The best donuts in San Francisco

by Carolyn Jung on July 9, 2010

Vanilla Bean donuts and coffee at Dynamo Donuts

Vanilla Bean donuts and coffee at Dynamo Donuts

A donut is a donut, right?

Not in the hands of San Francisco’s wickedly good Dynamo Donuts, a short drive from the Holiday Inn Civic Center.

You’ve seen the lines. You’ve heard the swoons.

Let me tell you, for these gourmet donuts — which come in such unusual flavors as Chocolate Rosemary Almond, Lemon Sichuan, Banana De Leche, and the much-ballyhooed Maple Glazed Bacon Apple — the hype is justified.

First off, these are not teeth-gratingly sweet like so many other donuts. I know that’s hard to believe, given that they all come with a hefty dose of glaze or shower of sugar on top. But the flavors are actually balanced and quite intense at times. For instance, bite into the Candied Orange Blossom, and your mouth will come alive with an explosion of citrus flavor that’s so audacious, you can’t help but let out a yelp. The orange flavor gets revved up from candied orange zest inside the donut, as well as orange blossom glaze smeared over the top.

Second of all, the texture of these donuts is remarkable. It’s not just a round of airy pastry. Rather, it’s almost brioche-like, with a quite rich and tender crumb.

That these donuts are so spectacular comes as no surprise when you realize that they’re the brainchild of Sara Spearin, a pastry chef who honed her craft at Postrio, Hawthorne Lane, Stars and Foreign Cinema, all San Francisco landmarks.

There are about 16 different donuts, selling for $2 to $3.50 a piece, depending on the type. About seven are offered daily, with the bacon one available every day by popular demand.

Good thing, too, or there surely would be riots over this super puffy donut that has applesĀ  in the batter, which have been sauteed in bacon fat, as well as a maple glaze that’s studded with crisp bacon bits. It’s salty and sweet. And if you try one, you’ll want another one immediately.

The classic Vanilla Bean donut has a subtle infusion of orange zest. It’s like wedding cake in donut form.

The Chocolate Saffron tastes of the expensive spice with its warm earthiness that compliments the deep, dark chocolate glaze.

I’m not the world’s biggest coconut fan, so it’s saying something when Dynamo’s Coconut donut totally won me over. It’s dunked in coconut milk glaze, then covered in big shards of toasted coconut. The latter’s what got me going, with its delightfully crunchy, island flavor.

In this day and age, we almost feel criminal when we indulge in caloric donuts. But take it from me, when it comes to Dynamo Donuts, you’ll feel even more guilty if you don’t.

– Carolyn Jung of FoodGal

[Photo Credit: Flickr/pkingDesign]

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