Sweet, Meet Salty 

Three Treasure Valley eateries pair donuts with savory treats

click to enlarge toasted_courtesytoasted-_3_.jpg

Courtesy Toasted

Peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, donuts and...everything?

When it comes to perfect pairings, sweet and savory combinations are a no-brainer, but having donuts and savory dish share space on one plate is a bit less traditional. Places like Voodoo Donuts in Portland, Oregon have long taken the humble donut to inventive places. Now, a few Boise eateries giving it even more range, not with wild flavors or wacky toppings, but by pairing it with savory foods and complementary beverages. The idea, restaurateurs said, is to give people more options.

Donuts + Toast

In July, Brad Wegelin opened Toasted, a vegan artisan toast restaurant situated in downtown Boise's Idanha building. A hallway joins his space to Guru Donuts, a connection meant to encourage people to enjoy what both places have to offer.

"To have this as a one-stop shop is a great way to complement what's already here," Wegelin said. "People come for the donuts. At the same time, maybe today I don't want donuts and most people in my family do. What options are there for me? The choices abound. You can have a little bit of everything."

Meeting Krystle and Evan McLaughlin, the new owners of Guru Donuts, made opening Toasted next door an easy decision. They pair offered up their extra space and went in on the concept.

"I'm proud to be part of something that's so well-respected," Wegelin said of Guru.

Toasted's offerings include twists on classic avocado toast, homemade banana bread topped with peanut butter and bananas, and even toasts made with Guru's donuts.

Wegelin loves seeing new customers discover Toasted. Some are vegan, some are vegan-curious, and others are simply drawn by the cozy, minimalist decor and the promise of avocado toast. As someone who admits he's rarely satisfied with a first attempt, Wegelin uses toast as a vehicle to explore different combinations and flavors.

"We eat with our eyes first. I like to use food as a canvas that helps people enjoy it. This was the perfect platform," he said of the restaurant. "The banana bread started as an accident because I bought too many bananas."

That kind of resourcefulness is visible throughout Toasted's menu. For the "Marco Polo Doesn't Swim," Wegelin starts with one of Guru's vegan unglazed bar donuts. He toasts it; layers on red-pepper hummus, olive tapenade, Mediterranean herb-marinated beets, and vegan feta; adds cracked peppercorns to one side and garlic olive oil to the other; and tops the whole thing off with microgreens. The dish is served open-faced so customers can relish the artfully layered, colorful ingredients.

"I've shifted to more savory toast because I enjoy watching people get a toast, then a donut," Wegelin said. "This is my favorite thing to watch: that couple on their first date, having two toasts and sharing a donut. It's the perfect harmony. The fact that I get to be part of that is amazing."

click to enlarge COURTESY DONUT + DOG
  • Courtesy Donut + Dog

Donuts + Dogs

Hailing originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Donut + Dog opened its doors in The Village at Meridian this summer. The restaurant goes all out with its sweet-savory inventions, "pushing the boundaries of what a 'donut' and 'hot dog' is" with 20-hour brioche donuts and artisanal hot dogs.

Co-founder Will Primavera is proud of the fact that just about everything at Donut + Dog is made in-house, including that special 20-hour brioche donut.

"Talk to anyone who bakes, and it's one of the most temperamental doughs," Primavera explained. "What you get is a super-rich, deep donut without it being heavy. Cut it open, and you see the layers similar to what you see in a croissant."

At Donut + Dog, those confections are paired with coffee, beer and Champagne flights that complement, rather than combat, their delicious dough.

"Any good pairing shouldn't overwhelm," Primavera said.

click to enlarge COURTESY DONUT + DOG
  • Courtesy Donut + Dog

Recipes aside, Donut + Dog is all about presentation. There's the "Grilled Cheese and Friend," a sandwich made from a halved, grilled brioche donut stuffed with two types of cheese and melted apple butter. The sandwich is placed on a hook over a bowl of tomato-basil soup for dipping. The "Elote Loco" is a chorizo dog with Mexican-style street corn that's roasted and topped with cotija, chipotle powder, lime and cilantro. On the donut side, "Pillow Talk" features guava, cream cheese and Italian buttercream.

During the Meridian restaurant's grand opening, Primavera was pleased to see customers react the same way they had to Donut + Dog's unveiling in Tennessee. As he put it, those diners "really want the artisan process, all done by hand with ingredients that pair well together."

Primavera pointed out the Treasure Valley food scene was perfectly primed for Donut + Dog's wacky dishes.

"The excitement is here to try new and exciting things," he said, adding that as his company grows, it will do its best to give back to the Valley by supporting local suppliers.

The restaurant is already sourcing local honey and patronizing local artists for its decor, making itself right at home in the Gem State. Primavera said he hopes customers leave Donut + Dog feeling just as comfortable (if a bit full).

click to enlarge HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry

Donuts + Fried Chicken

Donut Daze, the Eighth Street brainchild of the folks behind Pie Hole and The Mode Lounge, is currently closed for remodeling and a conceptual revamp. According to Owner Russ Crawforth, it will reopen as Regal Beaver, and expand its menu of fried chicken and donuts to include baguette sandwiches, fries and tots. There will be vegan options and fried pickles, too.

Like its eclectic menu, the restaurant's new concept is wide-ranging. It will be open seven nights a week and showcase local artists and entertainers alongside its creative cuisine. Regal Beaver will host music as well "karaoke, the occasional comedy show, fringe theater and readings. Maybe drag shows," Crawforth said.

Crawforth is open to exploration with both the menu and the feel of Regal Beaver.

"Whatever personality or vibe or direction the business takes, I'm going to let it go there," he said.

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