The Doughnut Lounge as date destination? Maybe!

Sitting in a dimly lighted corner of Westport’s new Doughnut Lounge, I stared in awe at the shards of frosting that had flaked off my glazed doughnut when I took my first bite. Unlike most doughnuts, which seem to be coated in something resembling wet tissue paper, this sugary shell had substance. I picked up a chunk the size of a puzzle piece and admired it in the candlelight.

“How thick do you think this is?” I asked my boyfriend. He paused in the middle of devouring a bacon-maple long john and examined the frosting.

“At least an eighth of an inch.” He sounded impressed, which is saying a lot for a man who is something of a doughnut connoisseur.

Indeed, there appeared to be more frosting on this doughnut than there’s been snow on the ground at anytime this winter. That’s one thing the Doughnut Lounge definitely gets right: When it comes to decadent, sugary glaze, there’s never too much of a good thing.

I have to admit, though, that I was initially skeptical of the concept. Open since December, the Doughnut Lounge takes a snack normally devoured in three bites at a traffic light and turns it into something to be savored over conversation and cocktails. I’ve always pre-gamed with greasy treats like hot dogs and gyros, so I was curious what would happen if I started the night with fancy doughnuts instead.

A surprising number of people had the same idea. At 10 p.m. on a Thursday, most of the tables in the small space were filled with patrons of various ages. With the lights low and candles shimmering, the room felt unexpectedly intimate. Several couples gazed into each other’s eyes over wax paper-covered trays, juggling tiny cocktail glasses and doughnuts sprinkled with Froot Loops. At least one man sipped a large glass of milk.

In this context, artisan doughnuts no longer sounded like such a silly trend. Though the lounge was among Westport’s newest businesses, it felt well established, and the bar-meets-coffee-shop vibe seemed natural. This was the kind of place where you could stop in solo to read a book and shamefully devour half a dozen doughnuts in relative peace. Alternately, you could learn what your date is like while fucked up on booze and sugar.

Naturally, the doughnuts also demanded our attention, seeming to glow within the large pastry case. The classics were represented: glazed, cake, iced chocolate. More impressive, though, was the s’mores doughnut, with its chocolate-ganache glaze, marshmallow fluff and graham-cracker crumbles. I was also drawn to “the Dolly,” which is filled with sheep’s-milk custard and topped with a root-beer glaze and fresh basil.

Ultimately, though, we went with a strawberry mascarpone, a maple bacon and the basic glazed. And here I admit as well to ordering the the awkwardly named “Avocado Risoughnut,” which featured corn-cake croutons, avocado risotto, pico de gallo, balsamic glaze and pecorino romano. The savory dish was one of two so-called “Noduts” — described on the menu as “part doughnut, part entrée” — available that night. (I’ll be back for you later, Glazed Fried Chicken.)

To wash it all down, I ordered a Costa Rican Sunrise, a coffee-based mocktail containing espresso, orange juice, orange bitters and vanilla. For three doughnuts, the entrée, a cocktail and a latte, we paid about $25 with tip, which didn’t seem unreasonable. There’s a full bar, of course, for anyone wanting to spend and drink more.

The maple bacon was the obvious favorite: a crispy strip of meat running down the center of the dense, generously frosted cake. The strawberry mascarpone was thick, chewy and delicious, stuffed with velvety, not-too-sweet filling. Possibly because it arrived after I’d spent 20 minutes eating various amalgamations of pure sugar, the risotto seemed least impressive; the creamy concoction lacked flavor. Crunchy and slightly sweet, the corn-cake croutons were the best part of the Nodut.

If you still think doughnuts and drinking don’t mix, Doughnut Lounge has a number of specials planned for St. Patrick’s Day, including a rye-doughnut Reuben and an Irish-car bomb doughnut, which is filled with a mousse of Bailey’s and Jameson and topped with chocolate Guinness glaze. Empty calories, no question, but these doughnuts aren’t without substance.

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink