For the best doughnut shop in NYC, you have to go to Greenpoint, where Peter Pan sells the doughnuts that Tina Fey wants to get nasty with. But in Manhattan, the doughnut crown rests on the shiny dome of Mark Isreal, who started making doughnuts 16 years ago in the basement of a Lower East Side tenement. On the back wall of his second Doughnut Plant location, which opened this morning off the lobby of the Hotel Chelsea, a giant wall of video screens plays clips of Isreal's illustrious doughnut history, including an excerpt of a PBS documentary from the early-'90s, showing a young Isreal delivering his popular doughnuts by bike. He's come a long way, and says his next stop is Washington, DC.
The hospitable new location, which is located in the space formerly occupied by Dan's Chelsea Guitars, has seating for a couple dozen dunkers, and is substantially bigger than the other Doughnut Plant on Grand Street. There's a kitchen in the basement, and Isreal says his production is doubling with the expansion. He introduced three new doughnuts today: a salted peanut doughnut made with peanuts roasted in-house, an oatmeal doughnut ("made as healthy as possible—half the dough is oatmeal"), and a chocolate chip doughnut that Isreal describes as a "deconstructed" doughnut made with pecan dough, dipped in chocolate, and coated with crunchy chocolate chip cookies. Today they also have a Valentine's Day doughnut topped with edible rose petals.
The interior is beautiful. Isreal's father, Marvin Isreal, a potter, made pretty little handcrafted ceramic doughnut tiles that line the seats and walls. (It's his 80th birthday today!) Adorable inedible doughnut pillows, made by dressmaker Mary Adams (The Party Dress), are attached to the wall above the tables. Under the counter, Isreal has replicated the iconic railing from the Hotel Chelsea balcony; he tells us he temporarily removed a section of railing in order to have it cast and replicated. Part of the railing design is also echoed in the light fixtures that hang from the ceiling.
But perhaps the most dramatic design element awaits in the bathroom, which is lined with from floor to ceiling with little mirrors features has a spinning disco ball. "It's my homage to Studio 54," says Isreal. "I started out as a busboy there."
Doughnut Plant Chelsea // 220 West 23rd Street; (212) 675-9100