Everyone knows that I hate when people smash two different foods together and call it magic. Cronuts? Meh. Ramen burgers? I don’t even want to pick one up. And don’t even get me started on Pizookies.
So, I had to have been belligerent when I heard about Afters Ice Cream’s “Milky Bun,” a warm donut filled with ice cream, right? ..right?
Okay, I admit it. I thought it was a good idea I heard about it. Ice cream sandwiches are cool, and donuts are better than cookies, so what could go wrong. I thought it was such a good idea that I braved an hour-long line to try it. How is it? Well…
Not bad. It’s not bad.
Afters Ice Cream’s Milky Bun is actually pretty good.
For $5, you get your choice of a glazed or un-glazed donut, one flavor of their Vietnamese-hipster-chic ice cream, and one free topping (which, misnomer, doesn’t actually top anything. It goes inside the donut). Yes, the donuts are actually filled.. sort of. They get sliced open, stuffed with ice cream, and re-sealed with some extra batter and a machine in the back that sort of looks like the thing that seals boba milk tea.
All in all, the resulting Milky Bun is quick to eat, cleaner than an ice cream sandwich, and pretty damn good. The donuts are beautifully yeast-y and have a high enough fat content not to fall apart as the ice cream melts. The fact that the donuts are served warm guarantees that they’ll soak up a good amount of melted ice cream, which makes them magical. Most importantly, the Milky Buns aren’t too sweet, even when you opt for a glazed donut.
Now let’s talk about the ice cream. The Milky Bun is cute and all but what really excites me about Afters is their flavors. Remember when I said Vietnamese-hipster-chic earlier? I meant it, but unlike the $5 dollar banh mi I ranted about last week, these guys do hip Viet right. Alongside the standard chocolate, strawberry, and rocky road, you’ll find cookie butter, milk and cereal, and a whole mess of other smart flavors. But next to those, you’ll find my childhood: jasmine milk tea, Vietnamese iced coffee, and almond cookie. Combined with the toppings bar, this place almost looks more like a boba shop than an ice cream parlor.
That being said, a visit to Afters right now does come with a few caveats. I waited for an hour and by the time I had my donut in hand, the line had doubled. In their attempt to serve people as quickly as possible, not all the donuts come out perfectly sealed. Precisely because they serve so many people, they run out of ice cream flavors before closing (I still haven’t tried the jasmine milk tea or the Vietnamese coffee or the cookie butter). Then comes the troubles that follow any opening (make sure your Internet is locked down and stable, guys. Square needs it). Is it worth it to visit now? That’s your call. All I know is I’ve already had one, and I’m going to wait probably a week for my second.
Afters belongs to a Square-powered, sans-serif generation of ice cream shops that’ve just started to show up in Orange County. They’re pretty and exciting, but it’s not just about looks, they’re tasty too, blending quality, creativity, and intelligent font choices. Give the founders (two young streetwear moguls) a few months, and I can see Afters being as big of a deal to Orange County as Molly Moon’s is to the Pacific Northwest (namely, a pretty big deal). But before then, I just have one thing to say: Afters Ice Cream’s Milky Bun. Eat it.