We live in an age of doughnuts. Each bakery that produces them vies with the others to make the most distinct and delicious product. We still have our old-fashioned neighborhood doughnut spots (like Donut Pub), our so-big-you-can-barely-finish-one places (like Dough), our national chains (Dunkin’ Donuts), our chewy yeast doughnuts that are also popular in Japan (Doughnut Plant), and our celebrity driven products (like Wylie Dufresne’s Du’s Donuts). Our best doughnuts, though, may have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Underwest Donuts is undoubtedly the weirdest of the city’s manufacturers. It occupies a former waiting room in an impressively large car wash facility on the West Side Highway, just across the street from the aircraft carrier Intrepid. The narrow space boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that look into the car wash, where vehicles slide along on chains and giant sudsy mops whip over them. Swoosh, swoosh, chew, chew. Good coffee is also available.
I first tasted Underwest’s dark chocolate doughnut at a coffee shop near my apartment. It was chewy and crumbly at the same time, and delivered a choco wallop that made me forget my cortado as I gobbled it, brushing the crumbs off the counter and eating them, too. I picked up random Underwest Doughnuts from then on wherever I found them, but finally decided I needed to visit the mothership after I discovered that they’re made in a bakery upstairs in the car wash.
Though 11 types of doughnuts are currently made, only eight were available when I visited on a recent afternoon. Here they are in order of preference, with my ratings and tasting notes.
Rich chocolate cake, dark chocolate frosting, and chocolate crumbles on top like fine soil in a flowerpot makes this one of the best doughnuts of all time. Appearance: 9.6, Flavor: 9.8
Oh boy is this a great doughnut! The pale frosting thickly penetrates the cake, leading to a corona of flavor, which explodes in your mouth. There are little clumps of nuts on top, and a piece of waffle cookie, which can’t compete with the doughnut, so eat it later. Appearance: 9.7, Flavor: 9.4
Just looking at this doughnut makes me happy. The white frosting on top with pink and baby blue stripes makes you feel like you’re a kid again at your own birthday party. Appearance: 9.7, Flavor: 9
Nice balancing of blueberry-flecked cake and blueberry-intensive frosting. A few chips of candied lemon add nice oomph to one side of the donut. Appearance: 9.5, Flavor: 8.4
Strong halva (ground sesame) flavor, accentuated with chocolate zig-zag frosting on top. Cake plainish, but in this case goes well with the assertive toppings. Appearance: 9, Flavor 8.6
Nuts are almost always a good thing on doughnuts, and they are here. They appear in a somewhat buttery frosting that tastes more like sugar. The cake is once again pallid compared with the doughnut, but you might pick this one because the flavors are more conventional than most of Underwest’s. Appearance: 8.4, Taste: 8.4
Strawberry & Oats
Beautiful to look at, bright pink with a white squiggle and a slice of dehydrated strawberry on top. Cake inside a bit dry and nondescript, though, without much sweetness. Appearance: 9.3, Flavor: 6.7
This Tosian combination of flavors will be appreciated by some, despised by others. While the taste is a bit overstated, this doughnut could make you very happy at breakfast time (though the banana flavor tastes like it might be at least partly artificial). Note that the banana chip fell off before I could take the picture. Appearance: 8, Taste: 7.9