Glaze of Glory

Doughnuts are rising in popularity—thanks to restaurants giving them a gourmet twist

Illustration by Jennifer Kahn Barlow

Biting into a freshly fried glazed doughnut is one of life’s true joys. The crispy brown exterior gives way to a fluffy center. It’s sweet, warm and oh-so-comforting—like the best parts of childhood rolled into one bite. We revel in the moment, knowing that soon, all that will remain is the sticky glaze on our fingertips.

We’re not talking about the boxed doughnuts that you’ll find at the grocery store, however. Nor do we mean those that have been sitting out for hours (if not days) at the bakery. The golden circlets we’re referring to have hit the big time—they’re the new cupcake—and are showing up with gourmet twists and international inspiration on dessert menus at area restaurants.

“A doughnut is like a burger or a pizza—there are a million different things you can do with it,” says Chris Mack, executive chef at Rockville’s Quench, which offers a doughnut dessert.

Here are seven spots where you can get delicious doughnuts that are sure to satisfy your inner Homer Simpson.

Cava Mezze Grill
4832 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, 301-656-1772,
The Greeks have given the world innumerable epicurean inventions—gyros, souvlaki and feta cheese are among their tastier creations. To that list we’d add loukoumades. These fried doughnut balls were traditionally served to Olympic champions in ancient Greece, but you can enjoy them today without hurling a javelin or running a marathon. Made to order at this mecca of Mediterranean food, these gold-medal desserts come in a paper bag with a snowfall of powdered sugar. Crackly on the outside and soft at the core, they’re best when eaten while still warm. Price: $3.50 per order.

MoCo’s Founding Farmers
12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, 301-340-8783,
The beignets at this farm-to-table favorite are golden and delicious. Their crackly shells protect airy middles. To achieve this fluffiness, the pastry chefs wait for the double “pop” when frying these treats. The first time the beignets pop, they expand and rise to the surface of the fryer. But they’re not done just yet. They have to pop again before they’re completely cooked. That’s when they’re brought to the table, still so piping hot that you might singe your fingers if you don’t watch out. Served with raspberry, caramel, and semisweet chocolate sauces, the frizzled rounds are the perfect finale to any meal. Price: $8 per order.            

Jackie’s Restaurant
8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, 301-565-9700,
Stop in for Sunday brunch to sample pastry chef Carolyn Crow’s hot hoops spangled with rainbow sprinkles. Her standard glazes are sweetly tart raspberry, rich chocolate, and caramel-style dulce de leche, though she has offered huckleberry and blood-orange versions, too. No matter what flavor she’s making, Crow says she follows her golden rule: “The glaze can’t be too sweet. If it makes your teeth hurt, you’re going to regret that doughnut immediately.” You may not experience any remorse after ordering these fresh-from-the-fryer treats—though a trip to the gym might be needed to compensate for the caloric overload. Price: $3 each.

Lebanese Taverna
7141 Arlington Road, Bethesda, 301-951-8681,
Awamat are Lebanese doughnuts that are traditionally served on the Epiphany (Jan. 6). Golden and glistening when pulled from the frying oil, the spherical pastries are quickly tossed in saffron-scented honey syrup. These doughnuts have a crackly exterior and a fluffy interior. That contrast is achieved by mixing yogurt into the batter, which helps add moisture. Small saucers of aromatic honey and yogurt milk pudding served on the side may not be necessary to enjoy them, but we found ourselves going back for more. So no judgments if you feel the need to double (or triple) dip. Price: $6.50 per order.

4435 Willard Ave., Chevy Chase, 240-223-5427,
Italy is rife with doughnut riffs. There are cream-filled bomboloni, fried dough balls known as zeppole, and Sicilian sfingi fritters. And then there are Executive Chef Cesare Lanfranconi’s ricotta doughnuts—sweet spheres tossed in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest and made from an imported recipe. They arrive freshly frizzled with thick dipping custard that’s spiked with limoncello. As if those weren’t enough, he also offers maple-bacon ricotta doughnuts on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tossed in an orange-maple glaze and rolled in crushed bacon bits, they’re accompanied with warm maple syrup for dunking. “They’re irresistible,” Lanfranconi says. “When one table orders them, every table around it will end up ordering them, as well.” Ricotta doughnuts are $7.95 per order; maple-bacon ricotta doughnuts are $8.95 per order.

Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro
1699 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-816-0369,
Some foods were meant for each other. Peanut butter and jelly. Bagels and lox. Coffee and doughnuts. That last combo is honored with a shareable dessert at this upscale pizza palace. Freshly fried rounds are rolled in powdered cinnamon sugar, then served in a paper cone. To create the undeniably delicious union, submerge them in the warm espresso Kahlúa crème that comes in a demitasse on the side. If you run out of the sauce before you finish the doughnuts, try a cup of coffee for dunking. The caffeine helps counteract the inevitable sugar crash that follows any doughnut binge. Price: $8 per order.

9712 Traville Gateway Dr., Rockville, 301-424-8650,
Every summer when he was growing up, Executive Chef Chris Mack and his family would head to Ocean City for vacation. The warm, fried-to-order cake doughnuts that the family would buy for breakfast at the Fractured Prune were his favorite part of the trip. “They were so good that my brothers and sisters and I would get in fights over them,” he says. Now Mack is resurrecting his childhood memories with a doughnut dessert. He dips a freshly fried cake doughnut into a vanilla-accented maple glaze before rolling it in toffee pecan crunch. The doughnut is served with a generous scoop of house-made butter pecan ice cream on top and a drizzle of the maple glaze. Hello, nirvana! Price: $6 per order.

Nevin Martell lives in Washington, D.C., and frequently writes about food and culture.

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