Miami's love affair with doughnuts is only growing, as evidenced by the people lined up to enter Donuts!, the inaugural Miami doughnut festival, at the Wynwood Yard.
The scent of powdered sugar and baked goods wafted through the evening air as hundreds of people gathered to sample dozens of doughnuts from places ranging from evergreen favorites such as Krispy Kreme to vegan bakeries like Bunnie Cakes. Even Beaker & Gray, a conventional restaurant, participated.
Some doughnuts fared better than others, but the unanimous winner of the evening — and peoples' choice — was Mojo Donuts.
The Plantation-based shop clearly was going for the trophy by serving a variety of fresh doughnuts in flavors like guava-and-cheese, dulce de leche, and Cookie Monster (filled with banana cream and topped with a Nilla wafer). Unlike other doughnut shops, Mojo insisted on offering whole pastries instead of cutting the creations into quarters. "That's how we serve them," said partner Jimmy Piedrahita.
Everybody who stopped by his booth for a taste was given a sticker with a joyful message: "Miami 2016 Mojo Donuts & Fried Chicken." Burger Beast's Sef Golzalez hinted at the opening last week in an Instagram post.
The Mojo partner confirmed that, indeed, the company is expanding to West Miami-Dade's Westchester neighborhood. Piedrahita, along with Mojo founders Shawn Neifeld and Willie Muñoz, have already signed a lease, though they don't yet want to release the address. "The keys are in my hands."
Piedrahita explains that an expansion to Miami has been in the works for more than a year. "The demand was overwhelming. People have told us they drive an hour and a half from the Keys. A Miami opening was overdue."
Before opening an outpost, the partners made sure the spot was ideal. "We visited over 160 locations in Miami. We had offers to open in Coral Gables, South Miami, Wynwood, and West Kendall. We waited. We didn't want to just show up. We know we have a following, but we knew we didn't want to be just anywhere. We wanted visibility and accessibility."
Piedrahita says Westchester just felt right. "I was raised in the Kendall/Westchester area. It's my roots. We wanted to be where the heart of Miami is. It's very central."
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The Westchester location will also serve fried chicken. Could fried chicken and doughnuts be the new chicken and waffles? The doughnut maven thinks so. "We're going to do doughnuts with a twist and gourmet fried chicken. Just as we have gourmet, award-winning doughnuts, we're going to take the same care with our fried chicken." The bird will be offered in several gourmet flavors and paired with specific doughnuts. "We're working on the pairings now. Shawn is the master of these wonderful doughnuts, and he's working on the chicken as well."
Mojo will also offer more Miami-centric doughnut flavors and plans to expand further throughout South Florida, so a Coral Gables or Wynwood location might still happen.
It looks like Miami is already infatuated with Mojo Donuts. The shop wooed the crowd, even so much as to offer its treats to-go for breakfast. The shop was rewarded with the evening's people's choice award.
Another participant at the festival was Rhino Doughnuts, which pleased the crowd with strawberries-and-creme crullers and Kentucky bourbon bacon doughnuts.
Bunnie Cakes also presented a bacon doughnut. This vegan version, made with shredded coconut meat, was a healthier way to indulge in a sweet-and-smoky taste combo. The Chill Pill, a sunflower-butter-and-jelly cake, was another winner.
Beaker and Gray might have been pulling an early April Fools' prank by serving a "mystery" doughnut. Unsuspecting guests were asked to try the beautiful raspberry-colored treat and identify its flavor. Anticipating some tropical fruit, tasters were surprised by the beet-flavored pastry. If guests were notified ahead of time, this might have been a unique take on a doughnut, but without warning, the beet flavor was a disconnect for several people polled.
Missing from the festivities was Wynwood pop-up sensation the Salty Donut. According to cofounder Andy Rodriguez, Thursday is prep day for the company's three-day weekend pop-up, making it too hectic to produce additional doughnuts for the festival.