March Madness: Best RVA Doughnuts

The Richmond doughnut scene is really heating up.

"Huh?  There's a Richmond doughnut scene?"

Yes, and it's really heating up. There's plenty of action among the traditional chains (a second area Krispy Kreme is in the works, and several Dunkin' Donuts locations have already reopened), but I'm even more excited by the local shops. Three Richmond-area doughnut hot-spots are opening or already have second locations: Country Style DonutsSugar Shack, and Dixie Donuts. And something tells me none of them will be a forgotten about "hole" in the wall. Hehe.

But fear not. There are even more doughnuts on the horizon. Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen returns to the South of the James Market and you can also catch them at Westbury Pharmacy in the West End.

All of this doughnut activity begs the question: which is the best doughnut in Richmond, VA? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so perhaps doughnut taste is in the mouth of the eater (or something). There isn't an easy answer, and it often comes down to a second question: cake-style or yeast-style? That's been the subject of debate among doughnut enthusiasts since the dawn of time. Yeast doughnuts can be light and airy but, if done wrong, can end up spongy and greasy. Cake doughnuts are soft and can more easily incorporate a range of flavors but sometimes can be dry.



Like last year, in the spirit of March Madness I've created a bracket to determine the best place to get a round-shaped food item. The bracket is seeded based on Yelp ratings at the time of this writing. In descending order they are: Westhampton Pastry Shop, Dixie Donuts, Sugar Shack, Country Style Donuts, and Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen. I ate a few doughnuts at each just so I could give you an honest review. It was a hard job, but someone had to do it.

Here we go. Mmm...doughnuts. Homer's version of Hell doesn't seem so bad...





Wild Card Play-In Round: 5Westhampton Pastry Shop vs. 4Dixie Donuts
I've been going to Westhampton Pastry Shop (pictured below) since I was little, so it gets a lot of nostalgia points.  I used to fondly refer to it as "the weddin' cake store" because they displayed their wedding cakes in the large glass display windows.  Their doughnuts are extra large, fluffy, sweet and light.  Their chocolate icing is some of the best I've ever tasted - so deeply rich and scrumptious (is that lemon zest I taste?).  For a sweet chocolate glazed treat, get here before noon - or you might be out of luck.  If you fancy other types of pastries, any of them here are quite good...especially the sticky buns. Oh, the sticky buns.



Dixie Donuts might have been the first great artisan doughnut shop to hit the streets of Richmond, prompting the craze as mentioned above. Krispy Kreme was technically here first, but we aren't counting that. Dixie is a great place to go for cake-style doughnuts that pack tons of fun and delicious flavors like gingerbread, tiramisu, and french toast. Come here for the cake doughnuts, stay for perhaps the best flavor variety anywhere. Most people I know seem to prefer yeast raised donuts, but give Dixie a try and you'll be converted.

BRACKET BUSTER! (I've been told that means when a lower seed beats a higher seed)

Nostalgia aside, Westhampton Pastry Shop, while delicious and certainly worth a visit, doesn't necessarily rise to the top of the crop as far as yeast doughnuts go. Because Dixie is probably the best of its breed (cake style), I'll give it the nod over Westhampton.



Final Four, Round 1: 4Dixie Donuts vs. 1Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen
Ah, Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen - one of the only reasons I wake up early on a Saturday morning, drive 20 minutes down river, and struggle to find parking for another 20 minutes at the South of The James Farmer's Market. Tucked in the back corner of the market is the doughnut truck that churns out dozens of what seems like simple, glazed donuts for a line that is known to wrap around the park. I wish I had the words to write up just how amazing this doughnut tastes. No matter how amazing I tell you they are, it's going to be impossible to fully comprehend the perfection of them until you try one. But I have to try. They're extra large, sourdough donuts right out of the fryer...hand-dipped in a sugary glaze...dripping dry on wooden rungs. Pillowy soft, melt in your mouth perfection and worth that extra hour or two on the treadmill.

As I mentioned before, I'm a yeast-style doughnut fan. And these are perhaps the single greatest yeast-style doughnuts ever. While I'd recommend any cake-style fan to go to Dixie instead, I'll give the top-seeded Mrs. Yoder the nod here.

See you in the championship round!


Final Four, Round 2: 3Sugar Shack vs. 2Country Style Donuts
I don't even know where to begin with Sugar Shack (pictured below). These are some of the most delicious and unique doughnuts I've ever had. With tons of amazing flavors like Maple Bacon (and it's real, crispy bacon), Samoa (also a favorite at Dixie), Strawberry Glaze, and Salted Caramel, you'll find your mouth watering upon your first step in the door. They're big, fluffy, textured, flavorful bites of heaven, known to lots of Richmonders as "The Holy Grail" of doughnuts. The coffee is fabulous, too. Flavors change often and aren't always guaranteed, so arrive early in the morning and with an open mind! Like Dixie before it, Sugar Shack boasts arguably the best variety while serving the yeast fans that Dixie doesn't.



We love donuts so much that we are willing to drive 30 minutes to the other side of town for certain kinds. See: Country Style Doughnuts (pictured below), a no-frills bakery with a small-town feel in Richmond's East End that stays open 24/7 (except Mondays). The nice thing about Country Style is that they offered both yeast and cake options, and I'm going to throw it out there that their plain glazed cake doughnut was one of the best I've tasted - crisp and sweet outside with pillowy soft center. Country Style is a must-try place if you're near the airport (better than airplane food, and less expensive), traveling through Richmond via I-64, or just want some fantastic donuts.

BRACKET BUSTER!

I have to give the nod to Sugar Shack here. While Country Style offers round the clock doughnuts in both styles (so definitely go if you and a friend can't decide on a style), in my humble opinion they do neither better than the competition (Dixie and, in this case, Sugar Shack). Sugar Shack's variety and soft, tasty (yeasty) treats are hard to beat.


RVA Doughnut Championship: 3Sugar Shack vs. 1Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen
Mrs. Yoder, what can I say? I actually think that if you could only have one doughnut in your life, you should get one from Mrs. Yoder. It is the. best. doughnut. ever. 

BUT! 

How many times can I have a glazed doughnut without desiring something a little more "out there"? Sugar Shack is excellent and has the best variety.

In a huge upset, Sugar Shack takes the cake. Or yeast? You know what I mean.

The Shack wins, but only by a narrow margin. You truly can't go wrong with any of these places as they are all wonderful. My tummy, hubby, and I had the best time over the past few weekends indulging in all the sweet goodness each of these doughnut shops have to offer. My hips, on the other hand, will probably be mad at me until Christmas.

Anyways, I hope this post inspired you to eat local doughnuts and maybe even to try something new. Happy eating and happy March Madness!

As for me: no more doughnuts. For now.


2 comments:

  1. this just made me so hungry...next time i'm in town i will definitely check these spots out!

    ReplyDelete