“Ah, donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?” — Homer Simpson
Who can blame the animated American icon for his obsession with donuts? Donuts come tender and airy, dense and cakey, sweet and custardy. And they go great with everything from hot coffee and tea to cold milk and warm cider.
While donuts have been marginalized by vexing health consciousness, most of us still manage to find room in our diets for the occasional doughy snack. Lucky for us, the Buckeye state is chock full of sweet shops dolling out the perfect crullers, fritters, sticks, jelly-filled, donut holes and the occasional “toroidal ring.”
Consider bypassing what “America runs on” and make a pit stop at one of these indie Ohio donut homes.
(268 N. Main St., Centerville, 937-433-0002)
Metropolitan Dayton has a 24-hour stop for donut divinity, one that for a time approached local-chain status. Founded by Bill and Faye Elam in 1960, this hometown emporium had locations in Huber Heights, Kettering, Vandalia and Wilmington. Now down to a single location, Bill’s draws enthusiasts from all across the state thanks to 50-plus homemade varieties. Hometown faves include a caramel nut-iced, moist applesauce and sour cream cake donut, a pretzel-glazed twist, coconut, and the most delectable cinnamon rolls south of Columbus. In fact, Bill’s version puts the leading national cinnamon roll to shame. This stop on the donut circuit still has the old-school counter and stools for setting a spell, but is decidedly new-school when it comes to customer service: Bill’s ships their famed creations nationwide.
(4061 E. Livingston Ave., Columbus, 614-237-7421)
(1715 W. 3rd Ave., Columbus, 614-488-5160)
If Michael Symon is looking for an epic “Food Feud” to feature on his Food Network show, he should look no further than Resch’s Bakery and DK Diner — the Remus and Romulus of Ohio’s donut empire. The former is a straight-up bakery boasting 100 years of cake and donut tradition, with East-siders pledging allegiance to buttery apple fritters, sour creamers and vanilla cinnamon sticks. The latter offers outstanding homemade (and hopelessly, adorably misshapen) donuts as appetizers to menu items like the “DK All the Way” (biscuits, ham, fried eggs, sausage gravy and home fries) and the “DK Mess” (onions and peppers with corned beef hash and eggs). Neither place screams “donut haus” per se, but locals undoubtedly would scream without them.
(6 S. State St., Westerville, 614-882-6611)
Central Ohio donut fiends who don’t fall into either the DK or Resch camp likely can be found queued up at Schneider’s Bakery before the lights flip on at 1 a.m. That’s when employees trot out piping hot buck-a-donut specials beloved by second-shifters, late-night foodies and Otterbein University students alike. Well known for flaky Hungarian Strudel, Schneider’s also offers a kaleidoscopic menagerie of treats ranging from tart lemon custard and raspberry preserve-filled donuts, to bear claws and glazed blueberry cake. The ample “Davy Crockett” is a massive fried cinnamon donut glazed with sugary maple icing. On a typical weekday, Schneider’s knocks out over 200-dozen donuts, with the bulk of those disappearing before the first-shifters even punch in to work.
(2622 Maple Ave., zanesville, 740-453-4749)
(1 N. Maysville Ave., zanesville, 740-454-0332)
There are Food Feuds and then there are Family Feuds that only Richard Dawson could have mediated. A falling-out between donut magnate brothers Don and Darrell Warne caused the family business to split and, in the case of the former, to alter the secret family recipes. The rift has been righted, thankfully, but these shops still operate independently. Donald’s buttermilk donuts, white cream-filled long johns and hearty cinnamon-honey buns have a cakey consistency, as do the walnut-crusted fryers and overstuffed Polish donuts called paczki. Darrell’s cream horns, maple long johns and other faves date back to original recipes from the 1970s (pre-fallout) and have quite a following thanks to their lighter mouth feel. zanesville’s answer to Cleveland’s Bertman/Ball Park brown mustard debate up north, this former kin rivalry results in two kinds of deliciousness.
Bonomini & Sons
(1677 Blue Rock St., Cincinnati, 513-541-7501)
A historic Northside neighborhood staple formerly known as Blue Rock Bakery, Bonomini & Sons is a German bakery adored for its amazing holiday stollens, flaky fruit-filled pastries and hand-crafted cakes that drive noshers through the doors. But it’s the critically acclaimed jelly-filled and airy variation on the cake donuts that are out of this world. The sumptuous chocolate frosted devil’s food positively begs for a cup of the robust house java. on weekends, Queen City residents and visitors alike come in droves for boxes filled with crisp crullers, pillowy buttermilk twists and Klunkes, German cake donuts that come iced, plain or liberally dusted with powdered sugar. The paczki offered up during carnival season are not to be missed.
(Various locations in Greater Akron)
Hands-down, Jubilee is the best Rubber City donut option for early risers and late-night noshers. Four Akron locations give it a small-chain vibe, an expansion built on the backs of handmade donuts done to textbook perfection. As one might expect, yeasty glazed fryers are the biggest movers, especially on weekends when the drive-thru windows spare bleary-eyed, flannel-clad customers from sharing morning breath. Nothing is done to excess at Jubilee — they simply offer solid donuts at solid prices with solid service. For filled fans, the jelly and custard-stuffed goodness comes out almost beach ball-like in size and shape. For a gooey change of pace, the sweet Southern pecan rolls are out of this world. While some Akronites will point to underground faves like North Side down the road, Jubilee pleases many more folks every single day.
Jack Frost Donuts
(4960 Pearl Rd., Cleveland, 216-351-3638)
No respecting Cleveland “Best of” list is complete without this Old Brooklyn institution snagging honors in the donut category. Open since 1937, Jack Frost has been nipping at the noses of locals for decades. Made from scratch daily as any self-respecting donut must be, old-fashiooned varieties are moist, rich and sweet in all the right places. All the faves are here — yeast-raised glazed, French crullers, jelly-filleds, apple fritters and so on — but it’s the specialty flavors that bring folks in from all over. Banana split, chocolate-covered cherry, dusted fry-cakes, pumpkin spice and Butterfinger always sell out fast. The piece de resistance, however, is Jack Frost’s take on the cassata cake, featuring fresh strawberries and vanilla creme. Clevelanders who grew up with Jack likely recall chocolate-glazed donuts with smiley faces piped onto them. Get here early and you can still score a few.
Clearly, Ohio has some pretty good choices when it comes to confectioners. Where’s the first place you head when you have a craving that only the perfect bakery treat can fill?
For more foodie inspiration, Find It Here at Ohio.org.