Donut Friend in Highland Park kind of feels like a Ben & Jerry’s with its bright lights and bucolic wall mural. The concept, however, is more like Cold Stone Creamery. There are four basic donuts: Original (glazed), Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Devils Food Cake, and Gluten-free. The Original donuts are vegan. Pick a donut, then choose from countless options to customize it.
Fillings include a tart cherry compote, coconut cream, peanut butter and jelly, dulce de leche, Trader Joe’s addictive Cookie Butter and even savories like cheddar and goat cheese. Fresh fruit and berries can also be added. Hmmm, I should have ordered a peanut butter and banana…next time. Then there are glazes and sauces, like Balsamic Reduction, Caramel, Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, Maple Syrup, and Olive Oil. Finish your masterpiece with a large selection of nuts, sprinkles, crushed candy and cookies, citrus zests and spices.
If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, they have “signature compilations,” The most popular of which is a maple-bacon donut. Any music fan will immediately catch on to the puns, Angry Samoa, Chocolate from the Crypt, Coconut of Conformity, and the GG Almond. We are somewhat dubious about a donut named after GG Allin.
The music connection comes from the owner, Mark Trombino, drummer for the early 90s post-hardcore screamo band, Drive Like Jehu. Trombino also produced several bands with donut namesakes, like Jimmy Eat World and Blink 182.
On a recent visit we went for DIY combos: Traditional with lemon curd, fresh blueberries, and glaze with raspberry, Chocolate with coconut cream, chocolate glaze and coconut, Traditional with fig jam and whipped cream, and one with chocolate all around. Although they are always made fresh, the donuts themselves were a little dry, maybe due to veganization. But the donuts are just the stage, the real show is in the extras. The lemon-blueberry donut was heavenly, and the chocolate was rich and intense. The only extra I didn’t love was the fig jam.
If you are vegan or gluten-free, you are sure to become a regular. It is also a good date spot. But watch the fillings on a first date unless you think it’s adorable to have whipped cream on your nose. This is not the place to pick up a dozen donuts for the office at $2.99 a donut and up. It is the place for people like me, who will make a special trip across town to try something different.