As much as I bitch about the lack of certain authentic foodstuffs around these parts, I’m also a big sucker for novelty. Show me a bizarre new Oreo flavor or this year’s selection of limited-time chips from Lay’s, and I pretty much have to try them. Yeah, they suck 90% of the time, but it’s all about the experience. And I suppose that’s why even though my favorite doughnut is the simple French Cruller and my favorite hot dog toppings are the old reliable mustard and onions, I’ve been keeping a close eye on The Donut + Dog ever since it was announced that they’d be opening what is only their second location (their flagship store is in Nashville) at The Village at Meridian. Mind you, I wasn’t in any particular rush to be one of the first to try them. Buzz-worthy openings at The Village are crazy-making, plus I wasn’t really doing the blogging thing at the time so I figured it could wait…and then I just kept it waiting. At this point you might be wondering what finally got me off my ass and into Meridian’s newest doughnut spot two months after their grand opening. Or you might not, it doesn’t matter because I’m going to tell you anyway. It was this picture:
They posted that on their social media last month as a preview of their limited-time offerings for October. If there’s anything I’m even more of a sucker for than novelty food items, it’s Halloween/Horror/Autumn stuff. Just look at that thing. Considering that most places just change their icing colors for the month or throw pumpkin spice shit into/onto every thing they can, I saw this as going above and beyond. October 1st finally came around so I dashed straight over after work to snag one of these bloody beauties, and they were sold out because of course they were. It was the same the following day, so at that point I figured the smart thing to do would be to show up early on Saturday morning.
The first thing I was confronted with walking into The Donut + Dog that morning was a little room with big windows, containing an employee working the hell out of giant blobs of their proprietary 20 hour brioche dough. The second thing was an artistic rendering of Captain Spaulding, a character portrayed by Sid Haig, one of my favorite actors. Haig died very recently, so seeing this made me a little melancholy for a moment, but it was right next to a rendering of Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice. Since Keaton’s still alive, I’m guessing it was more of a Halloween thing than any kind of memorial tribute.
I ordered one of those October specials, which they referred as the “Carrie”, and a few others, plus a coffee since I had rushed out the door without having any. I’m not quite as big on novelty coffee drinks, but the Campfire Cappuccino grabbed my eye. The very helpful clerk handed me my doughnuts, and I pulled up a chair and sat down to wait for my beverage.
The place doesn’t go as all-in with their Halloween decor as they do with the doughnuts. There are those portraits I mentioned earlier, a few miniature pumpkins scattered throughout the doughnut display at the front counter, and other than that it’s basically just a few hanging decorations that you barely notice due to large paintings of a graffiti-style logo on one wall and Homer Simpson on the other. There were only about half a dozen other customers at that time of the morning and most of them already had beverages, so I figured I wouldn’t be waiting long for my coffee. I was wrong. Yeah, there was only one guy working the espresso station, but it’s not like he had a flood of orders to deal with. I began to understand when the people at the next table, who had ordered right before me, were approached by a server carrying a glass case that looked like something a magician would use. In the case were two tall paper cups of coffee. The server set the case down at their table, did something I couldn’t see from where I was sitting, and the next thing I knew the container was filling with smoke. I realized I had seen this before with cocktails on some travel show or YouTube video, and I figure that what they were doing was adding the “smoked” flavor to the Smoked Caramel Latte.
Several more minutes later, I figure about 20 total since I had placed my order, a server approached my table with a tray containing my own tall paper cup of coffee and a few other things. After setting my cappuccino down on the table, she asked me how I like my marshmallows. I told her I like them more than golden brown and less than black, and she proceeded to produce a rectangular slab of house-made marshmallow on a stick and a culinary torch, leaving me a few moments later with what you see above. It had dawned on me by now that this place was pretty much designed for the Instagram generation. I’d been kind of hoping that my drink would be served in a big mug with multicolored latte art like I’d seen in pictures from their Nashville location which I’d skimmed through while I waited, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I ate the marshmallow since it was dense and hadn’t been melted to goo by either the torch or the heat from the coffee, drank enough of the coffee that I could snap a plastic lid on the cup without causing a volcanic eruption, and headed out. The coffee was good enough, plus I needed it enough, that it was all gone by the time I arrived at my mother’s house. In addition to the marshmallow, it also had a little chocolate drizzle that wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet and complimented the other flavors well. I heartily recommend it, if you have the time to kill.
I had to show you a picture of the doughnut box. It’s plain white with “DON’T JUDGE” stamped on it in big letters, which made me feel just the tiniest bit guilty since judging is kind of the whole point of what I do here. It’s probably okay, I think the message is less for the customers than it is for anyone at the nearby gyms who happen to see the customers walking out of a doughnut shop with a big box. Moving on. Mom and I roused my nieces who were sleeping over for the weekend, then we cut those pretty doughnuts up into little pieces so everyone could try everything.
So let’s start at the left and go clockwise…
The Carrie – Yeah, the presentation wasn’t as impressive as the picture they’d posted, but then again I’ve seen much worse examples of that issue. It’s bourbon vanilla-glazed and filled with some kind of bing cherry concoction, then mutilated with several chunks of sugar glass. I feel kind of guilty showing this since you can’t get it anymore. They’re switching the special every week, and currently it’s some kind of unholy white chocolate ganache thing filled with banana cream and served with a rum pipette. I think the next one debuts on Wednesday, here’s hoping it’s better (it could hardly be worse for yours truly, since I loathe white chocolate and anything banana-flavored). Anyway, back to the Carrie. It was good. Really good. But if it makes you feel any better, it was only my second favorite.
Ultimate S’More – The next time I see someone with a shirt or sticker or whatever that says something to the effect that there’s no such thing as too much chocolate, I’m going to tell them to order one of these. You get the same kind of marshmallow slab I had with my coffee and a sprinkling of Oreo and toasted graham cracker crumbles, nothing wrong with that. Underneath that is what they call a Valrhona chocolate ganache glaze, which is a load of bullshit. The Carrie had a glaze. This is more like an icing, and it’s an incredibly rich one. What the menu doesn’t mention is that the doughnut is also filled with even more incredibly rich chocolate. I’m sure there are people who adore it, but I think all of us were in agreement that it was just too much of a good thing.
Southern Belle – Now this is an interesting one. When the super friendly and helpful lady at the counter was boxing up my doughnuts, I noticed we’d have room for five without having to smash any of them, and one of the five I’d wanted to try wasn’t available at that time. I asked her for a recommendation, and this is the one she named without a second’s hesitation. I had some pretty strong doubts, but she was so enthusiastic that I shrugged and told her to add it to the order. This is another of their offerings with a questionable “glazed” designation, this one of a brown butter variety, dusted with crushed pecan brittle and filled with peach jam. I’d had high hopes for the S’More doughnut, while this is the one I thought would be overwhelmingly rich and with flavors that might not necessarily meld well. I needn’t have worried, it was EVERYONE’S favorite. I would seriously go back just for more of these things. Go try them. Call and have them set one (or more) aside if you can’t make it there early. Trust me.
Dirty O.G. – This one’s not a weird bar or anything, it’s just turned up on its side so nothing would get smashed against anything else. House glaze with cinnamon, Madagascar vanilla, and Himalayan sea salt. I got it because it was the plainest looking option, and I wanted to check out the brioche as close to on its own merits as possible. It’s an interesting base for a doughnut. Chewy, tasty, and somehow airy and yet substantial at the same time. This particular doughnut is okay if you’re looking for something plainer but seriously, get the Southern Belle instead.
More Than Maple – We finish with a take on the combination of bacon and maple, which everyone seems to have since the ones from Voodoo Doughnut started getting so much attention on travel shows and social media years ago. In my mind, Voodoo still has the best version of this, but Donut + Dog is now my second favorite. They haute things up a bit by adding bourbon to the maple, using applewood smoked bacon, and finishing with a little fudge drizzle just for the hell of it. I really enjoyed it, but it’s no Southern Belle. Did I mention that you should try the Southern Belle? Because you definitely should.
We’re not done yet, kids. Once it became apparent to me that I wouldn’t have this up in time to tell you about the Carrie doughnut before it was swallowed up by the sands of time (I did post about it on Facebook, for all the good that does thanks to their damned algorithm), I figured I should make a return trip to try the other half of their namesake offerings. I wanted another opinion as well, so I invited the eponymous Dave of Dave’s Tater Grill to join me for dinner. Dave stands behind a cart slinging dogs on a corner in downtown Boise three nights a week from 10 PM until well after last call at the surrounding bars, and he’s been doing it for some time now. By the way, if you think I’m going to make some kind of cheap joke about sausage parties, or Dave really knowing his way around a wiener or something like that, you should be ashamed of yourself. I expect an apology down in the comments. Pervert.
Anyway, we ordered a couple of dogs and some fries. I think the dogs were around $8, most of the doughnuts were around $4 if I recall correctly, and the truffle fries were $6 an order. I know $6 sounds like a lot for fries, but in general The Village isn’t where you go if you want a cheap snack.
Of course if we’d known exactly how many fries come in one of those orders, we would have split one. Neither of us came anywhere close to finishing. In addition to the black truffle oil (and yes I know that truffle oil is usually a scam but it might not be in this case because these people are a little crazy), they’re also covered with melted Parmesan. Scam or not, there’s a lot to an order and they’re yummy. ‘Nuff said.
Dave got the Banh Mi dog, which is topped with picked carrots, cucumber, sliced jalapenos, and a basil sriracha aioli. Aside from the protein being a hot dog and the bun being more like something you would expect from an East Coast lobster roll, they kind of nailed the flavor profile. The sriracha wasn’t overdone, which is important considering the jalapenos were very fresh and pretty potent. I didn’t think I’d like this. I mean pickled carrots on a hot dog? Probably not something I would order personally, because if I’m looking for that flavor profile, I’ll just go get a banh mi. That being said, it was good. The dog was quality, all the veg was fresh, the bun was nicely grilled and very buttery, and those jalapenos are awesome. I wish I knew where they get them, because they’d make amazing poppers.
I got the 2-0-8, which is kind of cheap because at the original Donut + Dog they call this the 6-1-5, which I assume is the area code there. It would have been cooler if they’d left this one on the Meridian menu as the 6-1-5 and come up with something new to call the 2-0-8. Just sayin’. Anyway, no fresh veg to be seen on this one. Same terrific bun, but this one is filled with a smoked kielbasa. It’s topped with bacon onion jam and stone-ground mustard. Butter, toasted bread, stone-ground mustard, bacon, and smoked anything are pretty much always wins where I’m concerned, so yeah, I really dug this. I couldn’t really taste the bacon distinctly, but for me bacon doesn’t always have to be the primary flavor just because it’s included in a dish. In this case, it seemed like it was used more to accentuate the smokiness of the kielbasa. The sharpness of the onion was great for cutting through some of the richness and fat because, let’s be fair, there’s a lot of in in this dish. The jam also had a hint of sweetness (brown sugar maybe?) that offered a little balance and helped kind of tie everything together. And I really dug the sausage. Smoky, juicy, and not a weird unlovely bit of chewiness or gristle to be found.
So yeah, I’ll go back. Obviously. I think Dave would as well, especially since his wife had asked him to grab one of the Southern Belle doughnuts on my recommendation and they were sold out when we got there. I think the best way to explain my feelings overall would be to say that Donut + Dog isn’t going to replace standard doughnuts or hot dogs for me, inasmuch that when I’m having a craving for a maple bar or a basic grilled hot dog, this place won’t even enter into my thoughts. But when I’m craving one of THEIR doughnuts or dogs, a standard one definitely isn’t going to scratch that itch. Seriously, don’t even try that shit with me, because I’ll just glare at you the way kids glare when they ask to go to McDonald’s and their mother says she’ll just cook them a burger at home. You’ve been warned.