The Monte Cristo sandwich doughnut at Dynamo Donut + Coffee is somewhat flatter than a normal jelly-filled, and its yeasted dough contains minute bits of ham and shredded Gruyère cheese. Bite into its powdered-sugar-dusted body, and blobs of strawberry jam fall out. And that’s just the beginning. If you’re the type who feels strongly that doughnuts should not cost $3 apiece, and definitely should not contain things like rose water, five-spice, Gruyère, or thyme, stay far, far away from Dynamo Donut.
Opened two years ago by Sara Spearin, a pastry chef who has worked at many high-end SF restaurants, Dynamo is located inside a retro-looking yellow and green painted café with a takeout window on a predominantly Latino commercial street in the Mission District. The morning we went, the ever-changing flavors included blueberry cornmeal, lemon pistachio, strawberry semolina, maple apple bacon (one of their most famous varieties), the aforementioned Monte Cristo, chocolate spice, chocolate rose, and chocolate saffron. We ordered them all, with less embarrassment when the guy at the counter told us that we weren’t the first ones. Although, “It’s usually a big guy with something to prove,” he said.
Inside the café (there’s also a beautiful garden patio), there were several couples on what looked to be weekday breakfast dates. We later found out that this is a “thing” that a lot of Mission District couples do.
The yeasted doughnuts were denser than your typical doughnut; a few of the chocolate varieties were more like old-fashioneds, with an intense brownie taste and consistency. Nearly all had a crunchy textural element, like bacon bits, pistachio nuts, or cornmeal. The flavors were vivid: The strawberries in the strawberry semolina tasted ripe and fresh, and you could see fruit chunks. The lemon glaze on the lemon pistachio was really lemony. Neither of us loved the maple apple bacon doughnut that is so popular—although the roasted pieces of apple in it were nice, the bacon seemed like a novelty act that didn’t do much overall.
Past flavors have included lemon thyme, banana de leche, apricot cardamom, candied orange blossom, quince crumb, molasses Guinness, Meyer lemon blackberry, and caramel de sel. So, do you feel less gross after eating a creative doughnut versus the kind that costs 50 cents? Unfortunately no.