We are two-thirds of the way through our insulin-shocking mission to find the area’s best doughnut. In our first seven weeks, we ate more than 140 of the fried pastries while checking out national chains, local upstarts and longtime neighborhood favorites. In Week 8, we visit a shop tucked away on the lower level of Union Station and a pedigreed newcomer downtown.
Nothing But Donuts
For the past 15 years, this subterranean bakery in Union Station’s food court has showcased up to 50 kinds of doughnuts every day. Owner Yune Choi offers normal-size rounds and Dinosaurs, which weigh nearly three-quarters of a pound and measure 8 inches across.
Address: 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE. 202-289-7586.
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
The lineup: When we stopped by, approximately two dozen varieties filled the cases. We tried the glazed, sour cream, cinnamon cake, plain cake, blueberry cake, coconut cake, honey wheat glazed, strawberry-iced, chocolate-iced, chocolate-iced cake, Boston cream, maple-iced and a giant Dinosaur glazed.
Price: $1 per doughnut ($10.59 for a dozen), $3.59 for the Dinosaur glazed.
The look: Most earned a respectable score in the upper midrange for their straightforward sensibility. These doughnuts aren’t fussy or fancy; they’re the classics done right. (Average weight: 3.2 ounces.)
Price per ounce: 23-40 cents.
How do they taste? This batch was hit-or-miss. Standouts included the cake doughnut with a crunchy cinnamon crumb coating, the tender sour cream and the simple glazed. Conversely, the saccharine strawberry-iced, which one judged dubbed “a doughnut for Barbie dolls,” and the disappointing coconut cake weren’t worth the calories. (Average score: 4 out of 10.)
Best of the bunch: Dinosaur glazed. This monstrosity was the largest and heaviest doughnut we’ve encountered so far. Despite the leviathan proportions, it was evenly fried all the way through and glazed uniformly, helping it become our fifth-favorite pastry of the competition. As one judge wrote, “Fred Flintstone would be happy.” In other words, Yabba dabba doughnut! (Average score: 5.7.)
Worst of the bunch: Maple-iced. You won’t want to tap this again. The artificially flavored frosting was cloying, chemical-tasting and completely unappealing. (Average score: 2.7.)
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Former Fiola pastry chef Jason Gehring oversees the deep-fryers at this compact Metro Center outfit. Instead of making Italian bomboloni, though, he turns out a rotating menu of gourmet doughnuts and fried chicken. There’s even a BLT that combines both elements: a cheddar-chive doughnut is packed with fried chicken, a few rashers, tomato rounds and Sriracha mayo.
Address: 1308 G St. NW. 202-809-5565, www.astrodoughnuts.com.
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. until they are sold out (usually around 5 or 6 p.m.).
The lineup: The day we stopped in, there were a dozen options on hand: passion fruit with chocolate pearls, creme brulee, PBJ, chocolate cake pretzel, Black & White, grapefruit, banana nut, coconut, Key lime, Twink-nut, vanilla-glazed and maple bacon.
Price: $2.25-2.85. (Buy 11, get one free.)
The look: These blue-ribbon beauts draw the eye with decorative icing swirls, well-positioned candy elements, interesting shapes and impeccably applied glazes. Take a picture before you take a bite, because you’ll want to remember these doughnuts long after you’ve scarfed them down. (Average weight: 3.7 ounces.)
Price per ounce: 62-83 cents.
How do they taste? Without question, this was the best batch of doughnuts we’ve enjoyed thus far, taking the lead over that other fried-chicken-and-doughnut concept in town, GBD. Gehring inventively uses glazes, toppings and fillings to create interesting counterpoints of flavor and balance. The tangy/sweet passion fruit glaze worked well with the chocolate pearls, maple bacon was the perfect melding of savory and sweet, and a strip of candied ginger nicely offset bittersweet grapefruit glaze. (Average score: 6.9 out of 10.)
Best of the bunch (tie): Creme brulee and PBJ. Both of these square-shaped sweets were perfect encapsulations of the dishes that inspired them, helping them race to the top of the leader board. Biting into the former, you crackle through the torch-blasted sugar crust before uncovering the creamy, vanilla-accented pudding concealed below. In Gehring’s version of the lunchbox favorite, salty peanut bits scattered across a peanut butter frosting pair nicely with the just-sweet-enough strawberry jam running through the doughy struts. (Average score: 8.)
Worst of the bunch: Twink-nut. This Twinkie-inspired affair had an overwhelming vanilla flavor and an uneven distribution of the creamy filling, earning it only middling marks from the judges. Nonetheless, it is our highest-scoring “worst” doughnut of the competition. (Average score: 5.7.)
The running totals so far
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken: 6.9
Woodward Takeout Food: 5.4
Zeke’s DC Donutz: 5.1
Breads Unlimited: 5
Woodmoor Pastry Shop: 4.2
Heller’s Bakery: 4.1
Nothing But Donuts: 4
Shilla Bakery: 3.9
Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe: 3.5
Family Bakery & Mrs. Doughnut and G Street Food (tie): 3.4
Shoppers Food & Pharmacy: 3.3
Krispy Kreme: 3.1
Dunkin’ Donuts: 2.2
Milan Bakery & Miss Donuts: 2.1
Astro creme brulee and PBJ (tie): 8
GBD berry fritter: 7.6
Zeke’s Ferrero Rocher: 6.7
Breads Unlimited plain glazed: 5.9
Nothing But Donuts’ Dinosaur glazed 5.7
Milan Bakery & Miss Donuts strawberry iced: 1
Dunkin’ Donuts toasted coconut: 1.1
Family Bakery vanilla-iced with sprinkles: 2
Krispy Kreme glazed raspberry filled: 2.1
Shoppers’ vanilla glazed cake and Heidelberg glazed cruller (tie): 2.3