3102 University Avenue, North Park
Donut shops inspire a crazy amount of love. I can remember the first Krispy Kreme opening in greater Los Angeles some 15 years ago. It caused a number of sweet tooth breakfast pastry devotees to break out their Thomas Guides to learn how to get to the suburban community La Habra in order to stand in line for original raised glazed. And don't get me started about the recent arrival of Dunkin in San Diego. Suddenly, every east coast transplant in the city experienced the same nostalgia trip and choked the door for overrated coffee and standard donut fare.
Of course, in a neighborhood like North Park it's going to take something a little craftier than an expanding international chain to bring out the donuteratti. The recently opened Nomad Donuts would seem to meet all the criteria of a new breed of artisan restaurant, right down to the hipster-friendly logo.
I caught on when a friend read me a few items from Nomad's creative and rotating daily menu (posted on their Facebook page). Actually, she just had to read me one: a ham, pineapple, cheddar, honey mustard-glazed fritter. How could anyone pass that up?
Apparently, nobody did. By time I arrived at 11am it had sold out. While Nomad's best intentions are to stay open from 7am to 4pm, due to immediate high demand their inventory has yet to keep up.
I was still left with plenty to of donut varieties to choose from, including a charred-blueberry-glaze chocolate old fashioned, mango coconut cake donut, and a gorgeous, burnt-top blood orange merengue.
These aren't merely raising donut expectations, the way downtown's Donut Bar has managed to do with giant donuts and great success. Nomad seems intent on devising foodie donut mashups that invite curiosity and — thus far — a strong showing of neighborhood thrillseekers looking for the next big artisan sweet.
Just look at the donuts I wound up taking home from the bare bones, dining-room-free shop: yeast-dough peach-honey prosciutto ($4), and cake-dough topped by vanilla glaze and crushed potato chips ($3).
I actually didn't find a whole lot of difference between the cake and yeast donuts — they both seemed pretty cakey to me, which let me down a little bit since I love and will fondly remember the sort of raised donuts you could get before the California ban on partially hydrogenated oils.
As different as the toppings seemed on first glance, I came to realize they worked on the same principle. The heavy sweetness of the peach-honey and vanilla glazes needed a little offsetting by the salty prosciutto shavings and crumbled Lays potato chips laid across the top of them. They were each still decidedly sweet, which pairs well with the coffee served on site (from Sorrento Valley roaster Zumbar). While these guys will certainly remain busy escalating the donut concept, on my next visit I'm definitely going to head over early enough to try a fritter.