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Holtman’s Donuts (Over-the-Rhine) | Cincinnati, OH

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Holtman’s Donuts (Facebook / @HoltmansDonuts / instagram: holtmansdonuts)
1332C-2 Vine St. (map it!)
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 381-0903
Open Sun & Mon, 7a-2p; Tues-Sat, 7a-9p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

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Following an excellent brunch down the street at Taste of Belgium, my brothers and I wandered Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine before going on one of the Queen City Underground tours. Of course, after a busy brunch, you need a donut, right? That was our thinking as we wandered into Holtman’s Donuts.

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Even though I knew nothing about Holtman’s previously, I could easily spy the old school nature of the shop. Which meant we were in the right place.

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As you’re waiting in line, you can watch through the big windows as the donuts are being made.

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The shop had trays of nearly every type of donut imaginable.

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They were honestly so busy I barely got a chance to look through everything.

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But it’s hard to go wrong when you have a selection like this.

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The giant apple fritters stood out.

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But of course I zeroed in on the bacon and maple glazed donuts.

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They also featured donut holes, longjohns… well, everything.

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But let’s get back to that maple bacon donut, shall we? This little yeast-raised beauty was soft, warm, and generously sprinkled with bacon.

Our stop at Holtman’s wasn’t long, but it was long enough to enjoy a donut and watch the line of people stroll through. The sign on Holtman’s says it’s been around since 1960, and while I’m guessing the Over-the-Rhine shop isn’t the original location, it’s obviously got a following and a much-loved place in the neighborhood.

Holtman's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Travel: Dining on the Outer Banks – Part 1

In June our family made the annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while may know it’s a long-standing family tradition, and we look forward to it every year. In addition to all the beachy fun, we enjoy the food the islands have to offer, as we visit old favorites and see what’s new each year. So without further ado, here are some of the culinary highlights of OBX 2014!

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On a tip from a reader last year, we finally discovered Duck Donuts, a relatively new donut chain originating in Duck on the northern Outer Banks. Over the past year Duck Donuts has expanded into nearby Virginia, too, and they seem to be holding steady on the OBX. They use the brilliant model of selling one base, a slightly sweet and spongy cake donut, then dressing that up with frostings and toppings.

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This lets them easily assemble larger orders for the visitors coming and going around the island.

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Frostings include everything from strawberry, lemon, vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, and beyond.

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They even have an excellent maple bacon donut, with a sweet maple frosting and bacon bits that aren’t too soggy or too crunchy.

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We discovered this year that they offer a little kid’s meal, with a single donut + a drink served on a Duck Donuts frisbee. It even comes with a wet nap!

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But enough about donuts. (I never thought I’d say that.) On the islands we’re really in the mood for seafood. A string of rustic seafood markets dot the islands, hawking the day’s fresh catches. We make regular stops for crab, scallops, clams, shrimp, and fish. My mother-in-law has perfected a crab cake recipe. Because they’re homemade there’s very little filler and the seasoning is spot-on.

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We also crowded the scallops into a pan for a quick sauteed before they were devoured by the masses.

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Besides Duck Donuts, our favorite island pastries are the ridiculously giant apple uglies from Orange Blossom Bakery in Buxton, NC. I swear, these glorified, calorie-ridden apple fritters get larger each year.

Over the past years, the service and organization at Orange Blossom had been declining. Customers were frustrated by long waits, the service was a little surly, and they never seemed to have enough product. This year, however, things seem to be improving – maybe there was a change of ownership?

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Because there’s such a large group of us, we take turns making dinner each night. Mrs. Breakfast With Nick and I made a perennial favorite: shrimp and grits, with lots of tangy cheese mixed in with the grits, a rich topping of sauteed veggies (and a little bacon), and fresh shrimp.

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There’s great coffee on the islands, too. We regularly visit The Dancing Turtle in Hatteras, Uglie Mugs in Avon, and both Live Oak Coffee and Ocracoke Coffee Co. on Ocracoke. Here’s an artistic shot of my espresso on a post with some dead leaves in the background.

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Most restaurants offer lots of fried seafood, and we regularly take them up on the offer.

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One of our favorite stops for fried seafood are the volunteer firefighter’s fish fries. Many of the little island villages host them on a weekly or monthly basis. We especially like the fish fry down in Hatteras Village. The meals usually come with hush puppies, cole slaw, and maybe baked beans or potato salad. Some of these events have been going on for decades. The little old ladies in Hatteras have been doing it for over 50 years, and they’ll wink and tell you theirs is the best on the Outer Banks. Hard to argue when they’re unloading freshly caught fish straight into the fryers.

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As a craft beer aficionado and beer tour guide, I’m always on the lookout for local brews, so we were especially happy to discover the new Pangea Tavern a block from our house in Avon. The little pub has a large screened-in dining room, so you can enjoy the ocean breezes free of mosquitos (which generally aren’t too bad anyway). The real star of their drink menu is the list of 15 North Carolina beers on tap.

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Even better is that they offer beer samplers, so we tasted North Carolina’s takes on pale ales, saisons, amber ales, milk stouts, IPAs, wits, porters, and more. In summary: North Carolina is doing it right.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for Part 2 shortly.

Propaganda Donuts | Grand Rapids, MI

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Propaganda Donuts (Facebook / @PropagandaDonut)

117A S. Division Ave. (map it!)
Grand Rapids, MI 40503
Open Mon, Wed-Sun, 8a-12p; open Fri & Sat, 8p-12a
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y

Visited: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 9:30a

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“Danger. Intrigue. Donuts.” That’s the tagline for Propaganda Donuts, a hip new donut shop set up just south of downtown Grand Rapids on Division Avenue. It sets up an air of mystery and curiosity, which is followed through with a location more like a film noir set than a traditional donut shop. The space itself is an old storefront – one I’ve never visited before – with an in-set tiled entryway, a wooden door, and big windows.

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The sandwich board out front gives you another clue that these donuts will be anything but traditional.

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The interior is one long room, the left wall all exposed brick. There’s a small counter, while the rest of the customer space is dedicated to a few seats for waiting and a desk.

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Even the counter itself is stacked with stuff like detective novels, an old wooden filing cabinet, a bottle of moonshine, binoculars.

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A small display case shows off the offerings for the day. It takes a moment or two to triangulate which sign goes with which donut.

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When we visited, 5-6 people were waiting for one of their daily specials – a French cruller – to be made. But we hopped right up to the counter, ordered, and were on our way.

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The old desk in the waiting area keeps up the detective theme, with books, a typewriter, newspapers (some real, some fictional), and photos.

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Propaganda is nailing the style, and it’s not without substance. We grabbed one of each of their daily offerings. These ranged from the standards of plain, powdered, and cinnamon sugar to more unique eats like honey roasted beets, vanilla bean buttermilk with chocolate and raspberry, and a bourbon caramel with mango, pineapple, passion fruit, and sprinkled with coconut. There wasn’t a bad donut in the bunch, although our preference was for the three more creative specials. Even the combinations that might seem too funky for some (honey roasted beets, for instance) worked quite well. And clearly they’re catching on, given the waiting crowd and the fact neighborhood folks were stopping in for coffee and a donut while walking their dogs (that’s always a good sign to me).

Downtown Grand Rapids is experiencing a bit of renaissance, with new restaurants, the new market opening, brewpubs, and more. So it’s fitting that it would get an interesting donut place, too, and I deduce (see what I did there?) Propaganda is filling the niche. With some fun flavor combinations, responsible sourcing of ingredients, and supreme dedication to their branding, they could be on track to becoming a destination like places like Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland.

Propaganda Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

HoneyDip Donuts & Diner | Columbus, OH

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Honey Dip Donuts & Diner (Facebook)
4480 Kenny Rd. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43220
(614) 459-0812
Open Mon-Sat, 6:30a-2p; Sun, 7a-2p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 12:30pm

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Who’s up for a big breakfast of donuts and donut sandwiches? Apparently, me! It’s been a while since I’ve been to Honey Dip. The first visit was when they only served donuts, and the second was a quick peek at the new renovations that added the “and Diner” to the name.

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Well, now it’s time to get a good look at how the donut shop has remade itself as a diner. Judging by the decently busy Saturday afternoon, they’re doing quite well.

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Fans of the original version of Honey Dip will still recognize the space and the feel. The long, low counter, the red tile floor, the pink donut shelves. More seats have been added, and the old donut prep area is now a small dining area with eight tables.

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Donuts are still the feature; upon entering you’re greeted with a sight of the classic shelves.

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And a glass case full of the extra special goods like longjohns, cinnamon rolls, and apple fritters.

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The purpose of this exploratory visit: to sample a donut sandwich. Honey Dip offers three: the breakfast sandwich, the BLT, and the burger.

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We found a small table and looked through the one-page breakfast menu. It has all the basics covered: eggs, omelets, pancakes, sandwiches. Even some specialties like eggs benedict and a breakfast burrito.

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My son wanted something simple: the two eggs, home fries, and toast. As with any basic breakfast, you can customize it: eggs, choice of toast, sausage patties or links (or bacon), home fries or hash browns. All of it was nicely done. The eggs were scrambled without being dry, the sausage patty was basic but seasoned well. The hash browns could have been a little crispier, but they came in a generous portion. All in all: a very filling and likable diner breakfast.

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We were hungry, so we also split the biscuits and gravy, a small but rich bowl of thick sausage gravy along with two soft biscuits. The gravy was thick to the point of being a little gummy, but it was chunky and peppery.

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And now on to the main show: the donut breakfast sandwich. When I posted a picture of this on instagram, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “What am I doing with my life?!” And that’s the honest question you have to ask yourself after you’ve ordered one of these. What has led you to this point?

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The construction is simple and really, it seems so obvious. You take a breakfast sandwich (a fried egg, a sausage patty, a slice of cheese) and you grill two donuts instead of bread. It’s the perfect marriage of sweet + salty. The warm donuts collapse under the pressure into two solid layers of sugar. But I have to be honest about two things:

1.) This sandwich was delicious. I mean, seriously: it’s a breakfast sandwich made with donuts. The only failing point is that you mostly just taste the donuts. Sure, there’s a hint of sausage, a soupcon of cheese, a waft of eggs, but for the most part you’re tasting two warm, soft honey dip donuts.

2.) This sandwich also sat with me for a long time. A long time. I honestly wasn’t hungry until the next day.

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You also can’t walk out of a donut shop without some donuts (and I’m wondering why I was still full the next day?), so we snagged a half dozen of a couple custard-filled donuts, two longjohns, and a pair of their signature glazed yeast donuts. Honey Dip has long been a favorite donut shop of many, and they’re still riding on that strength.

Well, now you know about breakfast at Honey Dip in all its glory. If a full-blown donut sandwich isn’t your thing, you can always settle for a donut and a cup of coffee, or a small plate of eggs and toast. Overall, Honey Dip seems to have successfully transitioned over the years from a favorite donut shop to a favorite donut shop and diner.

Honey Dip Donuts & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Clark’s Donuts Plus | Cranberry, PA

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Clark’s Donuts Plus (Facebook / @ClarksNo1Donuts)

7150 U.S. 322 (map it!)
Cranberry, PA 16319
(814) 677-7336
Open Mon-Fri until 3p; Sat until 12p (they open early while donuts are still being made)
Accepts cash & debit/credit

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Over Thanksgiving we were taking the kiddos to ride the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad, a little historic train that rolls you through the beautiful Pennsylvania hills and past the world’s first oil well. But we can’t just go ride the train, especially when we find there are donuts nearby!

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My father-in-law knows the area well, and had seen cars lining up outside Clark’s Donuts many times, so we joined the throngs to see what all the fuss was about.

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It didn’t take long to find out why. Trays of donuts, that’s why. Trays and trays of fresh donuts.

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Note the “Plus” in the bakery’s name. That’s because Clark’s Donuts Plus is the secondary location of – you guessed it – Clark’s Donuts in nearby Titusville. The Plus store has been open for over 20 years, an employee told us, while the original Clark’s has been around for nearly 75 years.

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Like a true old-school donut shop, they’ve been getting by on the strength of their donuts and not the sophisticated digs or strong social media presence. People know about their donuts because of good old fashioned word of mouth.

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I mean, what’s not to like about seeing trays of donuty goodness? Clark’s was well-stocked, even mid-morning with a steady flow of customers.

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They had a tremendous variety of donuts, too. Cake donuts, fritters, giant bearclaws…

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…longjohns overflowing with creme.

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We boxed up a sample of nearly everything, because, you know… research.

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We didn’t meet a donut we didn’t like, but the longjohns were impressive, not to mention these iced donuts with toasted coconut.

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And these maple-iced beauties that were light and fluffy.

I love knowing that old donut shops like Clark’s are still thriving. The American culinary landscape would be poorer without them. So if you find yourself traveling through the Cranberry area, pick up a box. And grab one for me, too.

Clarks Donuts Plus on Urbanspoon

The Little Donut Shop | Columbus, OH

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The Little Donut Shop
(Facebook)

1716 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 725-4940
Open daily 9a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.

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A new donut shop? What?! This is big news for any breakfast aficionado, as well as any red-blooded, pastry-loving American. So imagine my surprise when I read online about a new donut shop opening across the street from Ohio State’s campus. It snuck up on me! So on our first available Saturday we sought out the new shop with the quaint name: The Little Donut Shop. You can find The Shop on street level below The Big Bar (get it?), part of the Newport Music Hall building facade.

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Little Donut Shop’s space is clean, new, and nicely packaged. Their branding is solidly designed and consistent throughout.

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The interior includes a small ramp up into the space (which eventually leads to the staircase up to the bar). There are cab tables and counters spread along the walls. It’s fairly open and easy to access for the grab-and-go customers.

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The menu sports a good variety to begin with, and I’m sure they cycle in some specials once in a while. The pricing is pretty standard, at $1 per donut, $5 for the half dozen, and $8 for the full dozen. I didn’t think to ask how many donuts come in the Late Night Bucket. What’s a little odd is that the current hours – 9am to 4pm – aren’t exactly of the “late night” variety, so I’m not sure when is the ideal time for such a bucket.

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Little Donut Shop’s donuts are a little smaller, maybe about three inches across. The intention seems to be that customers can put away two or three of these, in lieu of a single giant bismark or a thick cake donut.

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They make up for the smaller size, though, with an over-the-top line-up of toppings, glazes, and flavorings. They seem to draw inspiration from some of the wackier donut shops out there, like VooDoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon. Which is good, in some ways, because Columbus doesn’t have anything quite like that (although Heather at Destination Donuts gets pretty creative). They use one type of cake donut as the base and then go all out with the toppings. See above: the Oreo and the M&M donuts, covered in a white glaze and generously smothered.

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Or, of course, the maple bacon.

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There’s the raspberry lemonade.

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The chocolate and the strawberry shortcake (I think?).

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Or the powdered and the Dirty Worm.

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We grabbed a good variety: maple bacon, M&M, chocolate, samoa, Milky Way, and sprinkle. The verdict? Good, but not mind-blowing. Certainly very sweet and fun to eat: a big hit with our kiddos. The base donut is pretty simple, and the toppings are very creative, but they came off as overly sweet. Case in point: the Milky Way is a donut that’s glazed and drizzled with caramel and mini chocolate chips and more chocolate. It’s just a lot of sugar packed into one small bite. I guess my ideal for this size of donut is something like Duck Donuts in North Carolina and Virginia, which uses a simple yeast donut as their base, and then dips them in sweet but balanced toppings.

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Little Donut Shop is certainly differentiating itself with a lot of creative flavors. They’ve done a wonderful job with that space and the branding, and hopefully the nearby student population will take notice. Their challenge will be carving out a niche when nearby tried-and-true spots like Buckeye Donuts have already been winning over donut fans for decades.

The Little Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Donut World | Lancaster, OH

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Donut World

601 N. Broad St. (map it!)
Lancaster, OH 43130
(740) 653-4888
Open 24/7
Accepts cash only

Visited: Monday, September 2, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

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The first sign that Donut World is the right spot for donuts: we almost drove past it. This is important to note, especially when it comes to donut places. If it’s got a huge sign out front, and a giant parking lot, and everything is sparkly clean, you’re not in the right place for donuts. If it looks like a tiny wooden shack with a faded sign and mismatched lettering in the windows, chances are you’ve hit the jackpot.

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Donut World is a small corner building – almost a shack – in “downtown” Lancaster. If you’re heading to Hocking Hills from Columbus, you can re-route yourself with only the slightest inconvenience through Lancaster to stop at Donut World. You don’t even have to get out of your car; just pull up to the drive-through window to pick up a box of donuts.

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If you choose to step out of your car and into the building, you’ll find that the customer area only gets a sliver of the square footage. The rest of the space includes the production area and a counter facing racks of delicious, delicious donuts.

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Donut World’s selection is pretty wide, from cake donuts glazed and coated every which way, to yeast-raised donuts, fruit-flavored, and specialties like apple fritters, Bismarks, bowties, cinnamon twists, and rolls. In short, enough choices to satisfy your donut preferences.

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Donut World is a classic example of those old-school donut shops, with lettered menu boards, signs taped up all over, and big yellow trays for the donuts. They’ve been running things the same way for so long, and there’s really no reason for them to change.

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Part of that old school-ness is the woman behind the counter, who has clearly been working in the shop for years and years. She has no reason to change either. To some customers, her attitude might come off as abrupt or even rude, but to me it just shows that she knows what she’s doing, she knows what she’s selling, and she’s been asked every possible question by every possible customer.

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This also means that she won’t steer you wrong: she knows which donuts are the best.

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Taking the advice of a few online friends, we picked up an assorted box. And let’s face it, when it comes to good donut shops, an assortment is the way to go. We certainly liked some things better than others, but we didn’t find anything bad in the box. The sour cream donuts were very moist and soft, with the blueberry a special stand-out. We loved the cinnamon rolls, especially the iced one, and the apple fritter was chewy and very appley. And the Bismarcks were about as good as you can get.

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Donut World is a worthy stop for any of the following reasons:

1. They serve really, really good donuts.

2. It’s a convenient stop coming to or from Hocking Hills.

3. It’s an example of a shop that does one thing, old school, very well.

4. Bonus for the autumn months: pumpkin donuts. Enough said.

Donut World Co on Urbanspoon

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