Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review: Holey Donuts

Holey Donuts
101 7th Ave South
New York, NY 10014

 I have no idea what company they may be trying
to get you to think about with this color scheme.


Around the corner from us in a location that is kind of star-crossed, an online donut company is trying to make its transition to the physical world. I wasn't previously aware that there was such a thing as an online donut company but Holey Donuts has apparently made a splash with low-fat (by donut standards) donuts. I guess that success, combined with the buzz created by Dominque Ansel's Cronuts, led to this store.

I signed up for their pre-opening, where they were trying to create a buzz by giving away free stuff.  New Yorkers will stand in line for anything, and will do anything for free stuff, so of course the gambit worked.  Today was the first day of a multi-day opening event and I went by and got a tote bag, a $15 gift certificate -- more about that later -- some kind of veggie-fruit drink and four of their donuts to sample.

One doesn't want to be uncharitable to someone who just gave you free stuff, but Holey Donuts are not very good.   

First, the highlights.  They have a very enthusiastic, well-trained, helpful staff.  They have coffee.

OK, now to the donuts. According to some of the articles cited by the Holey Donuts website, creating an enjoyable lowfat donut is something of a holy grail in the food industry.  This is not that grail.

They say that they make the donuts to order.  This is only partially true.  They pre-make the doughy part of the donut, both solid and with a hole.  When you order, they fill the donut with the filling if appropriate and then send it down a line like they do at Cold Stone Creamery.  Happily, no songs occur while they are doing this.  They've got all the sugary fillings and toppings you'd expect from a donut shop -- Boston Creme, apple, caramel, chocolate, crumbles, whatever. 

The filling station, where the pre-made donut blanks get filled. 

The assembly line with the various toppings.
The pre-made donut blanks are in the background.

All of this adds exactly zero value to the finished donut.  They don't taste better, fresher, or warmer than they would if they were on a big tray behind the counter like Dunkin Donuts.  It does add a ton of time to the process of getting an order. Ordering a dozen could take quite some time.  Fortunately, that will never, ever happen.  Remember that $15 gift card I mentioned?  That buys four donuts.  A dozen is 44 dollars.  Yeah.  Good luck with that one. 

But the biggest problem is, as I mentioned, that the donuts just aren't very good.  The toppings are fine, if unexceptional, but the donuts themselves are like an unfortunate hybrid of a sugary bagel and an undercooked cinnamon roll.  They have neither the taste nor the mouthfeel of what you normally think of as a donut.  They're not bad exactly but there's no point to them.  If you want a bagel, get a bagel.  If you want a donut, get a donut.   If you want a low-fat, guilt-free donut, keep waiting.  

I'm a fan and admirer of the small businessman.  I was really hoping to review these favorably.  But the product just fails.  If you want a donut, there's a Dunkin Donuts across the street and a Starbucks right next door.  If you want a treat and to support a small business making a superior product, go to the Big Gay Ice Cream store across the street or any of the few remaining family-owned artisanal bakeries in the area.  For a delicious low-fat treat, the fruit guy around the corner will sell you a banana for a quarter. 

This entry has been edited to revise the title to "They Gave Us Free Donuts" to "Review: Holey Donuts." and to conform the beginning to other reviews on this blog. 

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