Beyond Glaze Doughnuts: 54 West 700 South, Salt Lake City
Fresh Donuts and Deli: 2699 South State St., South Salt Lake
I spent a decade of my life working in a grocery store. This experience allowed me to see just how bad the state of the American doughnut had become. In the old days, bakeries would mix the yeast dough from scratch and would use hot oil for frying. For years the process of mixing, proofing and frying dough was respected. This eventually proved to be more labor intensive than most places could afford. Recently, grocery store bakeries started getting frozen, pre-cooked doughnuts shipped to them. They would defrost and glaze them and then pass them off as freshly made. Not only were these doughnuts lackluster in flavor, they all came from the same central warehouse. All the major chain stores were selling the exact same abominable breakfast pastries.
While some local stores have continued the tradition of scratch baking, it has become difficult to find a good doughnut. They’re often dry, overly sweet and too bready. Even when they’re fresh they taste like failure. For a culture that prides itself on sweets as their only vice, it seemed strange that we couldn’t do any better. I knew that if I scratched the surface even a little bit I would find something akin to the doughnuts of my youth—the kind that powered our forebearers through their morning commutes. I didn’t want Banbury Cross or even Krispy Kreme. I wanted something that would leave a more lasting impression.
In my quest for a better doughnut I decided to check out a couple of local shops that recently popped up on my radar. My first visit was to a gourmet shop on 700 South. Beyond Glaze Doughnuts has been operating a store in Draper for a while now and recently opened a second location downtown. It is the epitome of a frilly pastry shop, with the appearence of the finished product being their main focus. Like the name suggests, they pride themselves on piling on the extras, with toppings taking center stage over standard doughnut glaze. One of the best items from their case is the German chocolate doughnut. They start with a freshly made doughnut that they then schmear with dark chocolate frosting. The chocolate layer is topped with toasted coconut and finished with a decorative piping of caramel. Another favorite is the grasshopper, topped with several interconnected swirls of mint frosting that act as a base for a massive pile of Oreo cookie crumbs. The star of their menu for me is also the shop’s most unique entry—the maple bacon doughnut. This one plays off the idea that whenever you go out for pancakes you always end up with a little syrup on your bacon. Though hardly an original idea, Beyond Glaze pulls it off very well. The perfectly sweet maple glaze pairs well with bits of crisp bacon. Over the top? Sure. But certainly worth a few repeat visits. Their doughnuts are a little pricey, coming in at $1.98 each or $18.70 for a dozen.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is a spot on State Street called simply Fresh Donuts and Deli. Deliciously lo-fi, Fresh was at one time a local branch of the Winchell’s chain. It still has some of the period decorations on the walls, and they still make doughnuts in the old fashioned way. It is currently my favorite spot for old-school doughnuts. A single glass display case holds more than its fair share of doughnut nostalgia. Classic glazed doughnuts are prepared every morning and continue to be this little gem’s bestseller. There are also old-style cake doughnuts, chocolate rings and maple-glazed long johns. One of their best is the apple fritter, a sinful combination of dough bits and apple chunks expertly fried together. Another popular option is the Bavarian cream. Traditional in its preparation, the Bavarian nests a sweet pastry cream inside of a chocolate-frosted round. The only possible criticism of these filled doughnuts is that they are sometimes a little light on the filling. Still, when the doughnut itself is this awesome, how much or how little of what you find inside is really of little importance. Fresh Donuts and Deli sells their doughnuts at $3.98 for six or $7.79 a dozen, with the fancier varieties costing an extra fifty cents apiece. You should really consider paying them a visit. You may end up needing to spend a few extra hours in the gym as a result, but that’s a small price to pay for rediscovering why you liked doughnuts so much in the first place.