The question everyone asks: Is the cronut actually worth lining up at 7am for?
Answer: yes, and no.
Question: What is a cronut?
The cronut, as you probably know, is the NYC craze that started at Dominique Ansel bakery in SoHo. It’s a doughnut-shaped croissant, fried, encrusted with sugar, with a flavor-of-the-month jam for both filling and icing. It’s inspired numerous knock-off “croughnuts”, but the trademarked original still draws a long line. Dominique Ansel bakery’s website advises that you will probably get a cronut if you line up at 7 a.m. (the bakery opens at 8). You can also preorder them two weeks in advance by logging on Mondays at 11 a.m. ET sharp, but again, the website advises that they will probably sell out before you can refresh the page.
As a skeptic of anything that requires lining up in advance — I tell you, it only tastes better because you are HUNGRIER — I tried to preoder cronuts on a Monday at 8 a.m. PT. As predicted, I was unable to get through the checkout process quickly enough because traffic to the page kept breaking it.
I flew into NYC on a redeye, which landed me at JFK airport on a Thursday morning at 5.30 a.m. I figured, #YOLO, so I woke up bleary-eyed and hopped on the subway straight for the cronut line. By the time I got there at 6.55 a.m., it was already 30 people deep! I was incredulous. Also, it was cold.
The thing is, the cronut itself is obviously not worth a two-hour wait. So why does the hype live on?
Because it’s about the cronut line, not the cronut itself. I was quite impressed with the production this bakery puts on for the line that wraps around the block. A little past 7 a.m., an employee comes out to greet everyone, thank them for coming, and promise that samples of hot chocolate and madeleines are on their way. At 7.30, as promised, they bring out trays with two sips of hot chocolate in a miniature paper mug, teeny handle and all, and piping-hot, perfectly-flavored madeleines dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
When, at 8 a.m., they finally let people into the bakery 15 people at a time, the last person in line is required to hold a baguette as a marker. This was the moment when I really rolled my eyes. “Has to hold a baguette”? How much more obvious can it be that the cronut line is a curated experience? It’s basically the rustic bakery version of making people line up outside an empty nightclub.
But these guys know what they’re doing. Gotta give it to them — the whole experience, the gorgeous packaging that opens up like a tulip, the beautiful garden patio.
As for the cronut itself: yes, it was good, but honestly not THAT good. Definitely not worth waiting two hours for. It was a bit sickeningly sweet, and the flavor of the month when I went was passionfruit. It wasn’t my favorite, as I’m a bit of a purist and prefer pastries plain or with chocolate. Also, the texture wasn’t actually that croissant-like. In terms of texture and flavor, it was exactly like a kouign amman, but bigger, shaped like a donut, loaded with sugar, and stuffed with passionfruit jam. I’d rather just have a kouign amman and be done with it.
Frankly, the madeleines tasted better — the texture was light and airy, the flavor perfectly subtle. The madeleines were delightful, and I ended up buying 20 to take to my hosts as gifts! I have a hunch that other things on the Dominique Ansel menu are actually better than the cronuts — and you can walk right in and buy them without lining up!
All of these creations, for example, looked absolutely heavenly. Such creativity in terms of the combination of flavors, and the beautiful presentation. But, it’s the cronuts that keep people coming in through that door, and so the bakery works that production line for all it’s worth.
The final word on the cronut is, it’s worth it if you have time to kill. It’s a classic New York experience: that there are people who put time, thought and craft into creating what is basically a glorified way to pass the time. It’s how they earn their keep, and how New York makes good on its promise that you will never have a dull moment. You can always lose a little more sleep to wake up early, stand in line and partake in something that uncannily brings you together with strangers and tourists for just a sliver of shared life, shared experience. I spent two delightful hours in that line wondering about stories: where everyone came from, where they would take the cronuts they’d waited so long to purchase, to whom they would be delivered.
And that’s the thing. Regardless of whether or not the cronut is everything you ever hoped for — NYC never disappoints. It’s not the thing in itself; it’s always the city and all it encompasses.