2011 City Guide: Donuts
It’s happened. Donuts have been reintegrated into the society of acceptable foodstuffs. Gone are the days when an average(-sized) Joe or Jane wouldn’t even think about bringing a half-dozen donuts to the office for fear of being accused of ruining everyone’s anti-carb, low-fat, no-flavor, no-fun, diet. Donuts are cool. Seems every hip New York City restaurant has been putting them on the menu, and, not coincidentally, they’ve been praised for making fine dining fun again. Many of Buffalo’s best restaurants are doing their part for the revival as well: Bistro Europa makes a buttermilk one for dessert, and 31 Club serves a vanilla-glazed model during brunch.
Let’s be honest, though. If we’re talking donuts, especially in a hard-working, immigrant town, we’re talking about the good-at-any-time, many-flavored confection—about that most decadent of all the peasant pastries, best enjoyed while sipping coffee out of a white ceramic cup. We’re talking donut shops, and Buffalo has its share. Some are little known gems, like Clarence Country Doughnuts at 10446 Main Street in Clarence, while others are more established shops, like Dickie’s Donuts at 406 Dingens, long ago the famed local donut shop of choice, and still serving the same crullers and peanut sticks your dad used to buy. Then there’s Famous Doughnuts, the “famous” wholesaler at 3043 Main near Hertel, which has been baking and frying donuts at various locations since the early 1940s, and sells a dizzying array of delicious treats out of its nondescript counter, perhaps the most popular being a rich peanut cream. Famous Doughnuts still ships to places all over the city including Dash’s Markets.
Many donut aficionadas look no further than Paula’s Donuts at 380 Kenmore. Situated at the nexus of Kenmore, Buffalo, and Amherst, Paula’s attracts customers from every corner of WNY. Ex-pats have been known to fly into town and head for an angel cream before going back to Mom and Dad’s. Because it’s open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., Paula’s has been inspiring devotion among early morning commuters, high schoolers, and late-night hipsters alike since 1996. Small and often crowded, the vibe only enhances the experience of stopping by. There’s a countertop and a few booths, and that’s all. Standing in line makes you feel like you’re in on a secret, and you don’t care that everyone else knows about it. And when you’re done licking the powdered sugar from your fingers, you actually want more.
Buffalonians like to consider themselves experts about a number of a life’s little oddities. So why not donuts? After all, many designate one day out of the year in celebration of the pastry. What much of the country calls Mardi Gras, Buffalo knows as Paczki (pronounced “poonch-key”) Day. Paczki—bigger, yeastier, jelly-filled donuts—are made, as per Polish tradition, with all the eggs, lard, sugar, and fruit that you need to use up before Lent begins. Many local donut shops sell some version of Paczki, but the most authentic is probably served up by Chrusciki Bakery at the Broadway Market (and at a recently opened second location in the Village of Lancaster).