4/106 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
0402 183 134, instagram.com/jazzcityjoedough
Main attraction: Classic American doughnuts (the kind you could imagine Chief Wiggum enjoying on The Simpsons) if you want something timeless, or cookie dough if you’re seeking out 2017’s “it” dessert
Must try: The strawberry doughnut – it has the right level of fruit-dense sweetness and still allows the yeasted doughnut to shine
Insta-worthy dish: Ask for a selection of cookie dough, served in photogenic mini cones
Prices: From $4 for doughnuts to $15 for hot dishes
Coffee: Single Origin “Paradox” (cappuccino, flat white, long black, latte, etc), $3.50. American filter (unlimited refills), $3
Open: Tuesday-Friday 1pm-9pm; Saturday 9am-9pm
Next up: A breakfast menu (including waffles with maple syrup and whipped butter), plus more American desserts (such as key lime pie).
Dan McGuirt used to wake up shockingly early to make doughnuts. For his Joe Dough pop-up at the Queen Victoria Building’s Jet Cafe last year, he was prepping and baking from 1am to ensure just-glazed doughnuts would be ready for the morning rush. But, unlike in the US, where eating doughnuts for breakfast really is a thing, Australians preferred to stick to muesli and Vegemite on toast. Turns out, we don’t start eating doughnuts until much later in the day. A lot later. McGuirt didn’t need to get up so crushingly early after all.
It’s a lesson he’s learnt for the permanent Joe Dough shop, which opened recently in Darlinghurst. He now starts at 10am, ensuring the first choc-coated or strawberry-filled pastries are ready by 1pm, when Joe Dough opens. (Unfortunately, he still battles the alarm clock on Saturdays, when the shop opens at 8am.)
For McGuirt – who previously ran Jazz City Diner and Jazz City Barbecue – perfecting doughnuts has been a long experiment. It began in 2015, when he considered opening a coffee cart at Jazz City Barbecue in Surry Hills. To go with the caffeine hit, McGuirt thought he could easily recreate the American-style doughnuts he enjoyed as a kid in Michigan.
“I thought, me being a chef, ‘how difficult could it be to make a doughnut?’ It’s just flour, sugar and yeast. But I’d make a batch, take one bite and then just throw the whole batch away, because it just wasn’t right.” They weren’t like the ones from home. His experimenting went on for four months.
One day, he hit the jackpot, and successfully proofed and fried a doughnut that channelled the ones he’d trudge through snow to get in his home town. “But once I got it, I couldn’t do it again.” It took another three months of variations before he consistently had success. “That was the process of learning to make a doughnut that is a proper yeast-raised doughnut.”
The pay-off is in each bite of Joe Dough’s doughnuts. They’re dangerously light and airy – so they’re almost too easy to eat. They’re not at all like those cakey extravaganzas you see, with their crazy pile-on of toppings. A vanilla-glazed version has that just-right balance of keeping its flavours understated while still sneaking in an undeniable junk-food hit. The strawberry one is a highlight and full of sweet, fruity intensity – it’s like a jam jar reincarnated in doughnut form.
The range varies from a roasted chestnut special to chocolate and pistachio. There are “doughpucks”, smaller versions that are like inverted doughnut holes, as well as Long Johns – eclair-like doughnuts that McGuirt grew up with.
In case you missed the memo about Joe Dough’s specialty, there are doughnut-shaped seats inside and plush doughnuts lining the walls. And McGuirt is often wearing doughnut-patterned clothing when behind the counter. But Joe Dough also riffs on other dough products – and happens to sell the “it” food of the moment: cookie dough. In New York, one outlet – Dō – attracted two-hour-long lines when it opened. The website, Eater, declared recently that, “2017 is set to be the breakout year for edible cookie dough”.
The dough is egg-free and the flour pasteurised, and the flavours evoke the best things you’d want to line a biscuit tray with: Oreo cookies and cream, a peanut butter version resembling Reese’s Pieces and even a s’mores edition.
Most people are drawn to Joe Dough’s front counter – with its rainbow rows of doughnuts and tubs of confectionery-topped cookie dough – but it’s worth exploring the rest of the store’s dough-related menu. The dining area is tiny – there are only a handful of tables, surrounded by red bar stools or doughnut-themed seating – but McGuirt’s American dishes are a good showcase of his memories and past CV. The burgers have the novelty of being square-shaped – just like the ones the chef ate from fast-food chains Wendy’s and White Castle while growing up – but they trade on classic, pared-back flavours: each one is neatly packed with an angular stack of tomato, raw onion, American cheddar and lightly seasoned beef patty. (They’re experimenting with a vegetarian version, too.)
The fried chicken also trades on comfort and simplicity: served with home-style buttermilk biscuits and gravy, the chicken is cooked in leftover doughnut oil, which gives it a crisp lightness and subtle flavour boost. After something spicier? Try the chuck steak tamales cooked in a tomato-cumin broth.
Most dine-in visitors seem unaware of the savoury dishes, though – they’re more preoccupied with the staff prepping doughnuts in the open kitchen, the massive replica of The Donut Chef book cover on the wall or their own plates of doughnuts. Perhaps it’s because these hot dishes play a support role to the headlining desserts.
Of course, Joe Dough is a multitasking pun – and Joe refers to coffee (“cup of Joe”). In keeping with the theme, McGuirt serves American filter coffee. And while Australia has long held bragging rights on how great our espresso game is, the US has often been dismissed for its apparently bad coffee. But Joe Dough’s version is good. And in demand.
“We sell about four to one, American coffee to espresso,” McGuirt says. “You get a bottomless cup, so you get free refills.”
Unlike the dodgy kind that has been sitting around for hours, Joe Dough’s is freshly made. And perfect for doughnuts. “There’s nothing better than the aroma of the coffee when they pour it in the cup in front of you,” McGuirt says. “That’s just a unique experience.”
IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
More to see in Darlinghurst (and surrounds):
MESSINA CREATIVE DEPARTMENT
243 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
Here’s a Gelato Messina experience that doesn’t involve lining up. Better still, it’s based around a seven-course dessert degustation. The room serves only eight people at a time, so book ahead to try one of the most fun experiences in Sydney. Past highlights? A chocolate tree in salted coconut gelato and an “egg” you crack with a mini hammer – spilling forth sake jelly, aged persimmon and goat yoghurt gelato.
NATIONAL ART SCHOOL
Corner of Forbes and Burton streets, Darlinghurst
You don’t need to be a student to drop in for a life drawing class, stock up on brushes at the supplies store or catch an exhibition at the school’s gallery (this year’s Archibald Prize winner, Mitch Cairns, features in the current show). Or tour Darlinghurst Gaol, which is apparently haunted by some of the 76 prisoners who were executed at the site.
112 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
In an era of Netflix and chill, this Sydney institution keeps on keeping on. For years, Sydneysiders have dropped in for a vegetarian Indian buffet followed by a movie session – usually while assuming a comfy position on one of the massive floor cushions in the screening room. Now on show: car-chase caper Baby Driver and Charlize Theron’s (literal) knockout performance in Atomic Blonde.
GRIFFIN THEATRE COMPANY
10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross
Catch the tail end of Griffin’s 2017 program at the SBW Stables Theatre, which mixes classic plays (like Katherine Thomson’s Diving for Pearls) and new works (Merciless Gods by Dan Giovannoni). Really into drama? You can join the monthly Script Club events (yep, it’s like a book club, except the required reading features stage directions and dialogue).
SYDNEY JEWISH MUSEUM
148 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
There is a three-level permanent exhibition on the Holocaust, talks presented by survivors and a growing collection of items donated by the public (such as a concentration camp jacket worn at Buchenwald). The black marble forecourt honours all the Jewish people who served Australia in World War I and II, but the museum isn’t just about the past: there are regular music events, book launches and lunchtime lectures.