Date of Visit: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 7:20 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Early on a Sunday morning – earlier than normal, given that we had just sprung ahead into daylight saving – I convinced my youngest brother Greg to drive out to a little bakery he had told me about in Lexington, Kentucky. My two younger brothers and their families, all of whom live in Lexington, had had donuts from Spalding’s Bakery before. The best donuts become local legends in their own right. In Columbus people whisper, “Are those Der Dutchman donuts? Are those from DK Diner?” In Lexington, apparently, the equivalent is, “He brought a box from Spalding’s.” So it was that Greg and I trekked out to this tiny, nondescript little bakery, across an industrial road from the biggest peanut butter plant in the world.
ATMOSPHERE: The space, while newer, is about as simple as can be. Cream-colored walls. A few pictures. A couple display cases loaded with donuts (clearly the focal point of the room). A low, white counter with an old cash register. When we visited, there were two people seated at a table off to the side, there as fundraisers for some local cause. It was a little funny and awkward, as they sat there silently, crammed behind the small table together at 7 a.m.
Just behind the main wooden case, many more donuts stay on trays, yet to put out for display. Other shelves were loaded with boxes, already filled and labeled, just waiting to be picked up.
FOOD: Oh, the donuts. If you look at their reviews on Yelp and UrbanSpoon, Spalding’s is clearly one of those places that’s beloved by locals, but suffers from the dual reviews of “these are the greatest things on earth!” / “everyone says they’re the greatest things on earth but they don’t live up to the hype!” This is typical of incredibly popular restaurants and bakeries, and hard to avoid when loyal customers are passionate and vocal. The key is to keep your expectations up, but not too high. (Besides, if you’re trusting everyone else’s opinion to judge the best ____ in the world, you need to think about judging things for yourself more often.)
All of this is to say that these are some delicious donuts, especially when they’re soft and warm in the morning (the benefit of braving the time change and visiting early). We nabbed a mixed dozen-and-a-half: blueberry, cinnamon roll, apple fritter, chocolate cake, creme-filled, chocolate glazed.
Their signature are the glazed donuts. Sweet, misshapen, and delicious. Krispy Kreme has nothing – NOTHING – on Spalding’s.
SERVICE: There was also the bonus of meeting the sweetest, most grandmotherly woman alive. If this place is run by the Spalding family (I’m guessing), then she must be Grandma Spalding. She was incredibly sweet, making jokes with us and suggesting donuts to try. She added up the order by hand on a notepad, then rang us up at the old register (they take cash only, btw). When I asked how early she arrived there that morning, she said about 3:30. “But I wasn’t the first one here,” she added, “Being a grandmother has it’s perks!”
OVERALL: I’m still learning the Lexington breakfast scene, but from what I’ve tasted, Spalding’s seems to be the top spot for donuts around town. The hours are limited – only until noon, Wednesday to Sunday – and we’ve heard multiple reports of donuts selling out quickly. But it’s worth the early morning trek for a box or two. These are donuts as they should be made, and by a business that’s over 100 years old. Worthy of your support!