As you may have heard, we have a doughnut situation on our hands. The streets just north of McCarren Park in Greenpoint are Peter Pan Donuts and Pastry Shop (727 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-389-3676) territory — neighbors have lined up for the breakfast pastries here for decades — but there’s a new shop in town, and it’s become a favorite subject of conversation among Polish locals and new transplants to the area. The newcomer, Moe’s Doughs Donut Shop (126 Nassau Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-349-1216), appears to use the same recipes as are used at Peter Pan; not coincidentally, Moe’s was opened by Mohamed Saleh, a former Peter Pan baker who served the former for more than 15 years. That’s a little like an assistant coach leaving a team and taking the plays with him.
But does Saleh do doughnuts better? I went to find out.
Located a mere .3 miles from the Pan, Moe’s takes more than a few cues from up the street. Moe’s has the same window display case as Pan does, showing an array of caloric treats to passersby. The selection of doughnuts is eerily similar, and the pastries look the same in both size and color. Inside, the doughnuts are also displayed the same, right behind the cash register, within an arms reach of the employees. Just like Pan, Moe’s only has counter seating. Just like Pan, Moe’s sells egg sandwiches in addition to doughnuts. At Pan, they’re baked by Donna Siafakas on bread rolls baked to their specifications. At Moe’s, the rolls are baked in house.
Is there at least a price differential? The price for a doughnut at Peter Pan is $1.10, a recent increase from the longstanding $1 price tag. At Moe’s, doughnuts are, you guessed it, $1.10. Shouldn’t Saleh at least try to undercut the competition?
But rest assured that Moe’s is not an exact carbon copy, at least not on appearances — while Peter Pan’s interior looks like 1965, Moe’s is swaddled in the color scheme of Dunkin’ Donuts (pinkish and orange).
Ok, enough of that. I tried three doughnuts from each establishment, pitting them against each other side by side. Here are my tasting notes.
Old-fashioned glazed: The pinnacle of the Peter Pan world, this is my personal favorite, no matter the establishment. This classic cake doughnut is covered with frosting, and Pan’s has a rare texture. To my astonishment, the Moe’s version tasted and looked exactly the same. I even conducted a blind taste test, just to be sure. Both were excellent — a 10/10 for each.
Coconut doughnut: My roommate’s favorite, this soft glazed doughnut is covered in roasted coconut pieces. Once again, the pastries looked exactly alike. But in this case, Moe’s version was just slightly drier than the one found up the street. One point here for Peter Pan.
Bowtie: The ventriloquist doughnut, and a classic available everywhere. You guessed it, both versions looked alike, AND…they tasted the same, too.
Thanks to the coconut doughnut, and the history, I think Peter Pan is still the winner here, but the similarities are eerie.
I visited Moe’s on a Saturday morning, when there were no other customers in the shop. Then I biked up the street to Peter Pan to find a line out the door. After waiting about seven minutes, I placed my second order of the morning. When I left, two people walked in, and upon seeing the line, said, “Why don’t we just try that other place down the street?”
And the thing is, it’s not a bad idea, even if the place down the street is sort of unoriginal.