Fried and Joy: The Doughnut’s Gourmet Makeover

From strip-mall staples to custom creations, a sweet craze comes full circle

Burgers, mac and cheese, cupcakes. Every comfort food we love eventually receives a gourmet makeover. Next up? Doughnuts. Once we had few options besides eating them out of paper bags in strip malls and at roadside stands, albeit elaborately built 
ones like Randy’s Donuts, with its towering sculpture, and Donut Hole, which boasts a doughnut-shaped drive-thru. Now they’re made with fancy ingredients and artfully plated at gastropubs like Plan Check. There, the freshly fried crullers are dusted with cinnamon, cardamom, and cayenne, then served with two kinds of cream and sliced bananas or strawberries. “I went deep into the doughnut universe to figure out not only what I could execute but what would stand out,” says chef Ernesto Uchimura. “The cruller is a happy medium between a dense cake doughnut and a light yeast one. It’s so popular, it’s become a signature item.” 

Over at the Donut Snob the treats are almost too beautiful to eat. The delivery-based business produces airy puffs filled with a mixed berry coulis or lemon curd and crowned with toasted marshmallow or delicate fruit arrangements. Donut Friend goes the opposite route, opting for a DIY ethos. Pick a premade baked foundation—all vegan—then choose fruit, candy, spices, nuts, and sauces to design your own creation. Want cheddar and caramelized apples topped with dulce de leche? Got it. And while New Yorkers go crazy for cronuts, those cream-filled croissant-doughnut hybrids, in L.A. it’s Fonuts, the mini Bundt cakes in flavors like rosemary-olive oil and coconut-passion fruit. Because who says a doughnut has to have rainbow sprinkles and come out of a pink box? Plan Check: 1800 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., and 351 N. Fairfax Ave., Beverly Grove; Donut Snob: Donut Friend: 5107 York Blvd., Highland Park, 8104 W. 3rd St., Beverly Grove,