Don’t know a donut expert? Well, meet Emily Wanerka. She’s a spunky gal with a serious sweet tooth who runs the account Still Cute Dough on Instagram. Her pun game extends beyond the name of her handle — you’ll find her sass come through on most of her captions — and the only thing better than her creative (and hilarious) commentary is her drop-what-you’re-doing-and-go-get-a-donut-now amazing photography.
If you’re obsessed with finding the best pastries around town, then you’ll love following Wanerka online. Here, she explains how her passion for finding the city’s top breakfast treats came about, who her favorite pastry chefs are on Instagram and why bending over backwards (literally) might be the best way to snag the perfect ‘grammable picture.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I grew up in Upstate NY and went to college in Providence RI. I always swore I would never move to Boston because for some reason I had convinced myself that I hated cities. Regardless, I applied to grad school in Boston and once I was accepted I visited one time and was sold. That was almost 7 years ago and, even though I hate the winter, I have no plans of leaving — yet!
My Instagram came about with zero pre-planning. I would typically do research on donut shops before I traveled anywhere because I’m obsessed. I was in NYC visiting my sister and brother-in-law one weekend and after hitting up multiple donut shops, I just decided to make the account. I had already posted a lot of donuts on my regular account so it wasn’t that wild of an idea.
But prior to that weekend, I had also injured my back. I was used to being at the gym for 2-3 hours a day and since I wasn’t there anymore it gave me free time on my weekends (read: I was super bored) to drive to different donut shops. I’ve always found photography interesting, and I’m pretty good at eating, so I figured what the heck? I’ll try it for a few weeks and see how it goes, if no one bites then I’ll stop.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
Churro pancakes or any pancakes from Tiger Mama, cronut breakfast sandwich from Sons of Boston, chicken and waffles from Trina’s Starlight Lounge, a burger from Craigie on Main and someone please point me in the direction of the best pizza in Boston. I think I have less of a dish bucket list and more of a restaurant bucket list.
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
I think we’re already starting to see it but it seems like restaurants are learning the benefit of aesthetically pleasing and “Instagrammable” decor. I’ve definitely noticed more murals, funky decorations, brighter interiors and natural light. People love some good neon wording or a sassy quote so if a restaurant has it, the likelihood of a picture being taken is pretty high. Creativity in the presentation of food and drink is also becoming more important. There are a lot more wild spins on presentation of not-so-wild foods because pictures and social branding really do draw people in and it’s free advertising.
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
I think I follow more pastry chefs than anything because – donuts, but Joanne Chang (@joannebchang) will forever be a hero in my eyes. She is the definition of a boss and has accomplished so much. I also keep tabs on Joshua Livsey of Harvest (@joshganache), Matty Dworkin of The Broadway (@hungryhungry_homo), Kate Holowchik formerly of Capo, Lincoln and Fat Baby (@kholowchik) and Dee Steffen Chinn of Tiger Mama, Sweet Cheeks Q and Fool’s Errand (@deesteffenchinn) because they know how to make a good donut/dessert/pastry, and I need to know where I’m eating each weekend.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
@bunsandbites because she is one of the sweetest humans and knows where the best food is but she also promotes body positivity, which I think we can all use a little more of these days. And who doesn’t love a good booty pic with a side of fried chicken? @loveandflour.salem because they make some of the most gorgeous cakes and baked goods and I have a weird obsession with watching dessert decorating videos. If a day goes by that I haven’t messaged them fan-girling over one of their cakes it’s because I was trying to play it cool or had a busy day at work. And @nailthecocktail because girl knows how to hold a drank. But also, her pictures are gorgeous and her account has the level of organization I wish I had but know that I don’t have the attention span for.
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Community, growing, friendly
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
I’m really more of a stick to what you know kind of girl but I would have to say: Bartaco, Fool’s Errand and Harvest. I’ve eaten many a donut from Harvest but I’ve never stayed for a meal. And I love Tiger Mama and Sweet Cheeks, so I’m sure I’d enjoy Fool’s Errand. I do want to try Whaling in Oklahoma too because I’m still mourning the loss of Tremont 647 so I need to see if I can forgive them for moving into Tremont 647’s old space (I’m sure I can).
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
Lighting is key, literally — give me natural light or give me death. Whenever I’m able, I take food outside or try to get a table near a window because it makes the food actually look like what you’re seeing in front of you instead of some Oompa Loompa version. I’m also a big supporter of taking the extra second to get yourself in a weird position if necessary because you’re never going to see the people who are giving you dirty looks ever again for balancing a donut on a stump. And I think just in terms of pictures that you’re thinking of posting to Instagram, make sure they’re something you’re proud of. Don’t just post a picture for the sake of posting, quality over quantity!
A Few Of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite brunch spot: Lincoln’s Brunch Test Kitchen on Fridays or The Friendly Toast because they have everything
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Oleana
Favorite BBQ joint: Sweet Cheeks — hello have you seen their biscuits? I can’t even save enough room for my meal half the time. But BBQ is my FAVORITE so I definitely have a long list of places on my food bucket list. The fried chicken sandwiches from Ducky’s Fried Chicken are also prime
Favorite late-night: Tasty Burger or Little Stevie’s. Cheese and grease, sign me up
Favorite neighborhood for food: I guess I would have to say the South End or Back Bay because I know them the best but I know Cambridge has some goodies that I need to try
Favorite new restaurant: I haven’t been there yet but Tradesman and I are going to be besties based on the look of their croissants