Restaurant: Lucky’s Doughnuts
Last Visited: April 9, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Mount Pleasant/Main Street)
Address: 2902 Main Street (Inside 49th Parallel Cafe)
Transit: NB Main St FS E 14 Av
Phone: (604) 872-4901
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Artisan coffee + doughnut shop
- Hand crafted, all natural doughnuts
- Made fresh daily
- On site baking
- Made from scratch
- Quality ingredients
- Seasonal doughnuts
- Beignets available
- Local favourite
- Busy at all hours
- No gluten free doughnuts
- Eat in/Take out/Order online
- Monday to Saturday 7:00am – 10:00pm
- Sunday 8:00am – 9:00pm
- Free Wifi
- Twitter: @luckysdoughnuts
**Recommendations: Traditional French Cruller
Whoa. A little late on the doughnut bandwagon there Follow Me Foodie. A real doughnut lover would have tried Lucky’s Doughnuts a year ago when it first opened… and yes, I totally agree, but I’m also not a doughnut lover. I actually did try some of their flavours a few months after the shop opened though (I swear, I have witnesses!), but I never wrote about them until now.
I like doughnuts and I will happily eat them, but it’s just deep fried dough. However I have to be fair and I could say that about anything, and deep fried dough can be pretty good. It’s just if I’m craving something sweet I am more of a pastries and bakery girl. I don’t really discriminate against any dessert though and it’s pretty obvious by this blog I have a sweet tooth, so I’ll never turn one down.
Lee’s Doughnuts on Granville Island, Harmony Donuts and Honey Doughnuts & Goodies in North Vancouver are classics, but these are “new generation” doughnuts. I’m not sure if Vancouver’s health conscious lifestyle is much of a doughnut city to begin with, but there is still room for the doughnut scene to grow and improve, so I’m happy to welcome these.
Lucky’s Doughnuts was born out of 49th Parallel, one of my favourite coffee shops in Vancouver, and I was invited for a doughnut session. It opened up almost a year ago and it was all the rave when it did. It quickly became a local favourite, but the hype has died down since gourmet doughnuts were “so yesterday”… or five years ago. Doughnuts won’t die though (hello? Tim Horton’s?) and they are globally popular. Food trends aside, Vancouver’s artisan doughnut scene was limited and never fully celebrated or even really worth flaunting until last year.
I’m no doughnut connoisseur, but I’ve tried some iconic ones from Round Rock Donuts, Voodoo Doughnuts, Krispy Kreme, Top Pot Doughnuts, Café Du Monde and George’s at the Cove. If I’m going to have one in Vancouver then I want it to be something special, I want it to be Lucky’s.
Doughnuts are serious business here, which may sound silly, but there is lots to be said about quality ingredients, creative ideas, and a professionally executed recipe and menu. The doughnuts are handcrafted and baked on site every day so they are guaranteed fresh. They are also developed by trained pastry chefs and they aren’t just making doughnuts, they are specializing in them.
They are fairly pricey at around $2.50-3.50/each (price of a muffin at Starbucks), but they use good ingredients and they are not just regular mass produced doughnuts. I could see value in them and they’re not just gauging customers, but it is not a cheap doughnut.
That being said I want a doughnut like how staff would eat it in the back, and sometimes I felt like they held back on amount of ingredients which limited the potential of the doughnut. I could tell it was a challenge to use good ingredients while keeping the doughnuts affordable, but I just wanted the execution to commit more. They experience quite a high volume so they can’t be as creative or detailed with recipes and I preferred their simpler flavours.
The doughnuts were sophisticated and innovative, but they work with about 3-4 standard doughnut batters and then customize toppings and fillings according to flavour. Mind you, the doughnut bases they work with are solid. They are dessert style doughnuts, but they are also not greasy, sugary or too sweet. The chose flavours that take a lot to live up to their name, so while not all the flavours tasted as good as they sounded, they were very good doughnuts that I could feel good about eating (well for still being a doughnut).
On the table:
Pour-over Kalita prep coffee (Colombia El Pedregal) – $3.25 – As I mentioned in the intro, it’s one of my favourite coffee shops in town, but this was about doughnuts. So back to the those.
**Traditional French Cruller – 5/6 (Excellent)
- French choux pastry fried and topped with our signature vanilla glaze. $3
- I would have never ordered this because it sounds kind of ordinary and plain.
- I’m also not keen on crullers, but because it was recommended I tried it. Good thing too because I loved it!
- This was my favourite of the batch! I would order this again.
- I absolutely loved the French choux pastry and it was so light, airy, fluffy, tender, eggy and moist.
- The pastry was thin and stretchy with great texture and it was made with real eggs and not powdered ones.
- It was almost like a beignet and it wasn’t very sweet at all.
- The exterior was crispy from the vanilla glaze which was the sweet part, but it could have used more vanilla beans and I couldn’t taste much vanilla flavour.
- I was really surprised with how much I liked this and it was unlike any cruller I’ve had before.
- It was one of the simplest doughnut they had, but I liked it best.
Orange Honey Pistachio Doughnut – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Old-fashioned cake base topped with honey glaze and roasted pistachios. $3.50
- I thought this one was going to be my favourite because I love pistachio, but I didn’t like it as much as I expected.
- It was a cake based doughnut generously crusted with lots of pistachio pieces.
- Pistachios are expensive so I was really surprised with the amount given.
- I loved the pistachio nuts for texture, but I couldn’t taste pistachio flavour when eaten with the doughnut.
- I could taste the orange and orange zest first, but it wasn’t overpowering and just fragrant and fresh.
- There may have been orange blossom water, but I’m not sure. It wasn’t perfume-like, but still floral.
- I could also taste a hint of nutmeg in the old fashioned cake which I picked up on right away.
- The honey was mild and it wasn’t very sweet which I liked.
- I would have loved pistachio paste in the doughnut base, but I understand that they have a limited variety of standard doughnut bases they work with.
- I liked this, but I just wanted more pistachio components and or flavour to come through.
- I could see myself ordering this again even though it wasn’t my favourite. I just wouldn’t get sick of it.
- A square doughnut, piped with jam on all four corners. Peanut glaze, and finished with crushed peanuts on top. $3.50
- People love this, but I don’t know if it’s just because “PB&J” is a nostalgic flavour combination.
- Peanut butter and jelly was also a trending flavour for desserts in the last couple years just like bacon and chocolate.
- Anyway, I expected to like this one more because I love sweet and salty.
- It was a good doughnut, but it was the ratio of components that were a bit off balance for me.
- It was more sweet and sour than it was sweet and salty.
- It was a very large and shareable yeast based doughnut.
- The doughnut batter was fluffy, soft, light and moist and it was a very good base.
- There was no denying that the jam was piped generously all around and there was no corner that was left out.
- You can’t tell in the picture, but there was actually so much jam that it overwhelmed the peanut glaze almost completely.
- The jam was good quality jam though made from real raspberries and strawberries.
- I could bite into a some raspberry seeds, although few, and it was likely not strained on purpose to show it was real.
- It was thick and luscious jam with lots of real fruit puree and it didn’t have much pectin or any jelly texture.
- I loved the texture of the jam, but it was very sour and not just tart. There was lots of lemon juice.
- The peanut glaze was actually very good and peanutty on its own, but it got lost and it could have used some salt.
- I would have also loved more crushed peanuts on top like the pistachio doughnut had.
Chocolate Old Fashioned Doughnut – 4/6 (Very good)
- Classic chocolate old fashioned base topped with chocolate ganache, and chocolate flakes. $3.25
- This is another doughnut I would not have ordered unless recommended.
- Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting anything special from it that I liked it though?
- Yes, it’s just a chocolate doughnut, but they used good quality chocolate and I could taste it.
- They used Callebaut chocolate which isn’t as premium as say Valrhona, but for a doughnut shop it was more than expected already.
- It was the driest dougnut of the bunch, but it wasn’t dry.
- It was only drier because it had cocoa powder in the batter, so naturally it would make it taste a bit drier.
- It was a cakey doughnut and it was a bit denser so after a couple bites I needed something to drink to get it down.
- Coffee would be perfect and this dougnut was the perfect “dunking” into coffee doughnut.
- I couldn’t taste the coffee, but I’m sure there was some used because coffee enhances chocolate.
- I actually would have liked to taste a bit of that coffee come through.
- The chocolate flavour extended after the bite was gone and it tasted like chocolate and not just sugar.
- The sweet part was the chocolate ganache on top and chocolate flakes just melted.
- I would have loved crunchy chocolate pearls on top for texture, but the chocolate flakes were still good.
- It was a bitter sweet chocolate flavour and not milk chocolate, so this was a “grown-up” chocolate doughnut.
- Kids could still like this, but it’s definitely a more sophisticated chocolate flavour profile.
- It was one of the least sweet doughnuts out of the bunch.
- Although very good, it’s not one I would crave or a flavour I would have to order again.
- You know what I would crave though? This doughnut, but with the peanut butter glaze and peanuts crusted on top.
Coconut Bismarck – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Coconut cream filled Bismarck with a vanilla glaze, topped with Swiss meringue and toasted ribbon coconut. $3.50
- This was another doughnut I expected to love because I love coconut, but it had more potential.
- It was quite rich in texture more so than flavour and it was very creamy, ooey and gooey and it needed texture.
- I’m glad it was a yeasty fluffy doughnut base or it would have been to heavy.
- The doughnut would have been great with coconut flavour, but again it’s a standard dough base.
- It was almost like a coconut cream pie made into a doughnut, but I wanted it to be more coconutty.
- The coconut ribbon chips were crispy and delicious and not just standard shredded dried coconut.
- It would have been excellent if only they sprinkled the entire top of the doughnut with those toasted coconut chips.
- Those toasted coconut chips gave it the desired texture and coconut flavour it needed.
- There was a good amount of thick and creamy coconut cream, but alone it didn’t taste that great.
- The coconut cream was made from coconut milk and coconut extract, but it still didn’t have enough coconut flavour for me.
- It was not that sweet at all and the sweet part was actually the vanilla glaze which could have used more vanilla flavour and vanilla beans.
- The swiss meringue was also barely sweet which I liked because it looked like it was going to be too sweet.
- It was a marshmallow cream like topping and they torched it to finish, but it was not crispy.
- It was not sugary or grainy in texture though so it was made well.
- The coconut chips would have made the biggest difference and I really wish they didn’t hold back on those because it compromised the whole thing.
Tiramisu Bismarck – 3/6 (Good)
- Espresso cream filled Bismarck with a cream cheese glaze, sprinkled with cocoa and hazelnuts. $3.50
- This one also easily caught my interest because I love Tiramisu and I haven’t come across a doughnut version of it yet.
- It was another indulgent, rich and creamy decadent filled doughnut that I would want to share.
- It was the sweetest doughnut of the bunch and it was just a bit too much for me.
- The doughnut base was their fluffy, soft and light yeast based doughnut which I like.
- It didn’t quite live up to the Tiramisu name though and it’s hard to make anything Tiramisu and sell it at an affordable price.
- Mascarpone cheese is expensive, but a key component and flavour to a tiramisu so it should be used in any tiramisu inspired dessert.
- This one used a cream cheese glaze and while I could taste a bit of tartness and cheese in the glaze alone, I lost it in the entire bite.
- I would consider it more like an espresso doughnut than a tiramisu doughnut and without that mascarpone it wasn’t tiramisu.
- I couldn’t taste any rum either, but I can let that go and didn’t really expect it.
- The espresso cream was thick and pudding like with good espresso flavour that wasn’t too bitter, and it also wasn’t too sweet at all which was great.
- There was a bit of cocoa in it too, but it was not a chocolate pastry cream. It was espresso.
- Ideally I would have loved the cream filling to be a mascarpone cream and the espresso flavour to come in the glaze. Basically switch them around, but that would be a costly switch.
- Again they held back on the hazelnuts and I wish they would go nuts with them (pun intended) like how they did with the pistachio doughnut and crusted the entire top.
- Chocolate flakes instead of the dusting of cocoa would have been great too, but I’m really making a $7 doughnut with my suggestions.
- I would rather the doughnut with my suggestions and half the size for the same price, and I think it would have been epic.
Okay, so I had to do it. I don’t know why I feel the need to compare, but I had to. They are different, but they are also both “gourmet doughnuts”, so why not? I wanted to know which one I preferred and I wanted to do it back to back.
I’ve tried Cartems Donuterie freshly made at the Woodlands Smokehouse & Commissary, but this time I visited their pop-up shop location in Gastown. Unfortunately they didn’t have the flavours I was looking for and there was only the standard selection. I have to say that I liked it better the first time I tried it (fresh from the fryer), and although these were still fresh (delivered that day) they tasted different than my first experience. There could be some inconsistency issues, so that’s just an FYI. See my official post for Cartems here.
I ended up getting the two closest flavours I could compare to the ones I had from Lucky’s Doughnuts. I ordered the Cinnamon Sugar Old Fashioned (cake) Donut and the Vanilla Bean (yeast) Donut.
Cinnamon Sugar Old Fashioned Donut – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Cartems is known for their cake style donuts, which I enjoyed the first time I tried them (see here), but this one was over fried.
- It had a crispy cinnamon sugar dusting and I could taste nutmeg as well.
Vanilla Bean Glazed Donut – 3/6 (Good)
- I found this one pricey and even though I will pay for quality, I didn’t feel like the flavour delivered.
- I didn’t see any vanilla beans and I would have guessed it was a plain glazed doughnut.
Lucky’s yeast doughnut (left) was softer and stretchier with less spring. It seemed like the batter had more egg and it was almost like fluffy white bread. Cartems yeast doughnut (right) had a bouncy springy chew and was a bit more like traditional white bread. Neither were that sweet at all which I liked, and the icing and glaze is what made them sweet.
Lucky’s cake doughnut (left) was doughier , bread-like, chewier, stretchier, eggier and less sweet than Cartems. Cartems cake doughnut (right) had a crispier exterior, but it was a bit over fried too. The cake was a crumbly cake and it tasted more dessert like. Both were moist which was great.
too bad Lucky’s didn’t have the Lemon bismarck – it’s a total knockout! Glad to see the cruller get some love though. yummy all around!
Agree with the observations. I never found Lucky’s to be anything too special for the price and hype. Cartem’s – when it’s good, it’s absolutely fantastic and worth every penny. Unfortunately they are quite inconsistent. I’ve had a 6-pack of donuts which all tasted like grease traps – and at $15 – that hurts in the belly, mouth and wallet. I’ve learned to never buy more than 2 donuts at Cartem’s – but to their credit, if there is an issue – they’re very receptive to fixing the problem. I’ve had them willingly offer to replace my half-eaten donut before.
@hungrySLIF: “offer to replace my half-eaten donut ” ? Wow.
Lucky’s is alright but I too agree with hungrySLIF that they tend to be sweeter, heavier and greasier than Cartems’. That applies to their cake donuts. They do have more yeast donuts which I prefer. The salted caramel and the orange pistachio are my faves,
I’ve gone through about half of Cartems’ variety so far and as long as I get there early in the day they’re pretty consistent. Haven’t been to the Commercial Dr. kitchen yet.
So interesting to hear everyone’s preference – I prefer Lucky’s, as every Cartem’s doughnut I’ve had has been overly-greasy, but then again I do have a preference for yeast donuts which may be as oily but somehow seem lighter. My fav at Lucky’s are the PBJ, the glazed and the creme brulee. One day when I have time to kill I’d like to try their made-to-order beignet’s (15 minute wait).
@Isabel – Well then… I better go back for that Lemon Bismarck! LOVE the Cruller!
@hungrySLIF – Thanks for giving me more info! Service is equally as important and ensuring you have happy customers is always a great business model.
@LR – See I found Cartems sweeter for sure! Lucky’s could be heavier with the fillings and custards. Try the Cruller!
@Sandi – I know what you mean by that yeast doughnut feeling lighter… it’s cause it’s fluffy and airy. I imagine their beignets to be similar to their cruller, but I’m not sure. See, I found the PB totally overshadowed by the amount of tart jam… but each to their own 🙂
Hmmm, now I’m confused and starting to doubt my own palate. Maybe I should go back and re-sample Cartems and Lucky’s, all in the name of due diligence and research ? 😉
No I’ve not had Lucky’s cruller, in fact I didn’t even see it there (I was always there in the evenings, so maybe the crullers all sold out). ‘Nother reason to get up and out early !