While I try to eat healthy most of the time, I’m no stranger to junk food and I love doughnuts (or donuts – both deliciously acceptable spellings). In high school it wasn’t unusual to tuck into a cruller or Bavarian creme at Krispy Kreme after everything else but Krystal had shut down for the night. With the slowing of my metabolism, I have to be more intentional about how often I eat these treats and, therefore, more selective when I spend the calories in my doughnut bank.
I’ve never had a doughnut better than Krispy Kreme. Of course, I’m only talking about those that you get directly from one of their stores. The hideous hardboard franken-nuts available at gas stations and grocery stores only share the green box and name with the genuine article. If you want to tell me that Dunkin’ Donuts are a viable alternative, get out of my blog you lightly-sweetened bread eater! You might as well have a piece of frosted toast.
Generally a shop can be judged on their plain glazed doughnut because there is almost always a direct correlation between the plain and the fancies. When hot, it should dissolve almost without chewing like angel’s breath, cotton candy or a dream. When room temp, it should have some chew but still be delicious and never too bready or greasy. These magical properties must surely come from a recipe that is both 100% fat and 100% sugar.
I’ve heard many times before about how this local doughnut place is better or that doughnut shop is best. In every case, the statement has been a lie. Recently, a trusted doughnuteer recommended a local place I’d never heard of – The Donut Shoppe. I was immediately skeptical, but he assured me that the doughnuts were great – “the best,” in fact. “They aren’t like Dunkin’ are they?” “Of course not.” “They’re really the best?” “They are great.” “Better than Krispy Kreme?” “Wellll… As good as. You should try them.”
He had withstood my withering cross-examination. Maybe, just maybe, I’d found a Krispy Kreme alternative. Dare I dream? Perhaps even a new doughnut king? I had to give them a try.
THE DONUT SHOPPE
The Donut Shoppe is located in Jacksonville, Florida in the Arlington neighborhood close to Jacksonville University. As with almost all really great local one-off establishments there are Soup Nazi quirks and rules. In the case of this place I’d been forewarned of two things:
1. Get there early. These guys don’t play. They make what they make and when they sell out they shut down for the day. Arrive after 10 am and you won’t have much selection. Arrive after noon and you’ll probably be greeted by a locked door.
2. Know what you want by the time you get to the counter. The line will probably be kinda long and the store is tiny so others can’t go around you and they don’t want to wait forever on you. The staff will be polite but they keep things moving.
With the rules fresh in my mind, I pulled up to the shop one weekday morning around 9am. I’d been told parking is a problem and that wasn’t a joke. Every available legal and illegal spot had been filled at the shop and the connected gas station. I ended up pulling around the corner and parking at a mini-park.
As I approached the front door I noticed the line of happy people extending out of it. There was even a vacationing family getting a group photo in front of the building. All signs were pointing to yum. My wait was short lived as the line moved at a steady clip. I got to the glass case and noticed a variety of old standards. This would not be a crazy combo place like Voodoo Doughnut (another shop I’d desperately love to visit) but its lineup could certainly compete with Krispy – perhaps even topple it, I thought.
Soon it was my turn and I cracked off an order for a plain glazed, custard-filled, lemon-filled and an apple fritter (trail plop). Confident that I had selected an excellent cross section of the available ‘nuts, I paid, returned to my car and headed home to test.
I wish I could be more dramatic about the actual tasting but they were exactly what I expected them to be – deliciously predictable. With my advanced planning, I had forgone breakfast so I was able to shovel all of them into my gut not wasting a single bite or saving any for a later snack. It was the equivalent of five doughnuts in one sitting. I’d be sorry later, but at the time I couldn’t have been happier.
The verdict: As good as Krispy Kreme. Please note, I was not able to compare any hot off the presses so they may fall a little flat there but this is the highest praise I’ve ever given a non-Krispy doughnut. In addition, with this place you get the “in the know”/local-secret excitement when you visit. I would definitely go back and would recommend it to anyone. Well, not to a diabetic.
THE DONUT SHOPPE
1721 University Blvd N
Jacksonville, FL 32211
Pro tip: I’ve since learned that you can call in an order. Do it. That way you are assured you’ll get something before you drive over.