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Monday, October 05, 2009


Do you like doughnuts? To me, they are the quintessential American comfort food, soft and benign looking. I rarely eat them, however - doughnuts are typically a fast food and not known for their health benefits. Nonetheless, a friend and I got a hankering and, having heard of a gourmet doughnut place somewhere downtown, I started to do my research.

This was a relatively easy search. Although there were many other contenders for our quest, most roads seemed to lead to the Doughnut Plant at 379 Grand Street (near Essex Street), owned and operated by Mark Israel. Many consider the doughnuts here to be the best in New York City, if not the world.

The location is off the beaten path - somewhat east from prime Lower East Side and located in a nondescript, quasi-industrial one-story building. It does not have the feel of a place to be seen or concerned with decorative touches, such as Magnolia Bakery.
But no matter, because this place is a destination. There is a sense of seriousness and intention. A quick look around showed the focus and intensity of customers who knew what they wanted and were here to get it, even at $2-$3 per doughnut. See more photos here.

This is the type of New York City establishment run by an owner who is driven to make a superior product. He changes his frying oil daily, uses ingredients such as Valrhona chocolate and Tahitian vanilla beans, makes his own fruit preserves, uses fresh coconuts, buys fruit for his glazes from the Union Square Greenmarket, roast and grinds his own peanuts, and has flour milled to his specifications. He uses organic ingredients, and his doughnuts have no trans fats, artificial ingredients, or eggs.

The Doughnut Plant was founded in 1994 by Mark Israel, using the recipe of his grandfather, Herman, who started working in a St. Paul Minnesota bakery at age 16. During WWI, Herman was stationed in Paris, France, where he baked bread in the Army bakery. From 1935 to 1965, he owned and operated the College Pastry Shop in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mark was born in 1963 in North Carolina and moved to New York City in 1981. He operated from the basement of a Lower East Side tenement until 2000, when he moved to his current location.

There are blackout doughnuts, lavender-glazed cake doughnuts, and exotic creations with coconut custard filling, creme brulee, tres leches (with 3 sweet creams), rose petal-glazed, banana cream-filled peanut butter-glazed inspired by Elvis Presley's favorite snack, and blueberry pinstripe doughnuts in honor of the New York Yankees. See their website here.

The Doughnut Plant turns out over 2000 doughnuts per day and distributes to over 40 shops in New York City, including Dean & Deluca, Citarella, and Zabar's. The shop closes when they have sold out of the day's production.
Mark has collaborated with partners and now has 10 shops in Tokyo and 10 in South Korea. The New York City location is the only one in the USA, but there are plans to open in other locations.
Doughnuts, anyone?


arabesque said...

donuts you say? ^-^ i'm in! i love sweets! have a weakness for it...
my fave?!
anything with choco on it.
and you?

Brian Dubé said...

arabesque - doughnuts are a very infrequent indulgence for me, so anything is good. but that blackout is hard to beat.

dube said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mirela said...

I like donuts, but no the US version. That's one of the rare things I really couldn't eat while living there - they were too sweet and too heavy for me - the complete opposites are cheesecake and pumpkin pie, IMHO the two best things in the world! :)

Annie said... I am next in the US I intend heading right there!

GlenwoodNYC said...

Love your review here on this donut joint (you make them sound extremely appetizing, as well as artful). If you're into checking out NYC eateries from time to time, you should have a look at our blog 'Neighborhood Pleasures'. There is a link to it through the name above but here is another for your convenience:

Bon Appetit

andrea said...

The best doughnut in NYC MUST be the best doughnut in the world. I'm a doughnut fanatic, I even like the bad ones....