Wonut: New pastry treat making Chicago foodies salivate

Waffle-doughnut hybrid hails from Chicago

Attention foodies: a sweet new delicacy has hit the streets, but you’ll have to head to Chicago to get it. Meet the Wonut, a deep-fried waffle covered in sprinkles and other goodies, served donut-style.

The Wonut picked up fascination after the website Thrillist.com  posted pictures of the baking, frying and glazing process of the Wonut, leaving mouths watering and foodies rushing to the Windy City. BuzzFeed even wrote a signature ode listacle to the Wonut titled “The 'Wonut' Is Proof That A Benevolent Food God Exists.

In the past week, according to Topsy , there have been 4,240 tweets about the Wonut, and it’s picking up pace.

Chef Alex Hernandez, owner of Waffles Café  and creator of the Wonut, formally launched the waffle-doughnut hybrid during the opening of his second restaurant ten days ago.

Since the launch, Hernandez has been swamped with calls from reporters, television shows and fans all over the world, the farthest request coming from London.

There doesn’t seem to be enough hours or workers in the day to fulfill all the Wonut requests at his two Waffles Café locations.

Wonuts coming hot off the press are selling out (at $2.25 each) -- the biggest order being 500 Wonuts.

According to the Chicago Tribune , a man from Tennessee stopped by the restaurant after the day’s supply of Wonuts had sold out. His offer? One hundred dollars. Hernandez declined the $100, but made a batch.

Chef Hernandez is still catching his breath from the Wonut explosion.

Today, his mother is on a plane to deliver Wonuts for "The Chew."

“We’re trying to get enough bodies in here to keep the quality of the product up,” he said, noting that the quality of the treat is important to the restaurant.

The restaurant has 4 to 5 chefs who are working on creating the sweet treats around the clock. The chefs, Hernandez noted, are not only making Wonuts, but also working on the full menu.

The restaurant started selling the sugary treat in January, testing them on regulars and asking them for feedback. Since then, he’s been perfecting the Wonut recipe, the most popular now being the Mexican chocolate: a chocolate waffle seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, topped with ganache chocolate and candied orange zest. Reading the description is enough to make mouths water.

When it comes to the name Wonut, Hernandez said it was the best name that fit with the brand and sounded best, especially the “w.”

Testing Out The 'Wonut'

Jon Schleuss, data and graphics reporter at The Los Angeles Times, who identifies himself as a waffle connoisseur (his Twitter handle,@gaufre , is actually the French word for waffle)  whipped up his own Wonuts. His inspiration? The BuzzFeed “food porn piece.”

Schleuss used waffle mix (a healthy one, he added) and deep fried it in canola oil and covered it in sugar. 

Schleuss said he probably won’t head to the Windy City to try the real deal, but if they came to Los Angeles, he would.

“I think it should be called the Wonut-Doffle,” he said.

Schleuss may be in luck. Hernandez said they’re thinking about expanding to other places, and LA is on the list.

On people making their own Wonuts, Hernandez said he’d probably do the same thing and is planning on making a separate website to ask people for feedback and ideas that perhaps he hasn’t thought of.

A Hybrid Donut Craze

Before the Wonut came the Cronut , described as “the croissant-doughnut hybrid” from the Dominiqe Ansel Bakery  in New York City. The sweet treat was born on May 10, 2013 and is now trademarked by the bakery.

“The Cronut has brought a lot of great things to the bakery and a lot of challenges as well. It was quite a shock for our one shop bakery to handle, but we're so grateful for all the fans that we've met along the way,” said the bakery.

There were over 72 times more searches for "Cronut" than "donut" over the last year, according to Yahoo! Search data. This month, April 2014, searches for "Cronut" outnumbered donut by almost 20 times.

Chicago has been mashing up donut mixes for a while. Endgrain  began offering the doughscuit, a half doughnut, half biscuit last fall, shortly after the Cronut craze.

NPR ’s Ian Chillag tried the doughscuit in January, which he described as “transcendent, an impossible mix of doughnut-fried sweetness and crumbly biscuitness.”

Kat Eng, general manager of the restaurant, Endgrain, said that Chicago has really grasped the donut movement. 

“Chicago loves its brunch and has really talented people, so when you have talented people, you have amazing products. And when you have amazing products, people hear about it,” Eng said.

Whatever flavor or concoction the people of Chicago whip up, the donut hybrid movement proves one thing -- people really love their donuts. Preferably in a fashion that they can Instagram.

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