So there I was, on the 7 train because I accidentally got on the N instead of the R, and suddenly we were at 46th Street.
"Egad!" I cried. "46th Street! The locus of Alfa Donuts, recommended by the stout souls at Chowhound as a supplier of apple fritters like those of my golden youth!"
With me it was the work of a moment to push through the crowd and stand on the platform.
Alfa Donuts is set up on the New York lunch counter model, with that in-and-out rectangular counter to increase seating. When I walked in at around 2:00, all 24 donut racks were devoid of donuts, with the exception of one lonely coconut job up on the top shelf and two chocolate-coconut refugees down on the bottom, huddled together after the traumatic ordeal of watching all their friends bought and eaten.
The empty racks bore tantalizing labels: Old-fashioned, honey-dipped... But no apple fritter, which the waitress had never heard of. Also no bear claw, no maple bar, no buttermilk bar. But old-fashioned -- I wondered if it was the same old-fashioned I miss from L.A.
As I was hungry, but find coconut donuts a perversion of the first order, I sat and ordered the Irish Breakfast: Eggs, Irish (boiled?) bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, home fries, beans, toast, $6.95. It was all acceptably tasty, though the home fries were the same mush you get anywhere else. The coffee, for diner coffee, was very good. A satisfying chow.
By that time, it was getting near the dawning of fresh donuts, so I stuck around. And there was an interesting patron to watch: an unshaven, probably good-looking man around thirty, rude to the waitresses, pushy with other customers -- I'm guessing some sort of neurological disorder. He had a thick wad of bills with him, which he pulled out and counted four times while I was there. He glanced at me a few times but didn't bother me, maybe because I was the only person in there around his size. But although he was interesting, almost nothing is as fascinating as a rack of old-fashioneds debuting from the kitchen.
At first glance, they didn't seem to be the same ones I know from Los Angeles; those have a distinct form-factor, sort of a flying saucer with vertical ridges around the hole. These were conventionally donut-shaped, though a little larger and squarer in cross-section than your average Dunkin. The waitress brought me a fresh cup of coffee. The world balanced on its pivot and held its breath as I broke a piece off.
They're great. And they are the same old-fashioneds, just shaped differently -- maybe even a little better. Not too sweet, a little crisp on the outside. A rack of whole-wheat donuts followed them, but by this time, I'd had my carbohydrate allocation through August, 2004, so -- some other time.
Good chow, friendly waitresses who call you "Dear," interesting fauna. Queens Blvd. at 46th St.