Johnny Doughnuts Has an Amazing Cruller

The Hayes Valley shop is a more austere version of Dynamo.

Sprinkle Guy and a Fruit Fritter (Photo by Eric Pratt)

How do you know a doughnut is made well? When you buy eight of them for your coworkers and cut them all into small slices so that everybody gets some and there aren’t any tears, and a bit of that doughnut is still fresh the next day.

That’s how it is with Johnny Doughnuts’ $4.25 cruller, which is thick and spongy, like a chewier churro with a bigger visual and textural contrast between crust and interior. (It shows up on the receipt as a “crueler,” although it’s anything but.) High marks also go to the chocolate salted caramel old-fashioned ($4) and to the lime poppyseed, which is about as wacky as things get.

Johnny’s is the Hayes Valley donutorium with Equator Coffee that opened in October in the ground-floor of a residential building on the northeast corner of Fulton and Gough streets. While the name suggests a mid-century Googie edifice like the cinematically famous Johnie’s Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A., it’s got that unfortunately spartan industrial feel common to, well, seemingly everything that gets built these days. There are tables, but if you aren’t a horsetail plant, you might feel out of place and prefer to take your pastries to go. The 1,900-square-foot space announced its impending presence about a year ago, and while it faces south and gets good light, it’s not the flower-filled, take-your-journal-with-you patio that makes Dynamo Donut & Coffee so pleasant to linger in.

While the nine-year-old Dynamo in the Mission made its name with flavors like passion fruit milk chocolate and the bitter queen — and, of course, maple bacon — Johnny’s focuses more on the structure. Not to knock Dynamo in any way, but that’s a good thing, since they take differing approaches to the craft. And nothing at Johnny’s feels crumbly or powdery or as if it were specks of dough pressed into the shape of a ring after they’d already been baked.

Dusted with cinnamon sugar or glazed with chocolate, the “cro dough” is the updated version of that fanciful hybrid, the cronut, with layers of custard poking through each laminated layer. Vegan raised doughnuts widen the scope and there are vanilla-glazed “fritter thangs” for the gluten-intolerant. Remember how President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ich bin ein Berliner”? He meant to express solidarity with West Germany but, grammatically speaking, he said he was a jelly doughnut. A Berliner, known in the U.S. south as a “bismark” — presumably a misspelling of Bismarck, as in Otto von, the first German chancellor — it’s a generously filled item that’s almost as deliciously messy as the malasadas at Dogpatch Hawaiian restaurant ’aina.

Having begun as a truck that made its way to nearby PROXY and later opened a brick-and-mortar in San Rafael, the five-year-old Johnny’s could arguably benefit from putting out a price list and adding a little more warmth and color to its gray palette. And right across the street is Hayes Valley Bakeworks, a do-gooder spot whose hard work we’ve profiled in the past.

But that cruller — it’s something else.

Johnny Doughnuts, 392 Fulton St., 415-450-1866 or johhnnydoughnuts.com

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