Thu, April 17, 2014

Mmmmm . . . Donuts

24 donuts in 24 hours

August 19, 2010

The first fancy donut I ever recall eating was a lemon-filled Krispy Kreme that I devoured early one morning in Gulf Shores as I walked along the beach as a child. Never again was a plain, glazed donut good enough for me. Krispy Kremes loaded with assorted fillings became a staple of my diet for the next 40 years; I typically eat half a dozen a week.

I recently decided to embark on a journey to discover what other donut shops exist in the greater Birmingham area. A web search led me to only five, so to turn my research into an adventure, I limited my mission to 24 hours in which I ate nothing but donuts.

The odyssey began in Center Point, where I discovered Pop's Donuts (1819 Center Point Parkway, 856-3980). Like most of the donut stores I discovered, they offer breakfast fare that includes croissants, biscuits, and kolaches. (Originally a European sweet dessert loaded with fruit, a kolach is a pastry typically filled with cheeses and/or meats.) The highlight at Pop's is the apple fritter, easily the best of all the fritters I tasted on my trip, thanks to an abundance of fruit that made for a moist pastry as opposed to the dry ones I encountered elsewhere. Pop's hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

(click for larger version)

From there I drove to Inverness to Dyar's Daylight Donuts (5291 Valleydale Road, Suite 141; 981-3337, Dyar's opened last January. (Daylight Donuts is a franchise that started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1954 by a family named Day who invented a light donut mix, hence the name.) They offer a variety of glazed, chocolate, and blueberry donut holes in addition to a delicious assortment of cake and yeast donuts, and some untraditional flavors such as apple spice or toasted coconut, for example. The orange sweet roll is tops among the fancy pastries. Their most popular item is the Pine Cone, made with cinnamon roll dough and shaped to resemble a huge, spiky pine cone. Maple-iced yeast donuts (with or without pecans) are delightful, and, of course, there's a selection of filled yeast donuts (angel cream—a light, fluffy whipped cream, Bavarian custard, blueberry, cherry, and apple). For the kids, there are plenty of gummy worms and sprinkles topping the frosted donuts. Dyar's Daylight Donuts is open seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Dunkin' Donuts (480 Cahaba Valley Road, 988-3664) in Pelham near Oak Mountain State Park opened earlier this year. Dunkin' Donuts' coffee has always been as popular as their pastries, sold in supermarkets as well as being the official coffee served by JetBlue. Their coffee was the hot drink of choice before Starbucks came along. The Dunkin' menu has expanded over the years to include croissants, muffins, bagels, and flatbread breakfast sandwiches; they even offer hashbrowns. Among the donuts, maple powdered sugar and Bavarian cream–filled are stellar.

The funkiest donut shop in the greater Birmingham area is a tiny building just off Highway 31 in Pelham by the railroad tracks (across from Home Depot) called Donut Joe's (3199 Lee Street, Pelham, 837-7581). The kid working the counter at Dunkin' Donuts tipped me off to it. The place has a beach vibe, which prompted memories of that first lemon-filled Krispy Kreme I had decades ago. Donut Joe's reminds me of the little ocean-front piña colada shacks that were once scattered across the Florida Panhandle. Donut Joe's specialties include a delicious red velvet cake donut with vanilla frosting and German chocolate cake donuts. Apple turnovers and peach fritters are mighty wonderful, though the real knockout is a Bavarian cream–filled yeast donut with caramel frosting. Donut Joe's is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I continued my search at Shipley's Do-nuts in Hoover (2050 Greenvale Lane, 822-2142; Shipley's is a chain, with headquarters in Houston (where there are 146 shops). They also offer kolaches with choices of sausage, jalapeño, turkey and Swiss, or ham, but mostly stick to selling donuts. The strawberry-iced yeast and blueberry cake donuts are the show-stealers. Oddly, this was the only place other than Krispy Kreme where I found crullers. Their cherry-filled jelly donuts are outstanding. Shipley's is the oldest donut shop in the greater Birmingham vicinity (other than Krispy Kreme, of course), opened in 1991. Hours are 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. After 5 p.m., all donuts are half-price.

I ended my pilgrimage with a trip to Krispy Kreme in Hoover (1990 New Patton Chapel Road, 822-8272). They're open around the clock, seven days a week, (the Midfield and East Lake locations are open from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.) and offer the tastiest gems of the local donut world. They can be found virtually anywhere, however, stocked in numerous groceries and convenience stores (warning: freshness may vary).

Donuts appear to be having a renaissance of sorts. Most of the donut shops I visited were relatively new, having opened within the past year. Reportedly, Dunkin' Donuts will open a new shop in Southside next to The Fish Market in November 2010, and there have been reports that as many as 21 Dunkin' Donuts stores will open in the metro area over the next eight years. They have some big holes to fill if they're going to keep up with Krispy Kreme. &

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