Universal Doughnuts is a misnomer. The donuts are standard-issue Krispy Kreme, displayed in Krispy Kreme boxes in a glass case below the cash register. Few customers get one. A more proper name for the tiny storefront shop across from the Washington Hilton would be Universal Breakfast Sandwiches, because that is what the morning crowd comes to eat.
Nothing about the sandwiches is surprising or unique, but they are abundant and they are made with expertise, eggs cooked soft and buttery, bacon crisp. (Sausage is less felicitous, the patties warmed in a microwave.) Most are ordered to go, even if DC law requires you pay five cents for a brown bag – a fact about which the host is sincerely apologetic. A few tables do allow for on-premises dining, but they mostly are occupied by people waiting for their take-out orders.
The sandwiches do not come assembly-line fast. Each one is made to order, the eggs cooked on a micro-sized flat top that has room for the ingredients of exactly one sandwich at a time. But nobody seems bothered by the wait. Most of the people waiting know each other and are known by the proprietors. The experience of coming here includes a full measure of morning chit-chat conducted with good cheer.
Note that Universal Doughnuts’ sandwich menu includes the unique DC sausage, a half smoke. It is soft and baloney-like, somewhat mealy but in a good way, especially if its tenderness is balanced by a pile of crunchy raw onions on top.