The Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Cafe & Bakery, located next to the Oak Bluffs post office, is a great place to grab your morning coffee, a few baked goods, or even a custom wedding cake. That said, it’s what goes on after closing that this bakery is best known for.
Like most bakeries, MV Gourmet’s bakers do most of their cooking at night, preparing pastries and frying doughnuts for the following morning. Many years ago, a quiet business started. If you were in the know, you could knock on the back door of the bakery, adjacent to the Reliable Market parking lot, and buy a few fresh-made doughnuts straight from the bakers.
For years, this was something of a clandestine activity, and we liked it that way. It was like going to a speakeasy, you had to know someone on the inside, you had to pay in cash and there were no set hours. As the years passed, the legend grew and the phrase “back door doughnuts” became part of the local lexicon.
What was once little more than a whispered rumor turned into the premier late-night food destination in Oak Bluffs, with long lines, signs and a controversy. Nothing can remain in the shadows forever, and while “Back Door Donuts” might not be the strictly insider activity it once was, it’s still the best game in town for a late night snack. While the lines might be a bit longer these days, the experience is much the same. The “back door” now opens at 7:30 pm, and shuts down at 1 am. It does pay to get in line early, although you still might have to wait for the first batch of doughnuts to cook.
The classic Old Fashioned doughnut is just that, a classic. Crisp and dark on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, with just the right amount of sweet spice.
Back door is most heralded for their Apple Fritters, face-sized knots of sugary fried dough, peppered with chunks of apple, seasoned with cinnamon. The fritters are served so fresh, that they are liable to fall apart when handled, so it’s best to let them cool off for a minute. Then again, many people dive in immediately, lured by the apple pie like aromas. As a dessert, a single fritter could reasonably be split between four people. At four dollars a piece, this makes them possibly one of the best bargains on the Vineyard.
With a sweet and sticky exterior, the honey dipped doughnuts sport a lush, pillowy interior.
Those looking for the fried dough served at the local county fair might be a bit surprised by the back door rendition. Served as thin sticks, they are deep fried and dusted in confectioner’s sugar that reminds you of an old-time candy shop.
Crispy on the outside and chewy inside, they have a wonderfully savory flavor. Yes, they are a bit oily, but that’s all part of the fun, after all, you did order “fried dough.”
Another specialty at back door is the Boston Cream, filled with a smooth rich filling, and topped with a melted chocolate glaze.
Nothing beats a sackful of still-warm baked goods, especially one procured in a parking lot, next to a dumpster, under the cover of darkness.
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