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Doughnut Plant Doubles in Size on Grand Street

By Julie Shapiro | March 27, 2012 2:08pm
A hazelnut doughnut from the Doughnut Plant.
A hazelnut doughnut from the Doughnut Plant.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER EAST SIDE — A trip to Doughnut Plant just got even sweeter.

The renowned Grand Street bakery — which often draws long lines of hungry tourists and locals — just opened a larger cafe space that will speed up service and for the first time give customers a place to sit down and enjoy their decadent desserts.

While the old storefront at 379 Grand St. was so tiny that only two people could fit behind the counter at a time, the more spacious cafe at 377 Grand St. has room for five people to work at once, cutting down on the block-long lines, said Meke Sofsky, the store's manager.

"Now we have a bunch of people working to get your order done as fast as possible," he said. "The bigger space is like a dream… It's fantastic."

The new cafe, which had its soft opening Friday, is part of a major expansion for Doughnut Plant after selling sweets on Grand Street for the past 12 years.

Owner Mark Israel, who started baking the goodies in his Lower East Side basement apartment more than 15 years ago, originally opened the Grand Street location as a wholesale outlet and only added the small retail counter as an afterthought.

But the delectable treats — which come in more than a dozen varieties, from coconut cream to salted peanut cake — proved so popular with walk-ins that Israel soon began thinking about how to grow the business.

When Doughnut Plant opened a location beneath the Hotel Chelsea on Valentine's Day 2011, Israel found his Lower East Side baking facility stretched thin.

"We couldn't meet demand," Israel said. "We needed to make more doughnuts, so we either had to expand to the store next door or relocate altogether."

Israel leased the adjacent 1,000-square-foot storefront, a former frame shop, last June and focused on building out the new cafe. Over the next few months, he will roll out changes to the production space, including new machinery.

Along with enlarging the Doughnut Plant's space, Israel also expanded its menu, adding frothy hot drinks made using a brand-new espresso machine.

To encourage customers to taste the new offerings, Doughnut Plant will soon begin offering seasonal coffee-and-doughnut pairings, starting Friday with a blueberry doughnut that customers can dunk in pour-over Kobricks Ethiopian Sidamo Guji coffee, which has a rich blueberry flavor, Sofsky said.

"When we do pairings, we encourage people to drink [the coffee] black, so they get these subtle notes and tastes," Sofsky said. "A doughnut is so sweet, so indulgent, so rich, and the coffee is bitter — it's almost the palate cleanser."

Israel also crafted a new doughnut to mark the cafe's opening: a special "doughseed," his signature mini doughnut without a hole, topped with freshly roasted hazelnuts and oozing with creamy chocolate filling.

He designed the décor for the cozy new cafe as well, using the nearby Williamsburg Bridge as inspiration. When the bridge was being redone more than a decade ago, Israel salvaged some of the discarded metal suspension cables, and now they are on view in the doughnut shop, creating an illusion that the counter and other objects are suspended from the ceiling.

The youngest fans of the new space Tuesday morning were a trio of cousins ranging in age from 1 to 4, who sampled a slew of flavors at a table by the window as their mothers helped keep the chocolate frosting out of their hair.

"It's very nice," said Krisha Torgerson, a Brooklyn resident and mother of 1-year-old Leif. "They can enjoy their doughnuts and get it all over themselves."

Doughnut Plant, 377-379 Grand St. is open Tuesday to Sunday from 6:30 a.m. until the doughnuts sell out, usually about 6:30 p.m., and will hold a daylong grand opening celebration March 30.