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Every city and town needs a reliably good local donut shop. A place where the bustling townsfolk can stop by on their way to the office and grab a box of warm glazed to win the affection of their fellow coworkers, or a place to rustle up a few chocolate coated Long-Johns and Bavarian-cream-stuffed donuts before setting out on a family road trip for the weekend. Often the greatest donut shops are not flashy or particularly beautiful on the exterior, often they are the kind of place you might drive by numerous times without even noticing they exist. But for those who are able to slow down and look around, perhaps even actively seek out an exceptional donut shop, these inconspicuous establishments make for a pit stop worth pulling over for.
In Benton, the walls of Dale’s Donuts have been packing in happy patrons since the early 90s. Donut lovers from all around central Arkansas are waking up early to make the drive to Benton in order to procure the hot, glazed pillows of fried dough that Dale’s has been perfecting for years.
One donut that stands out in the variety offered at Dale’s is the indulgent maple and peanut. The standard glazed donut gets a healthy slab of maple frosting and is then sprinkled in chopped peanuts. Although they are, perhaps, a little too generous with the frosting, the combination of maple and peanut is an unconventional pleasure. Another customer favorite, rather unique to this shop, is the chocolate cream filled bars. While most donut shops limit themselves to custard and whipped cream fillings, Dale’s offers a whipped chocolate cream, which they inject into a chocolate glazed Long-John. They are able to get the cream to travel the entire length of the bar, providing each bite with a good blend of chewy donut and creamy chocolate filling.
Most of the offerings at Dale’s are excellent, owing to the fact that, at their core, each donut begins with good ingredients, assembled with the quality and care you’d expect from a locally owned shop. The only item that could use a tune-up is their apple fritters. As these have always been one of my personal favorites, I was a little disappointed to find their version, flat, slightly dry, and severely lacking in apple flavor. The perfect fritter, in my opinion, is a thick amalgamation of chewy bits of dough, interlaced with beads of cinnamon and chunks of apple filling, all doused in a blanket of hot sugar glaze. The interior should be soft, steaming, and chewy, with the exterior being brown, and fried to a crisp. Dale’s version misses the mark on most accounts.
I’d have no hesitation in making a quick detour, if driving through Benton, to grab a bag of Dale’s donuts. Concern for my health may prevent me from making this a regular routine, but for the occasional morning sugar rush, I find Dale’s to be a satisfactory addition to the Central Arkansas donut scene.
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