Ever since I came across Washington, DC’s Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken while developing guest itineraries for my DC-area wedding, I’ve been in love. The Jason Gehring-led kitchen would have launched into my Top 3 Donut Shops in the U.S. even without the clucks, which are themselves incredible.
So you can imagine my delight and dismay to learn in the Spring of 2017 that my new hometown of L.A. would be opening their own location on 6th and Grand. It’s been on the Rum & Biscuits list since before the Europe trip, and this week we finally got to make our first Astro visit since the wedding.
The below offers the definitive ranking of all Astro doughnuts available, but alas, they are clearly seasonal and regional, as they did not have my all-time favorite – and consideration for favorite donut of all time: the Passion Berry.
So consider this Astro’s Best of L.A., Summer 2017
L.A. flavs not available: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, Smoked Almond Brittle, Chocolate Mudslide, Meyer Lemon Pie, Orange Creamsicle, Apricot Lavender, Fruity Berry, Black Forest Cake, Cherry Pie, Birthday Cake, Root Beer Float, Blueberry Lemon Thyme, French Toast,
This very stuffed morsel started out rather pleasantly – the dough exterior was crisp, flaky and delicate and the cinnamon sugar mix popped on your taste buds. Then I chomped down. Apart from the ricotta cream being no fun, the surrounding interior dough seemed to have taken on a pasty, moist unpleasant mouthfeel I could have done without. I’d get it again if I could “eat the skin,” though.
7. Crème brûlée
Crème brûlée donuts are all the rage these days, quickly becoming a staple of most standard offerings; in Astro’s case, it even snagged the Washington Post nod for Best Donut in DC in 2013. The Rum & Biscuits take? Mixed bag. It’s certainly among the prettiest donuts on offer, and we were excited by how solid and dense the donut’s caramelized shell was; the hard-candy-fluffy-dough pairing made it a pleasure to eat right off the bat. However, flavor-wise, this one seemed one note, and from outer casing to cream just seemed to have a mild sugary taste, rather than deeper, burnt sugar flavors of some other crème brûlée icings. Another skin only one for us, folks, sorry.
6. Mint Cookies & Cream
The polarizing combo of mint and chocolate always takes some bravery and Astro did fine work avoiding the pitfalls that send many running – the mint was light and nuanced, rather than mentholy, and supportive of big, strong Oreo cookie flavor. The mouthfeel was nice enough on first bite, however two chomps in, we were totally dehydrated, the cake doughnut ashy in our mouths. Come back to this one, but have a big glass of milk at the ready.
5. Vanilla Glaze
Astro has a solid vanilla glaze – a go-to measure of any donut shop’s proficiency. It’s light, not overly sweet, and really let’s the dough shine. However, we missed some of the subtle flavor layering of other vanilla glazes, such as the addition of warm spices or salt.
4. Maple Bacon
You can never go wrong with a Maple Bacon. These are so common now that they inevitably have to fall somewhere on a wide spectrum, and Astro’s Maple Bacon is on the bacon-forward end of it. The crispy saltiness is a great compliment to the light, sweet dough, which itself has very faint banana notes. Would have loved a bit more of the maple flavor and a heavier icing texture, but would still crush four in a sitting, easy.
The PB&J donut has proven a forgiving entry point for Jelly-Filled Skeptics, such as this blog. The flavor combo is familiar, and the pectin-rich jelly usually retains that more viscous, stationary appeal that saves you surprising mouth-fulls of goop. Well, the Astro PB&J takes that safety a step further by offering it as a filled ring rather than a filled puff or bar, further mimicking the distinct layering of a sandwich. The peanut flavor is light, maybe too light, but the strawberry jam is tangy and delicious. The combo is as classic as its namesake.
2. Yuzu Toasted Coconut
This one was a “Hmm, okayyy,” first bite and an “…OKAYYY!!” second bite. What very immediately pops in your mouth as toasted coconut is soon enveloped in this citrusy yuzu flavor – one that’s been compared to grapefruit, but in this sweetened icing takes on a more pineapple-with-a-squeeze-of-lemon twist, and suddenly you’re halfway through a piña colada donut, tempered by just the right amount of tartness. The texture is fantastic as well, with coconut flakes varying in crunchiness from potato chip crunchy to shredded carrot, making for a donut so fun to eat, you don’t just eat it, yuzu’m through it. #Clutch
1. Summer Sweet Corn
Look, I was just as skeptical as yall when I saw what were unmistakably corn nuts. My mind immediately went to rock hard, salty-ass disappointments of adolescence. But through whatever means, Astro has tamed both the saltiness and hardness, instead creating a landscape of bigger, crunchier, saltier nuts, with softer, more mild flakes and crumbs, adrift on a sea of cooling, sweet corn icing and the combo is addictive. This one definitely won the texture battle – like a kettle-corn-meets-pillowy-doughnut lovechild. Summer is here indeed, yall, and you do not want to miss it.
And there you have it! Keep an eye out for updates to the list as we’re able to get our hands on more seasonal (and, fingers crossed, regional) flavors. ‘Til then, consider this the gospel, folks, and make that trip Downtown!