By: Malcolm Mayhew
I don't exactly remember the first time I had a doughnut, but I do remember the first time I had a good doughnut.
My older brother landed a part-time gig at the now-gone Dunkin’ Donuts on West Berry, and on his first day on the job, he brought home a dozen doughnuts in a little white box fastened shut with a piece of scotch tape.
With the slide of his finger, he popped open the lid, and there before us was row after row of life-changing eats. Doughnuts sprinkled in candy, frosted with chocolate icing, streaked in rainbows of colors. I went straight for the Bavarian cream, not knowing that the little twirl of chocolate icing on top gave way to a goldmine of the stuff once I took my first bite.
Papa Yun's Donuts
Thus began my childhood obsession with doughnuts. I would come to regard subsequent double-D deliveries from my brother in the same out-of-control fashion that I approached birthday and Christmas presents. I’m sure, in some way or another, you can relate; we all loved doughnuts when we were kids.
Dough Boy Donuts
Over the past few years, Fort Worth has insisted that we fall in love with them again. Gourmet doughnut shops like FunkyTown Donuts and Kneady Doughnuts have revamped this specialized food group, making sure it doesn’t fade from our memories.
FunkyTown Donuts & Drafts
Not sure that would happen anyway. Fort Worth is lined with one doughnut shop after another — there are hundreds in Tarrant County, touting the simple, old-school doughnuts we grew up loving. Probably right this second, someone’s kid is eating a Bavarian cream doughnut for the very first time.
To celebrate our renewed fixation with doughnuts, here’s a look at a dozen of our favorite Fort Worth doughnut shops, from the new-school shops to the decades-old institutions.
3412 W. Seventh St., facebook.com/ahdonuts
One of the city’s best doughnut shops, A&H is so low-key, it’s a cinch to miss its humble home in a West Seventh Street strip mall. But owner Soo Yang makes a memorable impression, with a big grin and motherly warmth. Yang prides herself in her super-soft yeast doughnuts, which she says are the result of letting her dough rest a little longer than other doughnut spots. She also relishes in custom-making doughnuts in the shapes of letters, animals and movie and cartoon characters. Kids go nuts here.
Doughnut du jour: Mermaid doughnuts are so cute, you almost don’t want to eat them. Almost.
The hole truth: Specialty items rotate, but you definitely want to be there for her Lays doughnuts — strawberry glaze doughnuts topped with Lays potato chips; you can’t eat just one.
4910 Camp Bowie Blvd., doughboydonutsdfw.com
After working out of his popular food truck for two years, Melvin Roberson opened a brick-and-mortar version of his gourmet doughnut shop earlier this year, taking over the Leah’s Sweet Treats spot on Camp Bowie. Instead of making one big batch and leaving them in cases, Roberson and his employees make the doughnuts as you order them, guaranteeing they’ll be fresh and warm. Flavors rotate per week and per season. Favorites include Fairy Dust, a lemon glaze doughnut topped with ground Skittles; Bam Bam, a cream cheese glaze crowned with Fruity Pebbles cereal; and Cranberry Orange, served with a slice of candied orange.
Doughnut du jour: Sriracha maple bacon is, of course, the stuff of local doughnut legend, a maple-glazed beauty upon which a piece of Sriracha candied bacon rests.
The hole truth: Keep an eye on its Facebook page for last-second fire sales.
5500 N. Tarrant Parkway, 817.750.2378
First off, you’re going to need to go to the right Best Donut. There are two locations on North Tarrant Parkway. Both are good, but this Best is best, thanks to a wide selection of yeast and cake doughnuts, ample eating space and the hospitality doled out by brother-sister owners David and Min-kyung Cha. The siblings rise when many of us fall, often arriving at 1 or 2 in the morning to begin their workdays. “People may not realize just how long it takes to make doughnuts,” David says. “It’s a long, hard process, but we can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Doughnut du jour: The choco-roll doughnut, a yeast beast filled to the brim with chocolate icing, then doused in chocolate drizzle, chocolate chips and powdered sugar. You’re gonna be so wired.
The hole truth: Sausage rolls are different than most here, utilizing meat from sausage patties, not links.
4455 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817.737.9979
One of only two locations left in this one-time family chain (No. 10 is on Hulen Street), Dale’s Donuts is an unintentional tribute to the doughnut shops of yesterday. Step inside this simple, small store in a Camp Bowie strip mall; all of a sudden, you’re a little kid again, craning your neck to see what’s in the cases, anticipating your turn to tell the nice lady what you want and, finally, biting into a pillowy, sweet doughnut. Lines are usually long, clogged with business types grabbing breakfast on the way to work and, on Saturdays, overly excited kids and — OK, we’ll admit it — some equally excited adults.
Doughnut du jour: Lemon poppy seed, a nice, glazed bite of sweet and savory.
The hole truth: Get there early; they typically sell out.
500 S. Cherry Lane, 817.246.0908
Hard to miss this long-running doughnut shop — it’s housed in a midcentury, ranch-style building, trimmed in pink paint. Under various owners, Duke’s has been feeding locals along Cherry Lane since 1976. Hands have changed, but recipes have not. Doughnuts still come streaked in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and dozens of other glazes and are peppered with rainbows of pindot candies.
Doughnut du jour: Simple is best here: a yeast doughnut with a strawberry glaze.
The hole truth: Pigs in a blanket are a cool specialty item. Sausage links are split lengthwise, stuffed with jalapeño relish, then wrapped in pastries. So good.
1146 E. Seminary Drive, 817.923.4855
This longtime doughnut shop on the east side is easy to spot: An old 3D sign in the shape of a doughnut hangs out front, signaling what you’ll find inside: plain and simple — and very good — cake and yeast doughnuts, trimmed in frostings and icings that make little kids smile and dance. It’s the east side’s answer to a classic doughnut shop — nothing fancy, but that’s what we like about it.
Doughnut du jour: Chocolate glaze with coconut shavings, just like you had when you were a kid.
The hole truth: You can walk in or zip through the drive-thru.
5412 River Oaks Blvd., 817.737.0237
River Oaks is home to Tarrant County’s oldest doughnut shop, as well as its most eccentric doughnut-maker, Jessie Ricardo. He’s worked in this tiny, funky, 1939 stucco building since he was 18; he’s now 78. “I don’t know how to do anything else,” he says, “except make doughnuts.” His doughnuts are of the classic, old-school style — dressed up in rich, sweet frostings, or not dressed at all. Hop on a café-style stool and watch him work his magic, using machinery that may be as old as he is.
Doughnut du jour: A plain cake doughnut, warm and fluffy.
The hole truth: Get there late in the day, and he’ll throw in some extras.
132 E. Fourth St., funkytowndonuts.com
After the runaway success of their original FunkyTown Donuts in the Near Southside, the Moors family opened this downtown location earlier this year, adding a component that makes it the first of its kind in the Fort: booze. Sip on local craft beer while tearing through some of the most inventive doughnuts in our city, from pumpkin cheesecake, to cotton candy, to blackberry lemon. The downtown location is open late on weekends and also serves a variety of coffee drinks.
Doughnut du jour: The Texan, topped with the topping to end all toppings: Heim BBQ brisket.
The hole truth: FunkyTown offers gluten-free and vegan flavors on Sundays and Wednesdays.
4861 Bryant Irvin Road, 817.423.0164
Easily one of the most popular doughnut shops in Fort Worth, Papa Yun is a family-owned spot in southwest Fort Worth that specializes in both straightforward and specialty doughnuts, such as bow-tie doughnuts and the elusive cronuts — part croissant, part doughnut. The partially open kitchen gives you a front-row seat to how the doughnuts are made, how intricately they’re decorated and how carefully they’re handled, each like a work of art. There’s also a full menu of breakfast-y items such as sausage rolls, strudel and breakfast burritos.
Doughnut du jour: A cronut topped with icing and sliced strawberries.
The hole truth: Many of the specialty doughnuts are made only on weekends.
1324 Hemphill St., 817.926.5500
New owners recently took over this south side mainstay, run for more than a quarter of a century by Hany “Paul” Sharaf, but little here has changed. Hospital workers, downtowners, hipsters and down-and-outers still all come together, in the wee hours of the morning, for simple yeast and cake doughnuts made and iced and candy-sprinkled as you watch. Unlike some doughnut shops, there’s a spacious dining room where you can mow down your doughnuts. Come back at lunch, and you’ll find a pretty good gyro.
Doughnut du jour: A chocolate glazed with candy sprinkles hits the spot every time.
The hole truth: Also for breakfast, Paul’s serves ginormous breakfast tacos.
5205 Wonder Drive, 817.263.8880
Named after the street upon which it sits, this longtime doughnut shop — open since 1995 — can be found in an old Dairy Queen in southwest Fort Worth, right next door to a bar that used to be a Pizza Hut. Owners Cindy and Kyung Moon have run the shop for most of their lives, pausing only for holidays and life events. “I open,” Kyung says. “She closes.” They’ve built quite the following: Even on slow days, they typically sell out of their mix of classic standbys and cool new flavors.
Doughnut du jour: An amazingly moist blueberry cake doughnut.
The hole truth: The freshly made jalapeño bread, sold by the loaf, is outstanding.
2919 Race St., facebook.com/kneadydoughnutsftw
You know Kneady’s going to be good based on one simple fact: They spelled “doughnut” right. New on the east side, Kneady is part of a wave of chef-inspired doughnut shops. Owners Tara McCartney and Delilah Oudomsouk opened their spot earlier this year, after the building’s previous occupant Good Food Co. — where McCartney was working — closed down. McCartney, a chef, and pal Oudomsouk took over, bringing chef-inspired creations to this pocket of east Fort Worth. McCartney takes a different approach to doughnuts, making raised doughnuts with yeast, cake doughnuts with baking powder and vegan doughnuts. A lot of thought, creativity and whimsy are put into flavors such as lemon honey, blueberry lemon cheesecake and chocolate sea salt.
Doughnut du jour: Milk and cookie, the perfect combo of crunchy and creamy.
The hole truth: Try a bite-sized, hand-folded Danish, filled with your choice of cheesecake, strawberry or s’mores.
By: Malcolm Mayhew