Best Donuts in the DMV

Similar to our Barbecue Tour of Texas and our Best Pizzarias in the DMV posts, this was a fun post to do research for. Who doesn’t like eating donuts?!? We tried four different donut shops and, while there were some we liked more than others, they were all delicious.

In this post, we do not plan on resolving the spelling question: “Donut” vs. “Doughnut”. I think “doughnut” sounds fancier (good) but perhaps more pretentious (bad). Only you can make the final call!

Diablo Doughnuts

Diablo Doughnuts, in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood, makes destination-worthy donuts. They make a limited number a day and when they run out, that’s it. Top picks include the Captain Chesapeake, a yeast-donut with a caramel glaze topped with Old Bay, it is pleasantly savory and not too sweet. A great change of pace from traditional donut flavors. The donuts at Diablo do tend to run oily, so eating one is usually enough for us. Did we mention they serve them in a reversed pizza box?

Diablo Doughnuts in Baltimore, Maryland

It was Mardi Gras season when we went so we picked up the visually appealing King Cake donut, complete with a tiny baby on top! The donut was fresh, sugary and delicious.

The crème brulee was a good donut, but I wouldn’t say it tasted that much like crème brulee. The first thing you notice is how HEAVY it is. That’s because it is absolutely packed with filling. The filling tastes more like vanilla pudding than crème brulee custard, but hey it’s a good donut that I would get again. It just doesn’t taste much like crème brulee.

Astro Doughnuts

The crème brulee donut at Astro Doughnuts, meanwhile, is what all donut shops aspire to. The sugar glaze on the outside shatters when you bite into, and the char is evident in each bite. There is a more modest amount of filling than Diablo and it really tastes like crème brulee custard.

Astro Doughnuts in Washington DC

The vanilla glazed tasted fresh, like an authentic glazed donut. We only got mild notes of vanilla but it was still excellent. While you are at Astro, consider picking up some top-notch fried chicken to go along with your donuts.

Vanilla glazed at Astro Doughnuts in Washington DC

Duck Donuts

The draw to Duck Donuts is the fact that the donuts are made-to-order. I am aware that it is a chain, but for the purposes of this discussion we will be talking about the location on Rockville Pike. And it definitely does draw a lot of people – the shop was packed as we left, at 5pm on a Saturday.

S'more donut at Duck Donuts in Rockville, Maryland

The donuts at Duck Donuts were smaller than any of the other places. They are also cake donuts, which I find unusual these days. Most fancy donuts shops make mainly yeast donuts. The flavors were also not quite as strong. For example, the S’more was good but lacking in chocolate/marshmallow flavor.

Duck Donuts in Rockville, Maryland

The donuts definitely get points for having toppings that are still melty from the heat but overall they just don’t quite match up to the others. If I’m in the mood for fresh, hot donuts with melty icing (which is often), Duck Donuts is where I’m going to go.

Sugar Shack

Sugar Shack is a local chain, based out of Richmond, Virginia. We chose to visit the Shaw location in DC. The texture of the donuts was somewhere between Diablo/Astro and Duck. Sugar Shack’s donuts were not nearly as cakey as Duck but also did not have that fresh taste like Diablo or Astro.

Sugar Shack in Shaw, DC

Our favorite thing about the S’mores donut were the chewy marshmallows in the center. It brought great texture, which was the theme for Sugar Shack’s donuts, texture and flavor in every bite.

We also had a chocolate frosted with sprinkles, where the top of the donut was completely covered with rainbow sprinkles. That sounds almost too simple, right? It was actually really good! I enjoyed the crunch with each bite, even if it was pretty messy.

So which is our favorite?

Astro takes the cake (donut). We like Astro and Diablo the best because their donuts taste the freshest. Astro is the clear winner, though, because the donuts are not as greasy and because the flavors really can’t be beat.

Places we visited
Diablo Doughnuts: 1035 Light St Baltimore, MD 21230
Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken: 1308 G St, NW Washington, DC 20004
Duck Donuts: 1327 Rockville Pike Rockville, MD 20852
Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee: 1932 9th St, NW Washington, DC 20001

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Women’s March / Smoked & Stacked / Buttercream Bakeshop

We live so close that we felt it would be wrong not to attend Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. While this is a food blog, of course, it was nice to be there and feel like we were part of something important.

Women’s March on Washington

Around 1:00pm we got hungry for lunch. We didn’t have anything in mind other than walking north, away from the Mall. A few miles later we ended up in Shaw at Smoked & Stacked, Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s new deli and sandwich shop. Chef Marjorie is a bit of a celebrity from last season’s Top Chef, so we were star struck to see her in the kitchen preparing sandwiches.

Smoked and Stacked

Smoked & Stacked is counter-serve restaurant, but I would not call it fast-casual. For example, it doesn’t have that assembly line atmosphere that is a hallmark of fast-casual restaurants. Instead, Smoked & Stacked has a chef-driven menu that clearly had a lot of thought put into them.   While you can customize your sandwich, it’s probably best to stick the featured sandwiches.

The star of the show is the housemade pastrami, so we could not miss that. We shared “The Stacked”, which is pastrami, slaw and Dijon mustard on a sea-salt topped milkbread bun. The moist and meaty warm pastrami gets a cool crunch from the slaw. The best part, though, may be the sweet and pillowy milkbread. In fact, it’s so good that it distracts a bit from the pastrami. Still, the chef can’t be faulted if her bread tastes too good.

Smoked and Stacked housemade pastrami

The sandwiches are substantial in size and would make a hearty lunch. We shared one, plus a bag of Route 11 potato chips, so that we would have room for dessert. Conveniently, Buttercream Bakeshop is directly across 9th Street, NW. The much anticipated bakery is a partnership between former Neighborhood Restaurant Group pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac and cake decorator Alexandra Muddy-Till.

Buttercream Bakeshop

We shared an “808 Bar”, which resembles a s’more. It ended up tasting like a luscious combination brownie, blondie and fudge sprinkled with toasted coconut. I also got a matcha latte, creamy from steamed 2% milk. The barista asked if I wanted it sweetened. I said “no” but if I could do it again, I’d say yes. This is a purely personal preference, but by having it sweetened, it just would have underscored the decadence of our trip to Buttercream.

Buttercream Bakeshop 808 Bar

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: The Stacked

Address
Smoked & Stacked: 1239 9th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Buttercream Bakeshop: 1250 9th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Mt Vernon Square

Hazel

Being back in DC means that we get to check out some of the newer restaurants that we’ve been too busy to get to over the last few weeks (see the previous post).  On a dreary Thursday night during one of the rainiest weeks of 2016, we checked out Hazel in Shaw.  Hazel is an Asian-accented restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Partisan, Rustico, Sovereign, plus many others) and Chef Rob Rubba.  It is located in a brand new mixed-use building across V Street from the 930 Club.

Hazel restaurant

The first thing that one notices upon entering  at night is that the space is dark and moody.  From our perch at the bar there were spotlights above us that illuminated the otherwise dark space.  We spent the evening watching the rain through the floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the restaurant.

As with any Neighborhood Restaurant Group restaurant, the beer list was stellar.  But Hazel also has a strong focus on cocktails.  I enjoyed the Too Short a Season, which was basically a spritz, my cocktail obsession of the moment.  The sweet yet bitter taste of the Cappelletti, also known as Specialino in its home of Brescia, really shined through the rest of the ingredients.  Marnay got a saison, her favorite style of beer, from Oxbow.

Hazel cocktails

Chef Rubba’s menu is entirely small plates, with two family-style “huge” plates:  a whole snapper and a roasted duck.  I am seeing this trend of having family-style portions pop up more and more on menus and I am a huge fan.  It takes dining from a semi-solitary activity and turns it into an experience, where interaction among others is required.

But on to our food.  English muffins slathered with whipped nduja, a spicy spreadable salami, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam were a striking example of the way hot and cool play off of each other.  The nduja, yogurt and jam were layered in a ramekin so that it resembled a sunny-side up egg.

Hazel english muffins with whipped nduja

We liked the littleneck clams in a brown butter miso broth, but would not be inclined to order them again.  After we finished the chewy clams, we took the small bowl of steamed rice and let it soak up the umami-packed broth.  An above average dish but not a repeater.

Hazel littleneck clams

My favorite was their Korean fried chicken style ribs, which is quickly becoming their quintessential dish.  The ribs are crunchy, sweet, spicy and meaty, pretty much the four adjectives that make up an optimal dish.  The heat was noticeable, and my sinuses would confirm this, but it didn’t overwhelm the other flavors.

Hazel Korean fried chicken style ribs

We were very fond of the food at Hazel.  What set it apart from all of the other new restaurants with great food, though, was the atmosphere.  We felt like we spent a few hours after work hanging out in an exclusive club with superb food.

Best Bite
Paul: Korean fried chicken style ribs
Marnay: English muffins with nduja, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam

Address
Hazel: 808 V Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: U Street