Home News This Toronto pizza shop serves delicious California-style doughnuts

This Toronto pizza shop serves delicious California-style doughnuts

by Celia

In Toronto’s bustling doughnut scene, where independent shops vie for the attention of sweet-seekers, several establishments have left an indelible mark over the years. From Glory Hole Doughnuts’ extravagant bacon-coated creations to Dough’s innovative dill-flavored confections, and the mochi doughnuts of Isabella’s, each venue brings its own unique twist to the beloved treat. Among these, Harry & Heels Donuts, a pandemic-era addition, has quietly emerged, offering what it dubs as “California-style” doughnuts.

Located within The Fourth Man in the Fire Pizzeria on Dundas St. W., Harry & Heels Donuts is the brainchild of LA-born restaurateur Shant Mardirosian, renowned for founding The Burger’s Priest. As patrons enter the pizzeria adorned with checkered floors and an eclectic array of celebrity headshots, their gaze is immediately drawn to the doughnut display case, showcasing an array of tantalizing treats.

The doughnuts at Harry & Heels come in various flavors and styles, from toasted coconut to chocolate-dipped, and from fruity filled to classic powdered sugar-coated. Despite their vibrant appearances, Mardirosian insists that the defining feature of their doughnuts lies in their texture. A plain glazed doughnut, for instance, boasts a noticeably airy consistency, while the apple fritter offers a bittersweet coffee finish, courtesy of cinnamon and caramelized sugar.

But what exactly distinguishes a “California-style” doughnut? Mardirosian explains that it’s all in the pinch—the doughnut’s resistance to bouncing back when bitten into, and its ability to retain softness for up to three days. While subtle, these nuances set California-style doughnuts apart, offering a unique culinary experience.

The roots of California-style doughnuts trace back to the entrepreneurial endeavors of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian refugee who revolutionized southern California’s doughnut scene in the 1970s. Ngoy’s choice of pink cardboard boxes, initially driven by cost-saving measures, became emblematic of the region’s doughnut culture, a tradition upheld by subsequent generations of doughnut makers.

For Mardirosian, the journey of Harry & Heels Donuts is one of passion and perseverance. Born out of a desire to diversify amidst the pandemic, the venture has rapidly gained traction, expanding its reach through partnerships with grocer Farm Boy and plans for a standalone shop in Etobicoke. With a nod to his own roots and aspirations, Mardirosian envisions Harry & Heels as more than just a doughnut brand, but a celebration of culinary craftsmanship and community.

As Harry & Heels Donuts continues to carve its niche in Toronto’s culinary landscape, it remains a testament to the enduring appeal of a simple pleasure—the humble doughnut. Whether it’s the nostalgic charm of a classic glazed or the indulgent decadence of a filled fritter, each bite offers a moment of joy in an uncertain world, proving that sometimes, the sweetest things come in unexpected packages.

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