Assorted Mochinuts, clockwise from bottom: chocolate, Thai tea, plain, and churro
After ten minutes waiting for the line in front of me to grow shorter, it occurs to me there are two distinct types of patient people. The first kind has what it takes to show up at a buzzy, just-opened dessert spot, and stand in line for up to a half hour to be among the first to try something new. The second kind can hold on another few days, or weeks, and wait until the first wave of interest has died down, and the long lines with it.
4609 Convoy St Suite C, San Diego
Usually, I land firmly in the second camp. Which is why I entertain too many idle thoughts while waiting to reach the counter at Mochinuts. The new-fangled donut shop just opened in one of the strip malls on Convoy Street, and when I arrive, the line — socially distanced, but barely — already extends to the sidewalk.
So I wait, and after another few minutes, I decide it works the other way around. Really there are two different types of impatient people — those too impatient to stand in line, and those too impatient to wait for the shiny new thing. And I’m at least one of them. Honestly, I spent less time standing in line to get vaccinated.
The front of a long line at Convoy's newest dessert counter, Mochinuts
But I know at the front of this line will be something I haven’t tried before. Mochinuts. Which are kind of like donuts, except we haven’t all congregated in Kearny Mesa this afternoon to buy regular, old donuts. These are more like a newly evolved branch of the donut family. A kind made with rice flour. Which gives them a tapioca-like chew, similar to mochi.
Of course, mochi would the Japanese gummy candy formed from glutinous rice dough. It’s most commonly used to make tea cakes, or as the chewy coating of those little balls of ice cream offered as dessert at sushi restaurants.
Trays filled with mochinuts: ultra-chewy donuts made with rice flour
So, with mochi donuts, you get the best of both worlds: the tender, airy bite of raised donuts, combined with the elastic, gum-like chew of mochi cakes.
This style of donut has grown in popularity in Japan and Hawaii in recent years, and not even a pandemic hasn’t slowed it down its march toward global domination. The Mochinuts chain has been rapidly growing with the concept, opening stores throughout California and several other states, with new stores planned throughout the U.S. and in other countries. It already plans to open additional San Diego locations, in Mira Mesa and at the UTC mall.
A mango glazed mochinut topped with Fruity Pebbles cereal
Which might be the thing that finally reduced the wait time here on Convoy, where I’m starting to worry I won’t get to try all of this day’s offerings. Five dozen flavors are featured on the shop’s web site, with the likes of ube, matcha, and black sesame rounding out a selection of traditional U.S. donut flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, and churro (cinnamon and sugar). However, only a handful is available each day. Which means I’ll have another half-dozen reasons to line up all over again next week.
Just before I reach the front, more large pans come out, filled with varieties of mochinuts. They’re a little more expensive than traditional donuts — a half-dozen goes for $15 — but those I tried met or exceeded every expectation. The churro and chocolate offerings were awesome. A Thai tea glaze topped with what I believe were heath bar crumbles? Even better. And the chain seems to enjoy topping its mochinuts with fruity Pebbles cereal, and on this day they topped a mango glaze in this way.
Even the plain mochinut, boasting little more than the donuts’ distinctive, eight-sided ring shape, proved satisfying: light, caramelized dough crisp on the outside, and that unmistakable chew within. If you possess the sort of patience to wait out the novelty of mochicakes, more power to you — the lines should get shorter over time. But, with donuts this distinct and tasty, I can’t guarantee it. The line was twice as long when I left, as it was when I got there.