. Some of their Drunken Doughnuts might make you thirsty: Vanilla Bean with Vodka Custard, and Passion Fruit with Grand Marnier Jelly. Delightful Pastries is a Chicago French Market vendor, with a café and store location in Old Town Chicago, and a store in Jefferson Park.