by Thomas Skala and Sarah Jones
We ate at every donut shop in the city of Akron in one morning. It was our first and last time.
It may not be the first thing you notice when you first walk in, but once you take note of the 15-inch-tall, automated Santa shimmying his hips to a continuous loop of “Jingle Bell Rock,” you will be distracted for the remainder of your stay. It is a haunting soundtrack of our slow descent into madness. We avoid madness by following the lead of the kind ladies working behind the counter (Hi, Barb!). They are the kind purveyors of the North Hill Crestnut. For $1.25 you can enjoy this delightful local version of the Cronut, a New York fusion pastry that had Manhattanites waiting in lines a couple years back. No lines here, though!
9:49 am: North Hill Donuts, 662 E Tallmadge Ave
Bring cash to North Hill Donuts. This isn’t just because it’s all they accept, but you’re also going to want a fistful of quarters for the BIG CHOICE claw machine tucked away in the southwest corner of the shop. It’s only 25 cents per play. I will be back for you, purple dragon.
Instead of five BIG CHOICE plays, you can get a chocolate kreme stick. Why? Because—unlike five quarters—they are fluffy, soft, and sweet (but not too sweet). This place will also make you a giant donut the size of a donut spare in case you need to get on an eight-year-old’s good side. BONUS: They also sell five-gallon buckets and won’t ask you what you need them for.
10:15 am: Jubilee Donuts, 2126 S Main St
We enter at the end of a heartfelt monologue from the young woman behind the cash register pining about how inhumane it is to keep iguanas in small enclosures. A retirement-aged man walks past us on his way out. “Have a rotten day,” he cheerfully says to the regulars at the counter. “You have a rotten day,” comes the rejoinder. This place seems fun!
The manager suggests we have the peanut butter crème stick, knowing full well that we just had the competitor’s “kreme” stick. The manager knows what she’s talking about. In our opinion, this is the superior k/crème stick. Maybe that’s why it got to keep the correct spelling. The peanut butter adds to the depth of flavors. This stick is less sweet than North Hill Donuts’ and has a savory element from the peanut. We’re also going to assume that the peanut butter adds some protein or something.
10:46 am: Sugar and Slice, 625 Grant St
Driving south on Grant Street, one is offered a variety of hedonistic diversions: Student housing, Aqueduct and Thirsty Dog Breweries, Bottoms Up Gentlemen’s Club, The US Post Office (currently 2.1/5 stars on Google Maps). But you may have missed this jewel. Sugar & Slice makes both pizza and donuts in a creative attempt to corner the Akron market on unhealthy circular foodstuffs. They do not yet make pizza donuts, but we better get credit if that item ends up on the menu.
Probably due to a sugar rush, we’re running ahead of schedule. Sugar & Slice doesn’t open until eleven. But general manager Ron lets us in for a little VIP treatment. There’s no internal dining area, just a pick-up area of about five by ten feet. There is, however, a drive-thru so you can score a quick dozen on your way to the strip club. Make it rain donuts.
Nothing about this place is trying to be normal. Including the toppings. We go with a Fruity Pebbles donut, although we could have gotten one with bacon and a maple glaze. Why didn’t we get the maple bacon donut? This entire excursion was a terrible idea. Of course individual pieces will be bad.
The donuts are a reasonable size—half that of a “normal” donut—and less likely to induce guilt. Unlike other shops, they’re customizable. Pick your toppings as you would for a pizza. Also pick toppings for your pizza.
It’s not even noon and we’re already starting to get worn out. Seeking a simple, safe alternative, we go with the traditional glazed standard. It will set you back a buck-o-nine. Probably. Adult-onset diabetes is beginning to affect the group’s vision. “There’s something about a Krispy Kreme donut that tastes like home,” says Sarah as she bites into a donut that presumably tastes of drywall and hardwood floors. We finish our donuts and move on to the final stop.
11:35 am: Dunkin Donuts, 1712 W Market St, Across from the ghost of West Point Market
Dunkin Donuts is spacious and clean—the perfect location for a First Communion celebration for your third and least favorite child. There’s free WiFi, but pornographic websites are blocked. Conversely, competitors’ websites are accessible. At the suggestion of the donut attendant behind the counter, we go with Butternut donut: three dollars’ worth of sugar conveniently condensed into a 99-cent donut. “Whoo! It smells so sweet,” exclaims Sarah as Thomas looks on in muted horror. Best washed down with in-house iced coffee or a Bloody Mary from The Eye Opener a few doors down.
A Bloody Mary does sound good. We should have done a sampling of those around Akron. Next time, maybe.
(Photos by John R. Aylward)