Asheville’s oddest and best donuts: bacon, hot sauce, probiotics

It’s 4:30 a.m., when most people are asleep. But, for Jay Medford, it’s time to make the doughnuts. Medford, a classically trained chef, owns and operates the Underground Cafe with DoughP Doughnuts in the lower floor of the Jackson Building. He opened up shop quietly in November, but it’s been hard not to notice the fascinating and frankly lovely doughnuts coming out of his kitchen ever since. Medford’s rotating cast of flavors can trend downright funky: you may find in the case a salty-sweet preserved lemon-glazed doughnut, a raspberry chipotle doughnut or a fermented apple doughnut. The latter comes with a glazed infused with fermented cinnamon apples from Fermenti Foods, a Madison County-based purveyor of pickles and other probiotic-rich fare.

Medford applies negligible heat while making his glazes, so these doughnuts boast probiotics, though no one’s trying to pass them off as healthy. But the interplay of the slightly tart fermented apple and sweet glaze creates a next-level cider apple with extra punch. Medford’s Southern background is evident in a dill pickle-glazed doughnut, which he said tastes like sweet pickles on a dinner roll. There’s even a pork belly-glazed doughnut, sprinkled with pork rind sugar.It’s all served on not-too-sweet, improbably fluffy yeast-risen doughnuts, like a better, souped-up version of a Krispy Kreme. Traditionalists, it should be noted, will dig the fact that DoughP makes the basics: classic glazed, strawberry-glazed with sprinkles and buttermilk-glazed berry doughnuts. But for those who like something more challenging, there are flavors like olive oil and black pepper.

“I freely admit some of the doughnuts we make are love them or hate them,” Medford said. “Some doughnuts you’re going to like, and some you’ll think I’m disgusting for making it. There’s not a fine line on some of these.”

Medford also makes a doughnut benedict, with braised brisket, poached egg and chipotle hollandaise, served during Sunday brunch. There’s also downright normal breakfast and lunch fare, including egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast and soups, salads and sandwiches for lunch. The Underground Cafe is open daily at 22 S. Pack Square.

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