We admit, we tried some vegan donuts from GreenStar almost two years ago (yikes!), and didn’t like them… and we didn’t say a word.

That’s transparency right there. Well moreso now than then, but the point is – Greenstar upped their donut game and we are excited to tell you that their vegan doughnuts are now certainly worth eating.

The old GreenStar donuts suffered from a bagel-like condition. The crust was tough like a bagel skin, and the inside was bready – also, very much like a bagel. It was quite strange.

We’re lingering on this because it’s important for you to understand that if you have tried their bagels donuts before, it’s time to try them again.

GreenStar Vegan Donuts

I might be eating my hair, but this is serious business.

GreenStar’s donuts are now moist and tasty – the sugar isn’t cloying, the dough has plenty of nice coffeecake-like spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, whathaveyou) – and there’s no strange fry-oil flavor to be found. It’s a win.

The crust is thin and crisp, not thick and chewy like the bagel donuts of yore.

GreenStar Vegan Donuts

GreenStar vegan donuts

They remind me of Duc’s homemade donuts, which is a feat, because those donuts were pretty damn good.

GreenStar’s donuts pop up in their breakfast bar at the Oasis, next to the egg and cheese breakfast wraps and sandwiches. They can be found at the Buffalo St. GreenStar in the bakery shelves all day (well, until they sell out).

Duc rated these a 4/5 for texture and 4.5/5 for flavor, and I rated them a 4/5 for both categories, giving GreenStar a proud place at #4 in our donut lineup.

The Rook

The Rook opened up in the winter, so we gave them till spring to get their game together before trying and harshly critiquing their donuts.

Of course, we had a bit of a bias going in, knowing that Gentry of the late Belly (the doughnut haven Ithaca loved and lost), is rocking the Rook kitchen.

So we started with dinner — perfectly crafted confit duck nuggets, a delightfully springy asparagus and farro salad with fresh and bright homemade cheese, and an extremely disappointing “herbivore plate” (We’re sorry, Rook, but warmed peas, al dente white beans, and a few charred slices of onion does not a happy herbivore make).

Then, finally, it was donut time.

Lemon buttermilk doughnuts:

The Rook - Donut

They were pretty darn good. The lemon flavor was pure, nostalgicly reminding me of the lemon cake my grandmother used to make, and reminding Duc of pound cake. The texture of the crust was excellent, and the flavor of the crust was excellent too, which frequently has a tendency to get bogged down by the flavor of whatever oil is used to fry the donut.

The lemon glaze is classic, but it’s not one you might expect to find on a donut, which makes its presence delightful and fun. The lemon curd sauce that’s generously plated with the (also generous) 3 donuts is a great accompaniment to the rest of the lemon flavor.

The only issue we have is that it’s a little dry. Although the texture of the crust is great, the texture of the dough is rather crumbly and requires sauces to make up for it (the “Kentucky Mimosa” also helps).

The Rook - Donut

Although it might sound like a minor complaint, the texture of the dough is one of the most important things, so we were disappointed to find it needed a bit more work.

Overall, though, we were happy to report good things from the Rook, although we would hesitate to recommend it to vegetarians, and it’s certainly not for vegans, so maybe they should just take that herbivore plate off the menu, lest other vegetable-loving carnivores like ourselves continue to be tempted to taste it.

The Rook’s donuts earned a 5 from both of us in flavor, and a 4 in texture. And just like that, became Ithaca’s number one donut. We’ll return to the Rook when the dessert rotation changes and a new type of donut appears.

Red’s Place

Between two Ithaca establishments, Viva and Ithaca Ale House, sits a relative newcomer to Ithaca’s Aurora Street — Red’s. Their branding makes it seem like it should be a tavern-like brew pub, but the food is more generic-bar-food than gastro pub.

Since the quality of the ingredients in the savory dishes isn’t particularly high, we frankly didn’t have very high expectations for the donut. So the donut surprised us — leaving us with a fairly tasty impression.

Reds Place donut - Ithaca, NY

They’ve certainly made some good choices. The donut is fried to order so it’s nice and hot and crispy, and it’s served a la mode with Purity vanilla ice cream (can’t go terribly wrong there) and raspberry sauce (which was pretty tasty), creating lots of balance in flavor, texture, and temperature. The stand-out feature for both of us is the texture — crispy crust with soft, robust cakey inside.

Reds Place donut - Ithaca, NY

The biggest non-standout feature is the taste of the crust. It has less-than-ideal fry-oil flavor that resonates beyond the other nice flavors they’ve constructed, and leaves us less excited about the idea of having another.

We both scored the donut a 4 for texture. Laurel gave it a 3 for flavor and Duc a 3.5, giving Red’s an overall score of 3.5.