Dynamic Doughnuts Fuel Mission Doctors

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The clinical years of medical school have arrived in all their glory for me: waking up before the sun does, endless questions that require answers you don’t know, and, of course, a newly opened hole in your vulnerable psyche that can only be filled with fats, sweets and carbohydrates.

Luckily for those who work at San Francisco General Hospital, there is a shop nearby that precisely fills such cravings: Dynamo Donut. Located at 24th and Hampshire, the small shop offers a daily selection of freshly baked doughnuts and Four Barrel coffee.

The store has acquired a bit of a cult following amongst foodies and Mission hipsters (the place was featured on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”) and routinely sells out of certain flavors before noon. It’s known for having inventive flavor combinations such as Banana de Leche, Saffron Chocolate and Molasses Guinness Pear.

Even its more traditional-sounding varieties, such as Spiced Chocolate and Vanilla Bean, are made with chili powder and orange zest, respectively, for a special twist. Out of 29 possible flavors, there are 7 to 10 kinds available on any given day. Its most popular and signature doughnut, Bacon Maple Apple, is available every day of the week.

For those of you casting a wary eye on this article, despite working in health care and preaching the virtues of a healthy diet, many doctors love doughnuts too. In fact, one of my residents (name intentionally withheld) routinely and generously picks up a box of Krispy Kremes for her team but covers up her UCSF ID as she goes through the drive-through for fear of being judged as a doctor buying copious amounts of sugar-glazed fried dough.

During one particularly draining on-call day, I decided to pick up a box from Dynamo for my team to sample, including Lemon Pistachio, Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate, Apricot Cardamom, Spiced Chocolate, and Bacon Maple Apple.

We noticed all of the doughnuts were dense and cakey, unlike their airy Krispy Kreme cousins, and tended to be on the smaller side. This did not deter us from devouring them with gusto.

First up was the Lemon Pistachio. This doughnut had pistachio-flavored dough baked with flecks of lemon zest and covered in a lemon glaze dotted with toasted pistachios. I couldn’t really taste the pistachios in the dough, but the tangy lemon flavor came through nicely.

The tasting panel appreciated the contrast of the soft sweet dough with salty crunchy topping and felt it was a safe selection, not too flashy and not too bland.

The Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate was a visual highlight—a vanilla doughnut glazed with a vibrantly yellow passion fruit coating and a smattering of milk chocolate shavings. The passion fruit flavor was strong and mouth-wateringly tangy, but I could have done without the chocolate, which I felt muddied up the fruity taste.

Next up was Apricot Cardamom, another fruity doughnut. It turned out to be a cardamom doughnut baked with dried apricots and currants and topped with a cardamom glaze. People raved about the true cardamom taste offset by bits of tart fruit and were surprised by how the two flavors worked with each other.

The Spiced Chocolate doughnut tasted exactly as it was named: chocolate-y with just the right amount of sugar, cinnamon, chile and chipotle. It sounds like a frightening combination of spices to put in a doughnut, but turned out surprisingly well—like a spicy Mayan hot chocolate.

On the downside, this doughnut was the messiest of the bunch—the sugar and spice coating the outside kept falling off and getting all over everything else.

Of course, no review of Dynamo is complete without tasting the famous Bacon Maple Apple. It’s a fragrant little critter studded with apples sautéed in bacon fat and topped with a maple glaze and tiny pieces of crispy fried bacon.

We couldn’t really taste the apple in the doughnut but it didn’t really matter. This flavor was the group favorite and was described by one as “my favorite breakfast of bacon, warm pancakes and syrup in a convenient doughnut form.”

Another taster described this doughnut as potentially worthy enough to replace the CT scanner as the real “Doughnut of Truth.”

Overall, the doughnuts have intriguing flavor combinations and are fun to sample in a group, so that many different flavors can be tried.

Dynamo doughnuts are delicious, but these fried pieces of heaven come at a steep price. Depending on the flavor, they cost anywhere from $2-$3.50 each, a far cry from the sub-dollar prices at Bob’s Donuts, another famous San Francisco shop.

The high prices and surprising flavor combinations mean that Dynamo is certainly not your traditional doughnut shop. However, it might be just the thing that fills the carbohydrate-shaped hole in our souls created by long hours and many new demands.

Dynamo Donuts


2760 24th St. (Mission District)

110 Yacht Road (Marina District)

ATMOSPHERE Roadside kiosk

RECOMMENDED Bacon Maple Apple

DRINKS Four Barrel drip coffee, espresso drinks, tea, lemonade, orange juice

PRICE RANGE $2-$3.50 per donut, $36 per dozen

HOURS 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.. Closed Mon..

PAYMENT Cash, credit