Posts Tagged ‘doughnuts’

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Zombie Donuts

For a while when I initially started this blog, I would visit a restaurant on my last ride of each month and write a post about it.  I haven’t done that as frequently during the past year.  But I didn’t want 2016 to end without at least one more ride during which I treat myself to something better than the cafeteria fare I often eat at my desk after I get back from a bike ride.  So on this bike ride I sought out Zombie Coffee and Donuts, one of the few local doughnut shops that I hadn’t been to previously.   Zombie has two locations, and I chose the one located at 3100 14th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.  I chose this location because the other is a little too far away for me to ride to on my break from work.  Their only other location is in Athens, Georgia.

Now, I’m not much of a coffee drinker.  I never have been.  I remember first trying it as a child and not liking it.  My parents said I would learn to like it, but I decided it wasn’t worth learning to like.  So on this bike ride I sought out Zombie not for the coffee but for their doughnuts.  And you might be able to tell from some of my previous blog posts, I like a good doughnut.

Zombie serves only fresh made-to-order cake doughnuts which can be topped with your of choice glazes and toppings.  The way that it normally works is that after entering the shop you’re handed an order form that asks you to specify which kind of glaze you’d like with which topping.   Some of their most popular combinations are listed at the top of the order form, and include Chocolate Icing and M&Ms, Vanilla Icing and crushed Oreos, Maple Icing and Bacon or Pecans, either Chocolate or Vanilla Icing and Caramel Drizzle, Lemon Glaze and Coconut, or Half Chocolate Icing and Half Vanilla Icing. Or you can check off your own individual choices such strawberry glaze with rainbow sprinkles, as I’m sure Homer Simpson would order if he were at Zombie.  Altogether there are 84 possible combinations of glazes and toppings.

I happened to walk in at one of the infrequent times when there was not a line, so I was able to just tell them what kind of doughnuts I wanted, and they made them as I stood there.  I chose one with just plain strawberry icing, and a chocolate iced doughnut with shredded coconut.  Now I’m not going to “sugarcoat” things here.  They were not the best doughnuts I’ve ever had.  But they were so fresh they were still warm, and they were darned good.  They’re so good, in fact, I can forgive them for spelling the word doughnut incorrectly.

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Soho Café & Market

Soho Café & Market

Because of taking time off from work for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at the end of November and December, I have not posted an end-of-the-month restaurant review since last October. So this month I’m getting back into my routine with this post about one of my favorite lunch on-the-go spots – the Soho Café & Market, which is located across the Street from Franklin Square at 1301 K Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.

Soho Café & Market is not a restaurant that focuses on one thing, like Horace and Dickie’s does with fish, or We, The Pizza does with pizza. Rather, Soho goes to the other extreme. They offer so many choices that it can sometimes make it difficult to make a decision of what to have. Soho offers a variety of grilled and deli sandwiches, gourmet pizza, an expansive fresh salad and fruit bar, fresh-rolled sushi served with complementary miso, and a Mongolian wok station, an espresso bar, and an insane selection of various desserts and beverages.

Lastly, they also have my go-to favorite for lunch – several buffet-style hot food bars. Although there are a number of these types of places downtown, Soho has the widest selection I’ve seen. And because Soho is almost always quite busy, the food doesn’t look or taste like it’s been sitting out all day, which can be a big problem with some of the other places like this downtown. The only problem with the hot food bar is that everything looks so good that my eyes can tend to be bigger than my stomach. And since it is priced by weight, I have to remind myself to be careful when I am serving myself.

Soho also opens at 6:00am for breakfast, for which they offer breakfast foods at the hot food bar, or omelets, breakfast sandwiches and other dishes cooked to order. There is also fresh fruit, yogurts, oatmeal, and a variety of doughnuts, pastries, biscuits and bagels as well.

Soho is a solid choice for a quick lunch or breakfast downtown, but has limited “workday” hours, open only Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, and closed on evenings and weekends. But what it lacks in hours of operation it makes up for in always being impeccably clean, keeping enough cash registers open to ensure you can get in and out fairly quickly, and serving good food at a reasonable price.

If I had to identify my biggest criticism of Soho, I would say that its biggest drawback is that there is very little ambiance, often making it seem more like a cafeteria than a restaurant. The inside has plenty of seating and is great for groups, but is merely functional at best. That is why I usually like to take my meal across the street to Franklin Square, where I can people watch while I enjoy what I’m eating.  I even have company when I share some of it with the local pigeons.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

UPDATE:   Sadly, as of September 1, 2017, Soho Café & Market closed.

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

I recently had a craving for a doughnut. But I was not looking for the kind of generic, mass-produced doughnut that you usually get in a supermarket, a convenience store, or even one of the national doughnut shop chains. I wanted a fresh specialty gourmet doughnut. The kind you can only get in a local bakery or restaurant. During its recent “Dozen Weeks of Doughnuts Contest,” The Washington Post named the Crème Brûlée doughnut, the signature treat at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, the best in the city.  Astro actually had two of the top three doughnuts in D.C., with its Peanut Butter and Jelly version coming in third place. So with two of the top three doughnuts in the city, Astro seemed like the place to go to satisfy my craving. It also seemed like a good choice for my traditional end-of-the-month restaurant review for the month of October.

Part of Metro Center in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is conveniently located at 1308 G Street (MAP), across the street from the Church of the Epiphany, and just a little over a block away from The White House. Opened just last year by longtime friends and native Washingtonians Elliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern, they were inspired to open the shop by their longstanding tradition of enjoying a doughnut after playing hockey together.

Halpern went on to become a professional hockey player, and was the first native Washingtonian to play for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL). Currently an unrestricted free agent, Halpern has also played in the NHL for the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and most recently, the Phoenix Coyotes. However, despite a successful career in sports, he may be better known in the long run for doughnuts if the ones I’ve tried are an indicator.

The creative force behind the doughnuts at Astro is Chef Jason Gehring, who has cooked in kitchens ranging from D.C.’s own Fiola and Poste to Baltimore’s Charleston and New York City’s famous Payard Bakery. Utilizing seasonal fruit and produce from local farmers, and high-end ingredients, the standard flavors each day include the Crème Brûlée and PB&J, along with Maple Bacon and Vanilla Bean Glaze. There are also various flavors that rotate onto the menu, depending on the season and availability of fresh ingredients. They include Piña Colada, Carrot Cake, Pink Grapefruit, Creamsicle, Banana Nut, Applesauce, Coconut Cake, Passionfruit Berry, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Pumpkin Latte, and one called Brooklyn Blackout, which is devil’s food cake with chocolate glaze and cookie crumbs.

My favorite by far, however, is the one I had on this bike ride, the Key Lime Pie doughnut. It was actually the best doughnut I’ve ever eaten. Dense and moist, it was deliciously tart, with a strip of candied lime to top it off. The taste was spot on to the legendary dessert, making it easy to imagine being transported to southern Florida and having breakfast with the Key West locals, or as they’re called there, “conchs.”

And the chicken at Astro is almost as good as the doughnuts, which is saying a lot. The classic fried chicken is tender, succulent and flavorful, with just the right amount of crunchiness and seasoning.  They also offer a variety of flavors and different kinds of chicken, from the Sriracha or spicy garlic chicken wings, to the Old Bay or Buffalo chicken sandwiches, they are all good enough to cause making a decision to be difficult.

Like several other restaurants I have reviewed here on this blog in the past, Astro has no seating and are a business only. And if I had to come up with a criticism of Astro, it would be that different doughnuts and kinds of chicken are only available on certain days.  Also, there is a potential for them to run out of certain menu items, particularly the most popular choices. But these are first-world problems which are easily remedied if you follow my advice, which is, “Definitely go there, know what you want, and the earlier you get there the better.”

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