Bay Ridge

A Night At Mike’s

Eye On Real Estate: Making Donuts the Old-Fashioned Way in Bay Ridge

February 25, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to the kitchen at Mike's Donuts in Bay Ridge — where head baker Tino Cholula shows us the art of old-fashioned donut-making. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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We got a peek behind the scenes at a Bay Ridge pastry lovers’ paradise where 100 dozen donuts are made each night — or double that number if the next day is going to be busy.

Some New Yorkers (especially Ben Stiller fans) long for a Night At The Museum. Snack seekers like us long for a Night At Mike’s Donuts.

At this neighborhood institution, which has been around since 1976, they do things the old-fashioned way. After the shop shuts down in the evening, head baker Tino Cholula gets down to work in the cozy kitchen in the back of the eatery at 6822 Fifth Ave.

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He hand-cuts dough. He wields a rolling pin so fast that photos blur. There are rivers of icing, a vat of glaze and a lake of liquid vegetable shortening (it’s lighter than cooking oil) for frying the donuts. We wanted to witness all this for ourselves.

Our wish was granted by Gus Neamonitis, 40, a second generation co-owner of the shop. He served as our host and did some cooking, too.

As the hours flew by, batch after batch of perfect breakfast food came into being.

We’re old school. We think that as long as they’re accompanied by caffeine, donuts are the perfect breakfast. We don’t feel the need to ingest kale smoothies every morning just because we live in Truly Cool Brooklyn.

And we are not alone in our belief.

In the past couple years, donuts have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in B’KLYN and citywide. Numerous writers who know more about food than we do have written about donuts’ trendiness.

Neamonitis is pleasantly surprised by the phenomenon.

“I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d have told me 15 years ago,” he said.

DON’T FLIP THOSE DONUTS WITH METAL UTENSILS

We found out many interesting things about old-fashioned donut-making during our Night At Mike’s.

For starters, Cholula is referred to as the head baker — but the donuts at Mike’s are always fried.

There is an oven at Mike’s. It is used for baking croissants, Danish and muffins, which are also on the menu.

There are upscale donut makers who bake their donuts instead of frying them.

“I call that a designer donut. It looks pretty but it’s not real,” Neamonitis said when we mentioned this. “Donuts are about tradition.”

Here are some other fun facts:

* When making donuts by hand, you use a metal implement that looks like a circular cookie cutter.

* When frying donuts in molten vegetable shortening, you flip them frequently with slim pieces of wood that look a little like chopsticks. Metal utensils would conduct heat and burn your hands.

* You must glaze donuts while they’re still warm, or it won’t go well.

* To make a bow tie donut, you intertwine glazed donuts that haven’t been fried yet.

* You put the cream into Boston cream donuts by squirting it from a twin-nozzled appliance that looks a little like a Cuisinart. You use the same kind of appliance to get the jelly into jelly donuts.


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