The idea of eating doesn't fit into a tidy little box. It's not something done at only certain times of day, and it's not something done only in certain places. Eating happens everywhere, at any time. In this special food issue, CityBeat takes you from the early-morning hustle-bustle at Bread & Cie, all the way through a day of chowing down, to the late-night clients of Donut Star. We take you into neighborhoods less traveled by the typical San Diegan, and we show you where to go when you get there. What you won't find here are the old standbys. We all know by now that Bronx Pizza makes good pizza and that a certain restaurant on Fifth Avenue has a good brunch (hint, the name rhymes with "ash louse"). In these pages, find the people and places you probably have passed a million times but didn't know enough to stop in. Check the issue out, check the places out, and, hey, have a bite to eat, why dontcha.
The dough also rises
Learning and loving in Bread and Cie's bakery
by Candice Woo
It's 6 a.m. on a Saturday, a good few hours before I can usually get myself up on the weekends, but somehow I'm driving to Hillcrest. The prospect of food in the near future is a great motivator as I head toward my favorite temple of baked goods, Bread & Cie (350 University Ave.), where I've been granted an early-morning glimpse into what makes the store such a beloved local institution. The residents of Hillcrest have been lining up for years outside Bread & Cie, anticipating fresh croissants or pastries for a Sunday breakfast. But bread is the mainstay. Delicious, crusty and perfect, the bread is sold at restaurants and supermarkets all over town.
When I arrive, the street is quiet and dark, but through the store's windows I see a whirl of activity. I meet a head baker, a small, motherly lady named Lorena. She is warm and friendly and hands me a flaky chocolate croissant to eat and a stool to perch on while I watch her work. She moves in a blur, laying smooth, pale dough onto a large metal cart that transports the bread loaves in and out of the massive stone-hearth oven that is the centerpiece of Bread & Cie's open kitchen. Every few minutes, she pulls a batch out to test doneness, judged solely by the color of each loaf. Some that look done to my untrained eyes go back to achieve the perfect crust.
I'm anxious to get my hands on the silky dough but afraid of messing with her groove. Charles Kaufman, the bespectacled and high-spirited owner, arrives and offers me my dream shot. Together, we coax supple rounds of country levain dough into loaves on the prep surface and use razors to make the shallow slashes that allow the bread to properly bake. I push around the heavy equipment until my arms ache. My fingers burn as we rotate slower-browning loaves to different sections of the oven. The air begins to smell of yeast and herbs.
To my embarrassment, Charles, who teases me like a jokey uncle, takes photos. A former horror-flick director, he left the movie business more than 15 years ago to study bread-making in France. He returns every year to keep up with the European master bakers. Bread & Cie isn't cheap, but seeing the attention given to each individual loaf makes clear why. Charles' creations inspire intense devotion from many.
Hours have flown by and my short apprenticeship is coming to an end. The lady in charge of baking the lunchtime focaccia pizza wants to use the oven, and the wooden racks at the front of the store are filled with fresh rolls and loaves. Out front, the shop buzzes with the breakfast crowd, waiting in line for a crusty baguette or sweet pastry. Charles kindly sends me off with one of my misshapen efforts, a seeded sourdough loaf, and one of Lorena's perfectly formed black-olive breads, one of my favorites. I leave exhausted, my clothes caked in flour, but I tear off a still-warm hunk of the bread and find it tastes better than ever.
Munch on brunch
Morning-after eats and drinks, no matter how late you rise
by Eric Wolff
Ah, the bliss of a late morning: nothing to do, nowhere to be, and your only obligation is to your growling stomach and your powerful need for coffee.
Head over to La Doña (1784 Newton Ave., Barrio Logan) to fulfill your morning food desires any day of the week. Just ignore the trippy portrait of a baby eating a seven-foot-long submarine sandwich. Their huevos rancheros will usher you in to the new day-get some of their fresh flour tortillas to sop up the extra sauce.
You might know Baja Betty's (1421 University Ave., Hillcrest) as a gay-friendly margarita destination, but the chefs do a sweet Mexican buffet on weekends, and they have the ultimate hair of the dog: bottomless sangria and champagne.
Then again, if you need a hangover cure, think Waterfront (2044 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy), with its greasy entrées and all-you-can-drink champagne.
Even Terra (1270 Cleveland Ave., Hillcrest) keeps the champagne glass full, and it serves a rockin' homemade chicken chorizo.
If you want to get away from uptown, Tower Two (5083 Santa Monica Ave., Ocean Beach) overlooks the Pacific, which means it gets so busy you might have to be prepared to wait a while for your biscuits and gravy.
If time is of the essence, eat at Cantina Panaderia (966 Felspar St., Pacific Beach), where the servers will fill you up with coconut French toast, and you'll only be a few blocks from the beach so you can still walk off that bloated feeling.
If you like places with character, Café 222 (222 Island Ave., Downtown) serves up pumpkin waffles beneath chandeliers made of spoons. It's a little surreal when you're hung over, but-mmmm-pumpkin waffles.
Café Chloe (721 Ninth Ave., East Village) may be the classiest joint we explored, and if you're looking to impress an, ahem, overnight guest, try the savory egg custard with brown bread or the mushroom and blue cheese tart. Plus, East Village is quiet on weekends as the hipsters sleep off their parties. Sit on the outdoor patio with your coffee, and kick back. You're young and brunching in San Diego. Things could be worse, eh?
Candice Woo and Justin Roberts reported this story.
Plato never ate at 12th and Broadway
Going old-school at a downtown Mexican diner
by R.L. Buss
I first met Jesse Gonzalez downtown on jury duty. Jesse could be Al Pacino's brother, but this story isn't about him, it's about where he led me.
At lunch, we walked up Broadway to his convenience store, but we didn't stop there. He urged me through the stockroom, down a dark hall and into the kitchen of his mother's restaurant next door. Soon I was seated at the counter of the 12th and Broadway Coffee Shop with the house specialty before me: a plate of cheese enchiladas drenched in sauce, paired with moist rice and beans and a steaming mug of coffee.
Plato says the perfect diner exists only as an ideal, but Plato's dead, and he sure as hell never had Teresa's homemade salsa. Everything is coffee-shop eternal, from the Formica counter-horseshoe-shaped so the luck stays in-to the staple platters on the Mexican-American menu. 12th and Broadway is everything a downtown diner should be.
When Jesse put that plate in front of me, I wasn't even hungry, but after a languid half-hour watching the world come and go, I had licked the plate clean and downed more than three mugs of coffee. Jesse pressed me into quick service for a produce run for aguacates and tomatoes around the corner at a wholesaler's, but not before I got a warm peck on the cheek from Teresa as she cradled my face in her hands and told me she loved me.
That's customer service.
At 83 years old, Theresa runs meals and greets customers like she did the first day she worked here 54 years ago. Jesse's sister Connie and her husband Larry barely know me, but they confide in me across the counter. This is the definition of a family restaurant, complete with toddlers weaving between the legs behind the counter.
You can have breakfast for lunch here, and on my second visit I ordered a late trucker's breakfast, one hog-choking, double-slabbed delivery of eggs over-easy, crispy and juicy bacon, hash browns that held their integrity, a side of buttery toast and, of course, coffee from that wonderful eternal drip. Again, I was a good boy and cleaned my plate, leaving just a dribble of coffee and one forgotten half-piece of toast. Another day I tried the chile rellenos and found them sweet inside, so I trucked some salsa over and stung 'em. There's a mushroom-jack omelet for vegetarians, and the chilaquiles are crisp, not soggy. Tall burgers abound and the fries are planks, golden and salty.
Father Rasura from Logan Heights sat next to me for lunch on St. Patrick's Day. He's been eating here 40 years, so you know it's blessed. He and Teresa were born the same year, and they both still read the morning papers at the end of that coffee-shop lunch counter-where the luck stays in.
12th and Broadway is cash-only, but you can eat like a constable here for the price of a side of onion rings at Denny's.
Tea for everyone
Think the steaming herbs are too East Coast? Think again
by Kelly Davis
I had written off San Diego's lack of teahouses (compared to, say, Boston and New York) to an obvious fact: the weather. Tea battles that "damp, drizzly November in [the] soul"that New Englander Herman Melville whined about. There are rarely damp, drizzly Novembers on our end of the continent.
But wait: you all drink coffee. You drink lots of coffee. I see you lining up to buy the stuff and it seems to make no difference whether it's 58 or 85 degrees out. And some of you order it decaffeinated, so it's not like you're drinking it only for the buzz.
Tea, on the other hand, mellows you out (chamomile), lowers your risk of cancer (green) and may even clear out your arteries (black). Coffee gives you ulcers and stains your teeth.
Now that your interest in tea is piqued, here are three spots to stop in for afternoon tea, that necessary pick-me-up to ward off the need for an afternoon nap.
Infusions of Tea. Don't let its location in the upscale Costa Verde strip mall deter you. This tiny shop is an oasis amid suburbia. Take one of the four seats at the granite-topped tea-tasting bar, where you can sample three selected teas for $6 to $8. If it's too warm out for something hot, the menu of more than 60 kinds of tea recommends what's best iced. The iced Matcha latte, high-grade powdered green tea mixed with soy milk, is wonderful, and there's a carefully edited selection of Japanese tea cakes, pastries and sandwiches to accompany your drink. It's also a good place to buy loose-leaf tea and tea accoutrements. 8750 Genesee Ave., Suite 258. www.infusionsoftea.com.
Japanese Garden Tea Pavilion. I've talked to many a native San Diegan who doesn't know you can indeed get a cup of tea at the Tea Pavilion in Balboa Park. There are roughly 30 varieties, including a nice orange blossom oolong. If you're hungry, there's a good curry chicken salad sandwich, teriyaki rice bowls and a selection of sushi. If it's too hot for hot tea, get a Thai iced tea, which you can supplement with a box of Pocky (long, thin cookies dipped in chocolate). Take a seat on the tree-covered patio or, if it's 2 p.m. on a Sunday, head over to the organ pavilion and enjoy a free concert.
T Deli. "Deli"threw me off a bit. And I didn't know the "T' stood for "tea"until I did a little Internet research. Indeed, T Deli, with its Asian-inspired décor, specializes in tea and sandwiches and does a fantastic job at it. I'm thinking about one sandwich in particular right now, recommended by Alex Marin, the charming owner of both T Deli and next door's Bamboo Lounge (primarily a wine bar, but tea's served, too). If you don't feel like choosing among the dozens of tea selections, Marin will help and each day he selects two teas of the day. Like at Infusions of Tea, you can buy loose-leaf tea to take home. I made off with some Vanilla Chai; it's given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. 1469 University Ave.
More tea spots. For serious tea drinkers, downtown's Café Bassam has more than 140 kinds of tea, but we've heard rumors it may be leaving its Fourth and Market location. The U.S. Grant Hotel (326 Broadway) serves "Tea & 'Tinis"Thursday through Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Click "Grant Grill"link at www.us grant.net. Café Chloe (721 Ninth Ave.) has put together a lovely afternoon tea, exactly what you'd expect from the charming East Village spot. www.cafechloe.com. Caffe Calabria (3933 30th St.) in North Park offers monthly educational tea tastings. The next one's May 19 at 10 a.m. www.caffecalabria.com.
Where to eat tonight
Food bloggers dish on new (and semi-new) favorite eateries
San Diego has some great local-eating blogs where food-loving folks talk about the best places to eat and the best dishes to order. We thought we'd tap into that valuable resource and ask three of our favorite food bloggers to send us some words on new (or relatively new) eateries they like. Hopefully, it'll serve as a helpful guide next time you're ready to get some dinner but aren't quite sure where to go.
Two bloggers are in agreement about a couple of spots: Market and Jayne's Gastropub-with that kind of unanimity, you can't go wrong.
Jayne's Gastropub. "Jayne's is smartly decorated in vintage-style black and white, with a small bar, an open kitchen and a garden courtyard in the back. The menu offers simple but elegant dishes with an English flair, such as Sea Bass Fish and Chips, Short Ribs with a Port Wine sauce, and the eponymous Jayne Burger, named after the stylish owner. Don't miss the frites or the butterscotch pot de crème."4677 30th St., Normal Heights, 619-563-1011. www.jaynesgastropub.com.
The Guild. "Located in Barrio Logan, The Guild demonstrates the old adage, if you build it, they will come. Literally. Everything in the dining room was machined in the workshop right behind the restaurant, which you can see through a window in the back. The "taste' menu offers small plates like crab cakes, kobe sliders and tuna tartare with a unique twist. They don't have a liquor license just yet, but there's a decent wine list and a menu of saketinis. I loved the "cocktails' that came with each dessert. Everything we tried was good, especially the kobe sliders, the lobster crab cake and chocolate sandwich for dessert.' 1805 Newton Ave., Barrio Logan. 619-564-7584. www.theguildrestaurant.com.
Market. "This North County fine-dining spot serves modern California cuisine using fresh produce from local farms-in some cases just down the road. The menu changes constantly, but be sure to look for the oyster cobb salad and try (at least) one of Chef Foran's much-talked-about desserts."3702 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, 858-523-0007. www.marketdelmar.com.
Cathy and Kirk
Windy City Beef. "Family-owned, decorated with Chicago memorabilia-native Chicagoans say it smells like home when you walk in the door. The "Da Boss' beef sandwich is authentic and excellent. The burgers are Angus beef, the pizza is made with grandma's sauce recipe and the cannolis are filled when you order."2872 Fletcher Parkway, El Cajon, 619-465-BEEF (2333). www.wcbsd.com.
Scootz Eatz. "Also family-owned, decorated with scooters-sort of like an old garage or repair shop. Real broasted chicken (it's the best). The salads are made with quality ingredients and not your everyday plain fillings, even the side salad that comes with the meal (one is called a San Diego Balsamic House salad and the other is a Border Cesar Salad). The ribs are oven-smoked and we really liked them-fall-off-the-bone tender. They make a hot, soft, pull-apart bread that rivals Pat and Oscar's any day."9535 Mission Gorge Road, Santee, 619-562-4200. www.scootzeatz.com.
Everyday Hero Deli. "Owned and run by two restaurant chefs and a former HR person. Gourmet-ish in flavor and presentation, even in plastic baskets. Decorated with photos of "everyday heroes'-firefighters, EMTs, lifeguards. A portion of each sale goes to the public-safety organization of your choice. Extremely fresh food-sandwiches are on either hero rolls or pita bread and all ingredients are superior. The Tuscan chicken on a sesame hero roll is my favorite-this week, anyhow. You can write to: everyday email@example.com and ask to be sent their weekly specials. 5950 Santo Road, Suite K, Tierrasanta, 858-694 0741.
Gil and Krista Cabrera
Jayne's Gastropub. "Jayne's is a cozy neighborhood spot with good, simple, fresh food. We love everything we've tried here, including the wild mushroom parpadelle with mascarpone, baby wild arugula and parmesan and the excellent brownie with gelato from Gelato Vero."
Market. Carl Schroeder, formerly of Arterra, is creating beautiful and tasty dishes with farm-fresh ingredients accompanied by an interesting wine list. Of the three restaurants on this list, Market is the most expensive and has a destination-restaurant feel. The fresh seafood entrées are excellent, and be sure to save room for the bread pudding.
Apertivo. "Italian tapas may sound odd, but once you dine at Apertivo you will be a convert. Everything on the menu comes in small, tapas-sized portions with small prices to match ($3-$9 each). Several tapas plus wine for two will cost you under $50 and the stellar choices include Affumicato Pasta, Lamb Osso Bucco (if it is available), and several seasonal specialties."3926 30th St., North Park, 619-297-7799. www.apertivo.com.
A short list of CityBeat's new faves
Basic Urban Kitchen. Exceptional pizza in an urban-cool space. 410 10th Ave., Downtown, 619-531-8869.
Cantina Mayahuel. Best chipotle chicken taco in San Diego, if not the world. 2934 Adams Ave., Normal Heights, 619-238-6292.
The Guild. Great food, great décor, great service. We'd drive long distances for the seared ahi. Thank god we don't need to. 1805 Newton Ave., Barrio Logan, 619-564-7584.
Red Pearl Kitchen. Hip downtown restaurant with tasty, affordable dishes. 440 J St., 619-231-1100.
Bondi. Creative Australian cuisine, innovative architectural touches and delicious craft beers. Plus, everyone's got an Australian accent. 333 Fifth Ave., Downtown, 619-342-0212.
Tajima. New location for this awesome Japanese restaurant. Best spot for a 1 a.m. noodle fix. 4411 Mercury St., Kearny Mesa, 858-278-5367.
Tony and Anders link up
Cantankerous columnist and movie nerd are in sausage heaven
For some time, we've been trying to send columnist extraordinaire Tony Phillips and film geek Anders Wright out to edify a restaurant. They're both serious eaters, but each is flaky like pie crust, making it almost impossible to find a night that worked. But they made a special effort for this issue, and Anders insisted on eating at one of his favorite places, North Park's The Linkery (3382 30th St.). Although the restaurant has a full menu with a number of vegetarian options, it's best known for its links, which are made in-house and change daily.
Tony Phillips: Anders, we need a starter. What do you think?
Anders Wright: We could get the green beans. Or just go with the pressed pork and make it a serious meat orgy.
TP: Why not do that? If we're going to indulge, we should really thicken up some arteries.
AW: Totally. Race you to the first heart attack! Oh, and beer, we need beer.
TP: I want that Pizza Port cask IPA thing.
TP: And I'm thinking about having that link sampler.
AW: You could do worse. I'm gonna have the hanging tenderloin of beef.
TP: And by getting the sampler, I'll get a variety.
AW: Wow, this is like eating with Einstein.
Server: OK, what you've got here is pressed pork with bacon wrapped around it and a loin in the middle. Those are candied kumquats, and your greens are dressed with a lemon vinaigrette.
AW: Kumquat always sounds like a dirty word. Especially candied.
TP: Isn't that good? You don't get kumquat in mainstream cuisine, really.
AW: Or anything candied.
TP: It's a shame. But I'm pleased with this. It's like porno kumquat food. So, what do we have here?
AW: It's pressed pork wrapped in bacon.
TP: Well, how is that not good?
AW: Everything about that is beautiful. It's porky.
TP: That is mighty porky. That almost squealed.
AW: They do it all here. Pressing the pork, that is.
TP: Holy shit. What is this?
AW: I think it's the loin. Big piece of meat.
TP: Goddamn, that's good. Look at that. It's damn near tartare. So we had bacon constraining some delectable porkish bits, wrapped around a hunk of damn near raw dead pig. It's exquisite.
Server: OK, here's the link sampler. That's all three of today's links. This one's the Hot Italian with grilled polenta and marinara sauce. Here's a Chicken Provencal with braised greens and a wholegrain mustard sauce, and over here you've got a Polish with greens and a bacon vinaigrette. And you, you've got the hanging tenderloin of beef with chimichurri sauce. Those are grilled cipollini onions, and that's creamer potato salad with bacon.
TP: Hot Italian. It's very good. Fuck. Try this.
AW: You're right. That is good. I've got the hanging tenderloin of beef. Eat some.
TP: Wow. Wow. That couldn't be better done. Anders, you got a find right here. I don't want to tell people about this place.
AW: Totally. The service is great, the wine and beer list is solid. Eat this onion.
TP: I'm not much for grilled onions, but that's gorgeous. Brings out the flavor, and it goes so nicely with the beef. Fuck.
AW: How about the polenta?
TP: Well, I'm underwhelmed, but what can you do with polenta?
AW: It's got a lot of flavor, though. As polenta goes.
TP: As polenta goes.
AW: Have more beef.
TP: Goddamn, that's good. Here.
AW: Which one is that?
TP: This is the chicken.
AW: Not as salty as I would have expected. But it's nice after that Italian.
TP: Yeah, it's gentle. Here's the Polish.
AW: Oh, that's nice. It's mild, but it's got a lot of flavor. Like the roadmap to peace between the other two. OK. That's enough.
TP: Enough what?
AW: I'm done sharing. This is too good.
TP: Dude. Dude.
AW: You ordered the links, Tony.
TP: The whole idea is to share.
AW: We shared. Now eat. Go ahead, man. Make that last little linky your bitch.
French macaroons and more
Opera Patisserie sweetens the food scene
by Kelly Davis
French macaroons have landed in San Diego. As far as I know-and I've been looking-one could not buy the delicate cookies within 100 miles of San Diego's city center. (Perhaps I've overlooked some Orange County bakery, but I doubt it.)
Two years ago, San Diego's Opera Patisserie, a dessert caterer since 2002, started up an online retail store, from which you could order macaroons, but there was no bricks-and-mortar location. Then, a few months ago, a friend with whom I share a fondness for macaroons (she'll have them sent express from Paris if need be) told me she could no longer find them on the Opera site. That's because Opera had bigger things in the works. Desperately needing a macaroon fix, last month I checked back with Opera's website and saw these magical words: "Now open. Our new French café in Downtown San Diego."
I drove to the café the next day, located at 1354 Fifth Ave. between Bankers Hill and downtown. I convinced myself the macaroons would be the one thing not on the menu-because it would be too perfect if they were. But there they were on a banner just outside the patisserie's front door in all their pastel-hued beauty, available individually or by the box. I bought two boxes, a bargain at $7.50.
First, some background on French macaroons, which are not to be confused with the tasty yet pedestrian coconut macaroon. French macaroons are an art form, difficult to make, comprising two crisp, airy almond-and-egg-white based cookies that sandwich a flavored filling, like raspberry marmalade, chocolate ganache or pistachio crème. Done right, they're flaky on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle. Anyone who's tried one falls in love.
There's far more to Opera Patisserie than perfect macaroons, however. There's a large menu of sandwiches, quiches and "French-style pizza."But it's the desserts that you're there for. Assembled like pieces of art in the front display case, you'll find six or seven different individual pastries, cheesecakes, several varieties of tea cakes, chocolate truffles and, of course, those macaroons.
For now, Opera's hours are limited, perhaps so owners Vincent Garcia and Thierry Cahez (the charming French guy who'll likely help you with your selection) can get a read on their clientele; the café closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and doesn't open on Sundays. So go there for a dessert before dinner, or a dinner of dessert to enjoy in the pleasant bistro-like setting. Pick up a box of mini pastries ($11) to take to a dinner party or to enjoy at home.
For around $20, I got three individual pastries and a box of a mini French pastries to take home. That purchase fed three people with enough left over for two more evenings of nibbling. Outstanding was the flourless chocolate cake. The "Adelia"-marscapone cheese layered with red berry cream and almond sponge cake-was my favorite among the mini pastries. Oh heck, they were all good. Stunningly good and pretty to look at, too. You can browse the selections yourself at www.operadesserts.com (most, but not everything, pictured is available at the café). Or, stop by the café and chat with Thierry about what's what-and don't forget the macaroons.
Holes of glory
People really do still eat doughnuts
by Kinsee Morlan
The artificial florescent glow from Donut Star floods out onto the dark asphalt of Washington and Dove streets. The "o"in the Donut Star sign, a perfect plain-cake doughnut, looks out into the parking lot below with wide-eyed anticipation. It's 2:11 a.m., and the place is empty.
Ah, the agonizing plight of the d-nut. These days, the Atkins diet and its carb-hating knockoffs have turned bread and its doughy brethren into scapegoats for the obese. The trend of healthier living has endangered the doughnut biz. So who are the dedicated doughnut-faithful ignoring our generation's exhortations? Who keeps places like Donut Star up and running? And better yet, who keeps places like Donut Star up and running 24 hours a day?
It's now 2:37 a.m., and the skinny Vietnamese guy is steadily rolling out dough in the back when the ding-dong of the doorbell breaks the quiet. A middle-aged man orders a large coffee and a cream-filled doughnut. He's on his way to the harbor to drive a tugboat. A FedEx driver orders a dozen and a half doughnuts and departs happily. Men on their way to work.
Somehow, someway, Donut Star has become a weathered time capsule. The once flamingo-pink display cases have faded to a softer shade, and hanging on the equally faded violet walls are posters of carefully positioned doughnuts that look like they were baked in the early '60s. Below the doughnut-poster gallery sit four sets of miniature tables and chairs so old they'd pass for mid-century-modern new.
The prices at Donut Star have barely changed in four decades: A large coffee or hot tea is $1.25 and a jelly-filled doughnut is 85 cents. The smell of deep-fried, sugary dough reminds you of a time when Americans smoked like chimneys and ate whatever the hell they pleased. Taken together, these details make stepping through the glass doors of Donut Star like stepping through a magic portal.
By 2:42 a.m. the drunken crowd rolls in. It's a group of downtown-type 20-somethings, a gal and three guys, one of whom has a feather duster sticking out of his back pocket (he saw it at Rite Aide and couldn't resist). They order "this one right here with the red thing"and "that one right there with the whip-cream thing,"then sit at a table. They eat half and make what they call "doughnut art"with the rest-sculpted and pinched doughnut chunks standing in a circle reminiscent of Stonehenge. At 2:46 a.m., an old white-haired man with bed-head shuffles in for a coffee and buttermilk bar and shuffles out with the red plastic serving basket.
Another night, same time, same place, a security guard almost fulfills the cops-eat-doughnuts cliché. A 17-year-old homeless kid on drugs loiters. He uses one of the shop's outlets to charge his cell phone and, after scrounging up his last 65 cents for a sprinkle doughnut, trades the Donut Star clerk little plastic toys for a gallon of curdled milk. He shakes the milk, picks out the chunks and chugs it down.
From the regular folks up at irregular times to the city's insomniacs, drunks and estranged, it seems the mystery of who eats doughnuts these days can't easily be solved. Perhaps the answer is this: Donut Star is a semi-clean, well-lighted place to pass the dark and lonely night.