Masterpiece Donuts & Coffee+ opened this week at the corner of Indian School Road and 40th Street in Arcadia. And it isn't your average (or even your average fancy) doughnut joint.
Tom and Sheri Schrader decided that there is nothing better than a fresh, warm doughnut with a great cup of joe, so they designed a fried-to-order, customized doughnut assembly line in their airy space (in the same complex as the newly opened Tacos Tequila Whiskey), which is not yet another franchise or mini-chain, but an honest-to-God, local indie one-off.
When you enter the shop, you're met with a row of iPads (a friendly barista will also shout a greeting from the kitchen beyond). There, you can select one of their predesigned "masterpieces" all somehow inspired by a particular famed artist, or customize your own cake doughnut.
There's an overwhelming number of combination options: The icings come in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, maple, and glaze; the toppings are rainbow sprinkles, chopped peanuts, Oreo crumbles, miniature M&Ms, chocolate pearls, sea salt, graham cracker crumbs, or cinnamon sugar; and the drizzles can be vanilla, chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, cinnamon, raspberry, peanut butter, or espresso.
Sounds a little kitschy, right? It is. And it's super-fun.
For those who are less creative first thing in the morning or crippled with indecision when faced with such a massive number of options (like I was), the menu of predesigned doughnuts are really fun to choose from as well, with photos and flavor descriptions provided along with the more vague and artful name. I selected the Monet, which was glazed, topped with sea salt, and drizzled with caramel; a Kahlo, iced with chocolate and drizzled with espresso; Vermeer, a chocolate overload of icing, pearls, and drizzle; and I tried to order an Oreo-topped Picasso, but selected the Pissarro by mistake, which earned me a vanilla-iced, graham-topped, cinnamon-drizzled doughnut.
After a last-minute pang of regret, I went ahead and added a design-your-own with vanilla frosting, graham cracker crumbs, and a drizzle of peanut butter. At just $1.50 each, I felt emboldened to experiment.
Satisfied with my daring choices, I ordered an Illy latte and watched the dough drop into the fryer before being deftly dunked in frosting, toppings, and drizzles by the friendly staff.
Once I was able to pull myself away from the doughnut show, I took a seat in the bright dining room. It is spacious and airy, with a rotating collection of artwork from local artists and area high schools. Tom told me that they plan to rotate the pieces every three weeks. Though there were people at most of the tables, the noise never rose above a cheerful hum. A glance at the Wi-Fi code at the bottom of my receipt made me wish I had my laptop with me, as it would make for a great place to work.
A glorious platter of colorful fried dough arrived, along with a fork and napkin courtesy of the smiling "doughnut artist." My own creation, swathed in creamy vanilla frosting, sprinkled with graham, and topped with peanut butter reminded me of that childhood classic, the fluffernutter sandwich. The soft, chewy cake doughnut made the perfect vehicle for these indulgent toppings. The Pissarro tasted for all the world like a cross between French toast and a cinnamon roll, only richer somehow. The Vermeer was layer after layer of chocolate flavors and textures, with a delicate milk chocolate frosting holding delightfully crunchy pearls of crisp chocolate, all draped in dark chocolate.
The espresso drizzle was overpowered by the chocolate on the Kahlo, but the slight crispness of the doughnut's exterior, which gave way to that freshly made, spongy interior, meant that there really couldn't be any bad doughnuts here. The one that stole my heart was the simplest. The understated Monet, a glazed number featuring a light drizzle of caramel and a hearty sprinkle of sea salt, had almost a bruleed exterior, with the hint of salt lingering after each delicately sweet bite.
The beauty of the treats here is in the wonderful variety of textures and flavors. I'm not much of a sweets fan, and I typically find doughnuts and cake to be one-note, so for me, these sweet little circles held enough interest, both with their chewy, crispy, tender, caramelized textures, and the layers of interesting flavor combinations.
"We just wanted to create a place that had good, warm doughnuts and really great coffee," Tom says. "And you know, it is really hard to find both of those things in one place."
The pleasure of a freshly cooked, well-composed doughnut, not to mention the utter joy of watching them being made, is enough reason to fall for this shop — but the excellent coffee and espresso drinks are the icing on the, um, doughnut.
For those who want to tag along but skip the sugar rush, they thoughtfully offer fruit and granola-topped yogurt bowls, too.
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Masterpiece Donuts & Coffee+ is located at 3950 East Indian School Road, #120, and is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Check the website to drool over the various doughnut options.