I’ll just go ahead and say it: I really love doughnuts. That’s why, as a doughnut connoisseur, I was as excited as anyone to experience New Haven’s latest addition to its York Street lineup: Donut Crazy, the aptly-named restaurant that had its grand opening celebration last Thursday.
A doughnut is simple: a fried dough confectionery that brings joy to one’s taste buds. However, many gourmet doughnut restaurants try to reinvent the wheel by loading their doughnut with a wide array of bold toppings without ever really concentrating on the doughnut itself. Without a firm foundation on which to base ingredients such as bacon, pie crumbs or whipped cream, the yeast ring is destined to fail from the start.
Donut Crazy offers two genres of doughnuts: traditional ones known as “dailies” and more audacious selections known as “crazies”. The latter are graced with extravagant ingredients ranging from cookie crumbles to apple pie filling to peanut butter and jelly. The “crazies” allow Donut Crazy to experiment with a broad palette of flavor combinations in order to create a more adventurous experience for the customer.
The restaurant has the classic doughnut shop setup: order at the counter, and your dough delicacies are handed to you moments later. Even though the restaurant’s prices aren’t as crazy as their doughnuts, a “daily” will cost you $1.95 while a “Crazy” is $3.25. The difference between the two is understandable, as the “crazies” are significantly bigger and contain more toppings and fillings.
On my visit, I started out by trying a half dozen of the store’s more basic fare. My favorite of the standard doughnuts had to be the pumpkin cake. In this crisp time when autumn begins to fade, the doughnut conjured up the perfect mix of fall flavors, with a crispy glazed exterior complementing the spice mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove on the outside. The fatal flaw with many pumpkin doughnuts is that pumpkin spice is simply added into the cake mix. But here at 290 York St., the interior resembled a hearty slice of pumpkin loaf.
The apple cider, in essence an apple-flavored ring with a delicate shield of sugar on the outside, was equally as potent. The crunchiness of the doughnut made me feel as if I was biting into a fresh, handpicked apple, while the sugar provided the sweetness that apple purists come to expect.
Other selections of mine included a glazed stick, a doughnut that was slightly more rewarding than its Dunkin’ Donuts counterpart, and the birthday cake, a delicious doughnut consisting of interior cake batter with frosting and rainbow sprinkles so authentic that it was almost as if the cooks cut a circular slice out of the sweet birthday dessert and punched a hole in the middle.
However, two doughnuts of mine lacked the deliciousness and devotion to the fried dough that I encountered in my previous selections. The glazed doughnut was surprisingly bland, no more than a generic yeast ring with a sugar coat. The same happened with the French toast doughnut: it was an equally cruel glazed doughnut with spots of sugar and icing on the top, tasting nothing like real French toast.
Besides doughnuts, the restaurant also offers a wide range of coffee varieties. I chose to go with a standard 12 oz. coffee that was a dark roast similar to a Sumatran reserve or New Orleans roast. It wasn’t the best coffee I’ve ever had, but it definitely wasn’t the worst.
After sampling the caffeinated fare, I moved on to what I had been waiting for: the “crazies”. Seduced by curiosity, I decided to try the maple bacon and pumpkin pie doughnuts. Even though the maple bacon contained the dreaded yeast ring, the bacon bits and maple frosting made it a worthwhile selection. The bacon bits maintained maximum crispiness and actually tasted pretty fresh, a rarity in the restaurant business. The maple frosting added to the confection by complementing the pork perfection.
Even better was the server-recommended pumpkin pie doughnut. The fluffy roll held a smooth pumpkin pie filling and cream frosting, with pie crumbs scattered on top. The execution of the design was absolutely flawless, making for a perfectly satisfying experience. Definitely my favorite doughnut of the bunch and a scrumptious autumn treat.
But the best thing I ate at Donut Crazy was also the biggest surprise: the donut-go-crazy burger. It’s a signature item that consists of melted cheddar, crispy bacon, lettuce and tomato betwixt the halves of a grilled glazed doughnut all culminating in meaty, melty perfection. While I tried to only take a couple bites out of the doughnuts I sampled, I found myself unable to put this sandwich down. The grilled doughnut sustained an interior crunch that was the perfect foil to the soft, fluffy exterior. It goes for about $9 and isn’t the biggest burger, but definitely delivers in flavor.
In finality, I will say that my experience at Donut Crazy was superb. The fun, relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant caters to the college crowd, and the interior is decorated with neon signage, historic pictures of New Haven and even portraits of Beaker from the Muppets and a handsome English bulldog. The specialty doughnuts, especially some of their seasonal selections, are worth the price and their grilled doughnut burger is a must-try, making the restaurant a worthwhile addition to the York Street strip.