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Why does NYC lack "real" doughnut shops?

Not talking about Doughnut Plant, Dough, and the like. Delicious, but I'm talking about the $4-for-a-dozen-glazed-style shops (mostly run by Korean-Americans) that permeate southern California and even Texas. Every corner or strip mall seems to have one. Is it a rent issue?

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  1. Have to agree with you,kind of like how mcd's stopped many from making a good burger for years, the success of dunkin doughnuts has all but eliminated any competition.

    1. NYers would rather have a bagel in the morning?

      1. Were donuts ever known as a New York thing? Also, head to Peter Pan donuts in Greenpoint for "real" donuts.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chompchomp

          No, they weren't. Not even remotely saying they were. Peter Pan is closer to what I'm after but still not quite—I'm talking about the type of shop that is incredibly generic (e.g., no red velvet or coconut cream flavors, just glazed, sprinkled, and cake) and appears on almost every corner in southern California. I don't think they exist in NY, so I'm not actively searching but rather speculating as to why they're so scarce.

          1. re: loratliff

            Well, yes, they were, but maybe too long ago for CH history. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 50s-60s, every nabe had at least one donut shop (usually with a counter for coffee and sandwiches), and bringing a box (as in a pastry box, in twine) of jelly or cream donuts for an evening visit at someone's house or apartment (for much smoking, coffee, and cards) was considered a mandatory treat.

            1. re: bob96

              Interestingly enough, at the kind of places the OP is talking about, there's not a lot of focus on cream filled or jellies.

        2. Agree about the lack of "real" doughnut shop. Hard to get enthused with, and really jaded by the non-bagel that's always Dunkin' Doughnut office early morning meetings.

          1. You will find them in many places in the outer boroughs - your insight about the high Manhattan rents is correct I believe. Maybe Donut Pub on 14th St is more along the lines of what you're looking for?

            1. There's a whole academic study on your question. You're basically asking about ethnic niches and why and how they develop in certain geographies. For NYC, you can also ask why so many corner grocers (aka "bodegas") and nail salons are run by Koreans, while not so much in other places? And by the way, most of the doughnut shops in southern CA are run by Cambodians. Koreans may have run a good percent of them in the past generation, but it has turned over to Cambodians through much of California. Koreans may still dominate that niche in Texas, however. The short explanation is that once one person/family of an immigrant community opens a successful business, it's likely that others in the same ethnic group (and recent immigrants) will find easier entry into that business by copying that same business formula. And as more people in that ethnic group open successful businesses, it's likely that that ethnic group integrates "vertically" in that particular industry (e.g., runs the supply chain) and also, they become the creditors to fellow members through rotating credit associations. Also, language barriers are easily overcome when dealing with associates of the same ethnic group. And so you find hundreds of similar style doughnut shops in strip malls throughout CA. To answer why NYC lacks these type of doughnut shops, you're probably correct that rents play a part, as well as the higher hurdles of entering the local supply chain (probably dominated by other ethnic groups). Interestingly, an increasing number of Dunkin' Donut franchises are owned by south Indians.

              Scroll to the bottom of this page to get a better explanation:

              If you're interested in this literature, you can find readings online. U Penn is renown for their study on this topic as you'll see here: http://sociology.sas.upenn.edu/150_60...

              1 Reply
              1. The dominant morning food of New York is not the doughnut or the bagel; it is the roll. As I write this, rolls are being split, buttered and eaten at desks, in taxis, on stoops and park benches by the millions.

                10 Replies
                1. re: knucklesandwich

                  "by the millions"

                  I'm not sure where you are getting this stat but a buttered roll is one of the last things I would have for breakfast. I also don't know anyone that would eat a buttered roll for breakfast.

                  1. re: kurtt

                    Buttered rolls and bacon-egg-and-cheese on a roll are popular breakfasts with construction workers, some cops/firefighters and all of my uncles over the age of 50. (and among other groups, I'm sure) It may be more of an Outer Borough thing than a Manhattan thing, but it's more common than you think.

                    1. re: iluvcookies

                      I spent 3 years of law school in Manhattan getting scrambled eggs on a buttered roll and with coffee every day.

                      1. re: ellenost

                        Scrabbled eggs on a roll is very different than a buttered roll. It's like calling a BLT toast.

                      2. re: iluvcookies

                        Yes, much more common, even if Kurtt doesn't seem to know anyone who eats one. There's a tendency to see only the NY you want (usually one that resembles oneself), and to render others invisible, but trust me: it's not only construction workers, uniformed personnel, and old men who eat buttered rolls: the millions who rush along the streets below the foodstyle radar, from office workers, nurses, and drivers, to students, and shop clerks who grab and run from those coffee carts. What you can get for your money can trump taste, and for many, many working folks, it usually does in the morning. There are niche reasons for how they got here, , but there so many halal chicken/lamb and rice carts all through Manhattan because they offer cheap, filling lunches.

                        1. re: bob96

                          Cheap and filling... yes I know what you mean! One can eat very well in this city at any price level. I just love finding delicious, filling and inexpensive meals.

                      3. re: kurtt

                        It doesn't matter what you, or I, or any of your friends like for breakfast, kurtt. Go to a deli, or a coffee cart, or a bodega, or any place that sells coffee and sandwiches and use your eyes. Rolls rule NYC.

                        1. re: knucklesandwich

                          True! I remember arriving in Chicago for college and the blank look I received when I requested a buttered roll and a coffee, regular.

                          As regards donuts, and much as I love Peter Pan, Donut Pub, and Shaikh's Place of Avenue U, we're no match for the West Coast pink box. What I'd do some mornings for an old-fashioned (CA-style, not just cake) or a maple bar! And the frustrating thing is that the coffee carts carry some semblance of donut; they're just awful. Now, that's a truck that could take off...

                          1. re: sadie

                            Is Shaikh's Place on Avenue U between E. 15th & 16th Streets by the Avenue U train station? I grew up in the neighborhood, and they (and the prior owners) always had the best doughnuts. Recently, I've learned to only order flavors of doughnuts that were on a full tray.

                            1. re: ellenost

                              That's the place! Still a good glazed!

                    2. I'm not sure I understand. Could you explain the distinction? If you're talking about cheap chains, there are Dunkin and Tim Horton. Were you familiar with Krispy Kremes?

                      Maybe doughnuts are more common elsewhere because they're simpler than bagels or brownies?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Fida

                        No, they're not cheap chains at all. I know Krispy Kreme, and that's not what I'm talking about. These are mom-and-pop-owned stores. If you've been to southern California, you can't miss them.

                        Even if they're easier than bagels or brownies, that still doesn't explain while they don't exist here. E Eto's explanation makes the most sense.

                        1. re: loratliff

                          Back in the day,NYC was known for doughnuts. Jewish bakeries all over the city had great jelly doughnuts, custard doughnuts (aka boston creme), glazed, french crullers, regular crullers, muffins, tea biscuits, black and whites etc . Manhattan had several places on the LES, UES.. Brooklyn still has these on Ave J and on 15th Ave. The doughnuts at Dunkin Donuts , Krispy Kreme are cheap knock offs of the real thing.

                      2. It's simply a regional difference.

                        New York never really had the same style found at the donut shops on the West Coast, which while not all chains, do now seem to use the same stock mixes and differences are related to freshness, equipment, and cutting corners on the fresh ingredients. The idea that these places are often owned by Cambodians may be true, but many of the donut shops the bought predate their waves of immigration. There are differences even there, like less emphasis on honey buns which were once a focus in places like California, and I believe still are in Texas. You can get a honey donut, or yeast glaze in NY at Donut Pub, that is vaguely close.

                        In New York, an old fashioned was the kind of cakey donut you sometimes see powdered. The was limited crossover items in these styles, but cruller, and buttermilks come to mind. The buttermilk in NY is much more dense.

                        D'aiuto Baby Watson Cheesecake near the main post office makes a limited number of West Coast style old fashions, and apple fritters which Dean and Deluca were carrying. They're not exactly what you want, but they try.

                        1. I have been looking for old-school jelly doughnuts for ages now. The ones with the dark raspberry jelly and the granulated sugar, not the cheap cherry jelly and powdered sugar ones. Can't find them anywhere since all the traditional local bakeries closed. Sometimes for holidays they're at Moishe's on Second Avenue, I think, and in the East Village Polish butcher shops, but they're not the same as the ones of my youth. Sad.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: HippieChick

                            Yes, I know what you mean. Paczki, I believe they are called.
                            I just make my own now, boy are they tasty!

                            1. re: HippieChick

                              Peter Pan makes a good one and also Leske's in Bensonhurst.

                              1. re: HippieChick

                                The guy at Moishe's says they are available at year-round, but you have to make your order in advance.

                              2. Does anyone know if the Italian bakeries near the elevated line and Holy Family Nursing Home in Bensonhurst are still there? I think they were on New Utrecht? Around 18th Avenue train stop and 84th street...it was at least twelve years ago, but maybe... Anyway, they had incredible jelly doughnuts...

                                1. Donut (or is it Doughnut?) Pub on 14th St near the 7th Avenue subway in Manhattan is pretty good--not like Dunkin' Donuts or Donut Plant, but more old fashioned NY doughnuts.

                                  1. The Donut Pub
                                    The french crullers are great.