Dessert First

Warm Doughnuts with Caramel Sauce at The Grind

Burger joints aren't exactly known for serving the best desserts. But when it comes to the top places in town, why shouldn't they serve up the sweet stuff to match those juicy gourmet burgers? That question led us to The Grind. Known for its unique coal-fired oven that cooks patties to a succulent medium rare at a whopping 1,000 degrees, The Grind has received acclaim for its minimalist all-American food since opening in 2010. And the burgers aren't the only buzz-worthy menu item -- the sweet potato fries are just as good.

The Grind's sweet offerings mostly are what you would expect of a down-home American diner -- milkshakes and a root beer float featuring root beer from Sonoran Brewing Company. The two dessert plates -- bread pudding and warm doughnuts -- are also simple sugary favorites. Yet the doughnuts do benefit from one tiny deviation from tradition -- literally. The doughnuts are only about an inch and a half in diameter, and it might be an overstatement to say they're a quarter-inch thick.

Served warm, the doughnuts are pretty amazing and appear to have been cooked the perfect amount of time. They're not quite doughy or gooey, but cooked 10 or 15 seconds fewer, they would have been. The outside is just a little crispy, and the inside is nice and soft. Even though the dough is indisputably well made, fried under ideal conditions, the size is still the best part. Whether indulging in these munchkin-size doughnut rings as a snack or after polishing off a tall burger with all the fixings, it's hard to feel guilty about popping them in your mouth when they're so cute and small. The serving size of five maybe adds up to a standard doughnut, and on a nearly-full stomach, that's enough to split with another person.

Word is that the donuts come with an addictive salted butterscotch sauce, but I wouldn't call the sauce that our doughnuts came with butterscotch. It mostly tasted like simple caramel with a distinctive burnt flavor -- and that's definitely not meant in a good way since there was no complexity to it. Maybe our butterscotch was left heating up for too long, or they let the new kid in the kitchen make it for the first time, but regardless, the sauce really detracted from the deliciousness of the doughnuts. When eaten plain, the doughnuts do seem to be missing a little something, but that was still better than drenching them in burnt caramel.

So, the doughnuts are a real winner, and it wouldn't be a bad idea for The Grind to start offering them to-go in mini boxes of a baker's dozen (although they'd have to be made to order and then consumed on the car ride home for optimum results). However, the accompaniment needs some work. Seasonal housemade jam would be my pick, or maybe a rich bourbon caramel sauce.

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Dominique Chatterjee