An Appreciation of Winchell's Donuts by Jason Biggs
Yes, that Jason Biggs
Editor's note: When we asked actor and food fanatic Jason Biggs for a few words on his favorite doughnut shop for our 50-state (plus DC) extravaganza, he waxed so poetic, it would be a shame not to feature the whole thing.
If fōnuts, Cronuts, and blueberry-bourbon-basil doughnuts from a Portland transplant that sells one-bean coffee out of a reclaimed barn wood-accented shop on Abbott Kinney are the millennials of the fried dough world, then Winchell's is the aging boomer who once upon a time was cool but now is just confused by the competition's artisanal endeavors. No offense to the young'uns, but I'd rather hang with the boomer and chew the fat about the good old days. You see, Winchell's holds a special place in this Gen-Xer's heart.
When I was 12, I booked my first lead in a TV show, a role that required me to temporarily move to Los Angeles. I had seen a craft service table before, but this was a network show with network money to buy network craft service delectables. Morning, noon, and night, there was always something amazing to indulge in, at least for a pre-teen who back home in New Jersey still had to ask permission to have a Tastykake, but here in a Studio City soundstage got to grab almost whatever he wanted unburdened by his mother's prying eyes.
The very first morning, there was a box of doughnuts from a place called Winchell's. I could tell by the font on the box that this place had been around for a minute. Inside was a doughnut purist's dream: plains, glazes, frostings, sprinkles, bear claws. I went right for the most colorful one, a plain doughnut with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles. (Again, I was 12.) The texture is the thing I remember most: fresh but firm, with a frosting that was already hardened to the doughnut in the best way.
The other thing I remember: Deciding right then and there that I would have this same doughnut every morning I arrived on set, because of course, it would be there. It was always there. This memory lingers, more than 25 years later, not because it's the best doughnut I've ever had, but because it's the only doughnut I've ever had that is so viscerally connected to feelings of freedom and independence, of dreams coming true, and of a time when I could actually sense my world completely changing around me, for the better. I was growing up, and this doughnut was taking part in some of the journey. Try doing that, Cronut! You little hipster, you.