I remember eating doughnuts as a kid. Aside from Dairy Queen, they were the local sweet treat. Were they the 80s cupcake before their recent quest to take back the treats crown? There was a Sir Donut close by, and I remember when the first Tim Horton’s opened up in our neighbourhood. At the time, both places actually made the pastries in-house, and I could sometimes sneak a glance at the big mixers and flour-covered prep areas that were both scary and exciting to my six-year-old eyes. I had a caregiver who would make homemade doughnuts and holes, and they often were still warm when we came in after school. Puffy, glazed Safeway yeast doughnuts were often sitting in a plastic box on my grandma’s kitchen counter. I fondly remember having mini cake doughnuts covered in icing sugar in my school lunches, wherein a common occurrence was to dust my lashes as a table trick before tucking in.
But somewhere in my picky eating history, I grew averse to frosting/icing/glaze and thus I now rarely have any inclination to eat cakes and doughnuts and any associated derivative. Although I can make an exception for tangy and thick cream cheese icing, the whole category of sugar-based topping tips things into the too sweet category for me, and I can easily say no. My doughnut eating has seriously lacked because of it despite my love of carbs, especially yeasty ones. I will give in on occasion (like this one) to try a much-loved or hyped version or place.
As I am now, my perfect doughnut is some sort of old-fashioned cake style with no glaze. Hello, plain sour cream old-fashioned from a Tim Horton’s circa 1988 (goodbye, current parbaked practices). It should have a bit of a crust to provide some resistance to your teeth, but then have a tender, almost fluffy crumb. But dense enough to avoid any melt-in-your-mouth texture. I don’t like that texture despite the positive connotations. And this is my perfect doughnut. Yeasted ones should also have a little give. Again, no dissolving on your tongue like Krispy Kremes. In recent years, I have fallen hard for the cake-style buttermilk bars that I’ve come to associate with LA donut shops.
As someone who considers herself rather apathetic about doughnuts, it’s surprising that I was intrigued about the Donut Pub argument. But I was. I’ve tried doughnuts from Dough, Doughnut Plant, and Peter Pan, and fully agree with the many here who think that they are the tops. But little Donut Pub on 14 st? I have read about the place often over the years as a classic coffee and doughnut shop not to be missed for the history, price, and ambiance. But I never got the impression that the actual pastries might be a reason to visit as well.
Funnily enough, I walked past shortly after reading the blog post and wondered if I could find something to tempt me. The sliver of a place was nearly empty, with only one person sitting on a vinyl-covered stool at the counter. It was probably nearly 4 pm, so hardly prime doughnut time. While there was an unglazed old-fashioned available, they also had a new-to-me plain cruller. I know that Peter Pan also makes this type and have been curious.
Unlike my childhood favourite, the French cruller made from eggy choux pastry, this cruller is essentially a cake doughnut stick. I don’t remember seeing anything like this growing up, and Wikipedia tells me it’s a New England thing. But apparently, a traditional Dutch c/kruller is more like a twisted piece of fried dough, and the above cake doughnut is a later or less traditional iteration. I was hoping for the inner fluff and tang that a sour cream or buttermilk doughnut has, but it did not deliver. There was more outer fried surface than interior softness. A stick of fried crust, almost. No glaze did not mean it was not plenty sweet enough to provide a sugar rush. I appreciated a note of nutmeg for some depth. I don’t think it was very fresh, however. But I am aware of my hour of visiting.
So, meh, in the end. But as I hope I pointed out, I’m probably not one to be passing judgement about doughnuts. This was really about coincidence. And getting to have a memory of walking into a classic New York establishment on a lazy Sunday. For only $1.75.