Union Square Donuts

By Eric Twardzik   Somerville (+) · Donuts · $

In the last decade a donut renaissance has swept across the United States. In the case of Boston (or, to be more specific, Somerville), bakers Heather Schmidt and Josh Danoff answered the call. The duo started Union Square Donuts in a small shared kitchen on the outskirts of its namesake neighborhood in 2013, selling their fluffy creations at local farmers’ markets. After slowly expanding—running a makeshift shop in the shared space and then selling donuts out of a tango dance school—a full brick-and mortar bakery and shop has finally opened in Union Square, along with a second location in Brookline and a stand in the Boston Public Market.

There’s an easy explanation for USD’s rapid ascent: the donuts themselves. They might look massive, but thanks to a tried-and-true dough recipe, they’re soft and airy. That perfect lightness lends itself to the sweet glazes and heavy-duty toppings that have become the maker’s signature.

A roster of original staples is always available, with glazed and frosted, yeast-based favorites like Sea-Salted Bourbon Caramel, Brown Butter Hazelnut Crunch, and Maple Bacon. But the shop also curates an ambitious selection of seasonal creations; Strawberry signifies springtime, Creamsicle comes with summer, and yes, Pumpkin Spice hits shelves in fall. You’ll always find a few cake-based doughnuts in the mix, like Old Fashioned and Birthday Cake, as well as donut holes and more substantially sized “doughies.” Most recently, USD took an adventurous dive into savory breakfast territory with the release of its breakfast sandwiches; an Egg and Cheese and a Smoked Salmon rendition are each stuffed between baked doughnut dough. (Pro tip: Ask for a sprinkle of everything spice.)

The Union Square location serves as baking headquarters, so it’s no surprise that the kitchen takes up far more square footage than the seating. But there are still a few tables for us to linger with a donut and a draft cold brew amidst exposed brick and rough-hewn wood. It’s the perfect place to gaze into the open baking area, looking for hints and contemplating the many mysteries of what makes these airy pastries so good.

The only USD location within Boston proper isn’t a full-fledged shop but rather a stand in the Boston Public Market. The fact that it’s hidden from the street may explain why it seldom draws the crowds found at other locations—it’s often your best bet for a speedy and efficient donut run.

While there are only three official locations, these donuts are also sold at a diverse range of Boston cafes and businesses, such as George Howell Coffee and Downeast Cider House. Many of these third parties only stock them on certain days—check the “Locations” page of the Union Square Donuts website for a full listing of vendors and dates.

Over time, USD’s vegan doughnut offerings have been upgraded from special-occasion option to full-fledged menu section. Each day, count on a selection of at least two or three vegan flavors; made with coconut milk and cream, they’re every bit as decadent as the originals.

Must Haves

  • Yes, every hipster maker produces some variant on “sweet + bacon.” But market saturation has nothing on USD’s excellent take, which bursts with real Vermont maple and a generous portion of thick-cut meat slabs.

  • Bold, sweet, and buttery flavor meets satisfying crunch thanks to an overload of crushed hazelnut. It’s topped with so many nuts that it feels weighed down; take a moment to feel its weight in your hand (if you can wait that long before taking a bite).

  • Picture a donut that’s three times larger than your average. Now, imagine the donut hole produced by that XXXL donut. That’s a long-winded way to explain the doughie, a three-bite ball of Union Square dough available in unique flavors like Margarita or Vegan Toasted Coconut.

Fun Fact

Before finding his calling in donuts, co-owner Josh Danoff ran a business delivering kombucha and popsicles to local farmers’ markets.

Tastes of Union Square Donuts

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