San Diego’s Donut Bar
A few weeks back, as I was perusing through Facebook, I noticed a post created by a food critic/reviewer for our local newspaper in Orange County. The gist of the post was that she couldn’t wait for some place called the Donut Bar to open in Orange County. In reading her post, I discovered that the Donut Bar was a highly popular donut shop, as its name would indicate, located in Downtown San Diego. As I more closely read her post, I started to get excited. I’m not the world’s biggest donut lover, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like a good donut. And then it dawned on me, hey, we’re going to be in San Diego in just a few weeks for a weekend getaway, maybe we can check out this Donut Bar. When I sent the information to my husband he said it was fine, we could go down there. I was so excited. The more I looked into the Donut Bar and the more I found out about the products they offer, I couldn’t wait.
So, first thing Saturday morning, during our weekend stay in San Diego, I woke my husband up and dragged him down to the Donut Bar with me. It was only located a few miles from where our hotel was, and though we got a little lost on the roads on the way there, we immediately spotted the Donut Bar due to its long line out the front of the store. Occupying a modest storefront in between a juice store and down the street from a bar, on this sleepy Saturday morning, the Donut Bar was the only place that had any foot traffic. By the time we got in line, there were probably 15-20 people ahead of us. Luckily, the line moved rather swiftly. Offering a menu of different gourmet donuts that changes on a daily basis, the Donut Bar makes their donuts on site each morning using only the finest ingredients available from vanilla beans to bourbon. Each morning, the store opens to a line out the door and only stays open as long as there are donuts to sell, which means that when they sell out they close their doors, and believe me, they do sell out. So, when we arrived Saturday morning and only discovered a handful of people ahead of us, we knew we would be safe to get the donuts we wanted. Knowing that the menu changes daily, we had checked out the website already to see what the flavors available would be on the day we arrived.
The Donut Bar also posts, chalkboard-style, their daily menu just outside their front door. Unfortunately, we passed by that chalkboard so quickly, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture! However, just inside their front door is another chalkboard which lists all the drinks they have on tap that day.
On tap, you say? Yes, the Donut Bar has a “milk and coffee bar” where they have 4 drinks on tap, bar style. They recently added Stumptown’s cold nitro brew coffee to the tap. But they’ve always been known for the their 3 milk flavors on tap – 100% whole milk, strawberry milk and chocolate milk. They make their own strawberry and chocolate milk, which is even better. Doesn’t look like a tap you’d see at a bar for drinks on tap?
We had to give their milk on tap a try, so we got a cup of chocolate milk for me, and a cup of strawberry milk for my husband. I think my husband drank the whole thing on one pull of the straw! Ok, maybe two since I snuck in to take a quick sip of his strawberry milk. He loved it. The taste is authentic, and it definitely tastes like they made their own strawberry milk. That is to say, it tastes wholesome, like strawberry puree blended into whole milk. It lacks any of that artificial strawberry flavoring and sweetness you normally get. I also loved the chocolate milk for the fact that it had such a light and subtle chocolate flavor. It wasn’t overly sweet or overly powerful with chocolate, it was just perfect.
But let’s move on to the donuts, that is, after all, why we came here. When you walk into the shop, you’re greeted by a long glass-enclosed counter filled topped to bottom with all sorts of mouth-watering, gourmet donuts.
The first donuts I saw were these huge strawberry splits. Essentially, it’s a traditional sugar donut sliced in half, filled with fresh whipped cream and then topped with fresh-cut juicy, red strawberries before being topped by the top of the sugar donut. These things are enormous and definitely calling my name! In the back there, you can see the Brad fritter. This starts off as a normal apple fritter, but then is topped with crumbled bacon and caramel sauce as requested by Brad Pitt himself.
Moving on down the line, there was the enormous blood orange donut, and next to it was the Boston crème pie and then in the back were special Easter decorated donuts in the shape of a carrot and a bunny rabbit. The donut bar says that most of their donuts are 4 inches wide and 2 inches thick, but I swear these looked way bigger.
There’s even more donuts behind the counter on the display rack along the wall. That’s where they had their red velvet and maple bourbon flavors hiding. There’s so many different varieties of donuts they just can’t keep all of them up front and center at the counter.
As you walk further down the counter, you come to the Donut Bar’s famous cro-bars. This is their version of New York City’s cro-nuts. Essentially, it’s a 3 day process for the Donut Bar to make cro-bars, which are a mix between a multi-layered flaky croissant and a donut. Due to the fact that it does take 3 days to make, these cro-bars are only sold on the weekends.
And to think that we have only seen half the flavors that the Donut Bar offered on the Saturday morning we were there. Next, in the bottom right hand corner, with the toasted marshmallows atop the donut, that is the Mexican hot chocolate donut. That tells me there’s a bit of heat in that chocolate glaze they use. Behind the Mexican hot chocolate is the nutella donut. I imagine that mix of chocolate and hazelnut is amazing and the topping of crushed hazelnuts raises it to another level. And next to the Mexican hot chocolate and the nutella, to the left, is the salted caramel donuts with a caramel glaze and a little bit of sea salt sprinkled on the top.
As if these weren’t indulgent enough, we come to two of the most indulgent donut flavors in the entire show. That’s right, what you see on top there is bacon. In fact, that’s the maple bacon donut, a donut bar with maple glaze topped with crumbled fresh cooked bacon. It’s the sweet and savory combination with the salt of the bacon that people really like. And on the bottom left corner is the cake batter donut. Does the whipped white frosting topped with the confetti rainbow sprinkles look just like the top of a cake! Rich and full of calories.
Not surprising, there’s even more donuts behind the counter further on down the line. We have the vegan banana caramel, which I was really interested in trying, but ultimately didn’t get. There was also trip chocolate thread and the mud pie, which both sounded yummy to my chocolate loving self.
And almost at the very end of the counter, we’ve got these bad boys. The mud pie donut. Set atop a plain donut, it’s topped with chocolate glaze with Oreo cookie crumbles and crushed salted peanuts. That whole thing is topped with peanut butter and marshmallow drizzle. Oh my!
And finally, we’ve got these cute little crème brulee donuts. They look more like oversized donut holes, but they were filled with amazing vanilla custard sauce and then turbinado sugar torched on top, just like a crème brulee wrapped up in a donut.
Once you’ve chosen what you want, the girls behind the counter pack it all up for you in a box and you’re on your way, yummy, delicious donuts in hand. We bought enough donuts for our breakfast that morning, but also a few extra for snacks later in the day and breakfast again the next morning! Believe me, the decision-making was hard.
Ultimately, here was our box. I think you can tell that my husband and I like the same things. We each chose a strawberry split donut. I loved the donut, it was HUGE and incredibly filling, but the sugar donut was terrific and the strawberries and whipped cream was a winner. My husband, while he loved the strawberry split as well, thought that the donut, even though it looked good was too impractical to eat. So he took the top off, ate the half of a sugar donut, then ate the whipped cream and strawberries, and then ate the bottom of the donut. I do agree that perhaps a fork and knife would work well for this donut. The bottom right hand corner shows that we both got a Boston crème donut. As any Boston crème should be, it had a vanilla custard filling to go with that chocolate top. I liked the take on the vanilla custard filling and it was definitely reminiscent of a Boston crème pie. My third donut is hiding in the top left hand corner, the crème brulee. The thick, torched sugar on top was a nice touch, and surprisingly didn’t crumble and break into a million pieces when I bit into the donut. The crème filling was exactly like eating a crème brulee. And finally, my husband got the blood orange donut. I think you can tell which one that is. My husband said that the blood orange glaze on the donut was really good, it tasted like fresh-squeezed blood orange juice was used in the glaze with very little added sugar. This was the first time I’d ever seen a blood orange donut, and as soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew my husband would want it.
I admit that I’m not the biggest donut fan, but when I heard about a gourmet donut shop, I knew I had to try it. It turned out to be fantastic. I loved the fact that they always have a rotating menu of different donut options, often dictated by what’s in season or what they can get their hands on. I also like the fact that they used high quality ingredients to make all of their donut toppings and glazes. While there was a bit of a wait to get our hands on the donuts, the line moved quickly and all the people who work at the Donut Bar were quick, efficient and friendly. I would definitely head to the Donut Bar again for a cool, refreshing drink from the milk tap and a couple yummy gourmet donuts the next time I find myself in San Diego