Another major player in the fried chicken and doughnuts phenomenon sweeping D.C. this year is Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken. It finally opened in early April, after long delays concerning a custom-made dumbwaiter, and it's quickly become a Penn Quarter hotspot for breakfast and lunch.
We spoke with co-owner Elliot Spaisman and chef Jason Gehring back in January for a preview of their extensive doughnut offerings, but now that the shop is open, we had to pop in again to sample the chicken.
Astro exists as a tiny take-out counter adjacent to The Laughing Man Tavern, steps away from Metro Center. They also share kitchen space with Laughing Man downstairs, hence the dumbwaiter, which is used to ferry doughnuts and chicken up and down. So far, the overwhelming response from the neighborhood has necessitated that Astro stick mostly to serving only the classic buttermilk chicken. With such a small staff and high demand, Gehring is still smoothing out kinks in the workflow before adding members to his team. The buttermilk fried chicken is the classic brined and salted Southern-style chicken.
While the morning hours (8 until 10:30 a.m.) are meant primarily to be a coffee and doughnuts affair, Spaisman and Gehring have actually been surprised with how many people have demanded fried chicken. Luckily, they'll soon be introducing a Chicken BLT ($7). A concoction of a savory chive, bacon, cheddar doughnut (without the hole) and fried chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a Sriracha mayo. Gehring also recently began serving his spicy garlic glazed chicken. Double fried and flavored with garlic and soy, Gehring calls it "the closest I could come to my own Korean fried chicken." It's spicy, sweet, crispy, and messy, but worth it. Spaisman's Sriracha glaze chicken is still forthcoming.
On the doughnut side of things, as we mentioned in our preview, there are six standard flavors available daily (including vanilla glazed and the popular maple bacon) and five daily flavors that rotate each day of the week. Gehring is constantly creating new flavors like the blood orange glazed vanilla doughnut with a candied orange peel (surprisingly citrusy and only lightly sweet) and the peanut butter glazed vanilla doughnut filled with chocolate and topped with almonds and fleur de sel (the almonds and fleur de sel offer a great salty complement to the familiar peanut butter and chocolate flavors), which were both recently featured on a daily menu. Expect Gehring to continue producing inventive flavors every week.
Astro's been selling out almost everyday. If you're lucky enough to be in the area, before they've sold out for the day (be sure to check @astrodoughnuts first), then stop in for a sample one of DC's latest food trends.
Fried chicken sells for $5.25 for two pieces, $10 for four, and $18.50 for eight; Doughnuts range from $2.25 to $2.85.