Thursday, July 11, 2013

The 3 Best: Donuts

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Dales Donuts
  • Dale's Donuts

As much as you may try to hide it, you know you love donuts. Sure, no one wants to admit that they would eagerly polish off a half-dozen hot glazed every morning if given the opportunity. When a co-worker brings in that box of fresh donuts to your early morning office meeting, maybe you’re that person that with the willpower to sit in the corner refraining from their sweet, greasy glory. Maybe you “already ate” or you’re “watching your weight.” But I know you’re sitting there longing for a nibble. You’d anxiously slurp down that entire box if no one was watching.

Truth is, the Arkansas donut scene is grossly behind some other American cities that have heartily embraced the potential of fried dough. But that’s not to say there isn’t some wonderful breakfast pastry out there for those willing to look a little harder. You may have to pass by a half dozen Shipley’s to find these places, but here at some shops worth savoring—the 3 best donuts in central Arkansas.

Community Bakerys beignet
  • Community Bakery's beignet
1. Plain glazed from Mark’s Donuts: I’ve never met Mark before, I’m not sure if he’s ever even been in the shop when I’ve visited. But wherever he is, Mark knows a thing or two about donuts. Somehow he’s managed to assemble a donut with all the essential elements necessary to transform this pastry from drab to delectable. Pillow soft, not too sweet, always served fresh. Every donut at Mark’s is exquisite, but you really only need to sample their basic, plain glazed to know they’ve really nailed it. The yeast donut comes to you a deep, golden brown, fried perfectly and draped in a thin layer of sugar. It’s a cash/check only joint, so don’t go unprepared—you’d hate to leave empty handed. In my humble opinion, Mark's Donuts is by far the best donut shop in central Arkansas...and probably in the state.

2. Glazed beignet from Community Bakery: Carb-craving Arkansans have been getting their fix from Community Bakery for over 60 years, and if a place can stay in business that long, you have to assume they are doing something worthwhile. But if I’m being completely honest, I haven’t been completely tickled by every stop I’ve made to Community. I’ve been served my share of stale and unappetizing pastries from this place. But it’s their “beignets” that keep me coming back. These are nothing like the more recognizable version one might find at New Orleans’ Café du Monde. They’re more reminiscent of an airy, glazed éclair, with a chewy, soft inside and crisp, sugary exterior. The dough has the delightful eggy flavor to it, similar to what you might find in a French cruller. I’ve spent many a morning sitting at one of Community Bakery’s outdoor tables, reading the paper and pulling apart a beignet piece by precious piece.

Dales maple-peanut
  • Dale's maple-peanut
3. Maple-peanut from Dale’s Donuts: I don’t get out to Saline County as much as I should, especially not in the morning. But Dale’s donuts is enough incentive for me to trek it down there periodically. This family-owned donut shop has been dragging Benton residents out of bed for over 20 years. Pop in just about any day of the week and you’ll see just how much this town loves their donuts. A steady stream of patrons step up to Dale’s counter throughout the morning hours, leaving with armfuls of fried treats, invariably with big, toothy grins on their faces as they exit. There are a number of customer favorites in their display case. One should not pass up on their strawberry frosted donut when it’s available, made with fresh strawberries. But I’m an advocate for their maple-peanut. It’s not a combination you commonly see around town, but I suspect if more people knew how splendid this combination was, you’d find them a bit more often. The interplay of crunchy peanut and the unmistakable essence of maple make this a special morning treat. Why put maple on a pancake when you can have it on a donut?

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