When you think of Asheville, you might think of beer or live music or even dogs, but what about doughnuts? There are a few options to grab a sweet — or savory — fluffy doughnut around town, but one of the best local spots has to be The Underground Café with DoughP Doughnuts.
And the story behind this local shop just might surprise you.
“We are the café that is owned and operated by a classically trained chef who just wanted to have fun again,” Jay Medford, the owner of The Underground Café, said.
Medford, who is originally from the Asheville area, actually graduated from The French Culinary Institute in New York City at the top of his class. While he was in NYC learning and training, he had the opportunity to take over the kitchen at Dough Loco — which was one of the best places to grab a doughnut in New York.
While working there, Medford said he perfected his doughnut recipe in about a month. “It’s the same doughnut recipe I use now,” he continued. “Keep in mind that I’m no pastry chef.”
When Dough Loco closed its doors a few years ago, Medford decided to move back to the mountains of Asheville and pursue his culinary career in a savorier cuisine.
“I was the chef who opened Bone & Broth,” Medford said. Bone & Broth is still open on Charlotte Street, serving a mix of Southern classics to go with premium dry-aged steaks, burgers and other bone-in specials.
But after his time there, Medford became burnt out — which many in the food industry can sympathize with — and said he almost quit cooking for good.
“I knew I didn’t move back to Asheville to go through the same things I had gone through in NYC for a lot less money,” Medford said.
A doughnut with sweet fermented corn glaze, fermented cornbread crumble and fresh candied jalapeños on top, made with help from Fermenti.
He came across the opportunity to buy the then Jackson Underground Café located in the Jackson Building near Pack Square, which as some local Ashevillians know has not had the best track record when it came to keeping a business open.
But even though he knew the risks of the location, Medford decided to go back to his sweeter days and open his own doughnut shop called The Underground Café with DoughP Doughnuts — for the record, DoughP is pronounced “dope.”
Now, about 2 years later, The Underground Café has made a name for itself when it comes to superfluffy, yeast-raised doughnuts that last all day long. But besides their creative and unique doughnut selection — from strawberry basil to pistachio wasabi to miso maple bacon — many are unaware that The Underground Café is more than just a doughnut shop.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we have a full breakfast and lunch café in our spot as well,” Medford said.
One of the many doughnut pairings The Underground Café does around town.
His shop also does the doughnut and beer pairings that you may have seen around town. “We are also starting to work on cocktail and spirit pairings, too,” Medford continued.
The Underground Café also makes themselves known by entering the many food competitions around town. Next week, you won’t want to miss out on the Stu Helm Food Fan 2019 Asheville Do-nut Thro-down at the Asheville Masonic Temple where Medford and his team will be bringing their A-game to be dubbed the best doughnuts in town.
Medford believes he is one of the few unicorns in town who was actually from Asheville way before it became a cool spot to live in.
Come see what kind of crazy doughnut concoctions this unicorn can create the next time you’re near Pack Square and check out their Dig Local profile for delicious doughnut pairings, deals and other special events.