Doughnuts never left Utah, but during the past decade they have taken a back seat to other trendy treats, from mini cupcakes and macarons to red velvet everything.
Deep-fried dough, though, is hot again.
“Doughnuts are back, for sure,” explained Darla Milligan, owner of Darla’s Donuts in West Valley City. “They are really at the forefront right now.”
Milligan believes part of the rise in popularity has to do with the state’s changing demographics. “A lot of people are moving in from other states," where there are many more doughnut shops per capita and it’s common to enjoy a rounded cake with your morning coffee.
Utah isn’t the only place with a renewed fascination for doughnuts. Earlier this year, the National Restaurant Association listed “doughnuts with nontraditional fillings” as one of the top 20 food trends for 2018.
Blame for some of the frenzy goes to Voodoo Doughnuts, the Portland-based gourmet doughnut company that has developed a cultlike following across the United States. It currently has eight locations in five states — Oregon, Colorado, Texas, California and Florida — and thousands of social media followers, thanks to its punk-rock atmosphere and menu of quirky doughnuts like the Voodoo doll-shaped raspberry doughnut with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stick for poking your edible effigy.
“To me, it feels like Utah is booming with doughnuts and bakeries,” said 30-year-old Braden Thompson, one of the organizers of Saturday’s Utah Donut Fest, a benefit for the Utah Food Bank. If you haven’t bought your $5 ticket, you’re out of luck. All 450-plus tickets for the event were sold weeks ago — another sign that the Salt Lake Valley is delirious for doughnuts.
Thompson and his partner Casey Wilson, 28, are the authors of “The Ultimate Guide to Utah’s Best Donuts,” which lists Utah doughnut shops and names the best in various categories from glazed to filled to frosted. They decided to organize the festival because they wanted to eat their favorite doughnuts side by side, something that’s hard to do when you want to eat the treats warm and fresh.
What have they discovered through the project? “There’s no such thing as a bad doughnut,” said Thompson. “There are just some that are better than others.”
For those who don’t have a ticket to the Utah Donut Fest, here are five unexpected places to visit instead.
2278 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City; 801-975-6381 or https://www.darlasdonuts.com/ Open Monday-Friday, 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7 am. to noon.
Owner Darla Milligan started working in the bakery of a grocery store when she was 18. She went out on her own a decade ago, opening Darla’s in a strip mall near 2100 South and Redwood Road. Like most artisan doughnut makers, she is dedicated to her craft, getting to the shop at 2 a.m. to mix, shape and fry doughnuts to perfection. She offers all the traditional kinds — from regular glazed to chocolate frosted — but the shop has several specialties including the root beer float, topped with whipped cream; the blueberry crumb sprinkled with crumbled blueberry cake; the hand-chopped apple fritters; and the croissant sticks — Darla’s version of the cronut.
2194 W. 3500 South, West Valley City; 385-528-0782 or https://www.donutboyutah.com/ Open Monday-Saturday, 6 am. to 1 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The glass case here offers a colorful mix of interesting flavors, from chocolate marshmallow s’more and German chocolate to tiramisu and Nutella with almonds. There are doughnuts filled with peanut butter and jelly and others stuffed with strawberry cream cheese. “I think we’re the only Utah shop that has some of these unique flavors,” said owner Guille Castillo, who opened the shop in 2015. Castillo and her family come in just after midnight to start the dough and have it ready in time for the store’s 6 a.m. opening. Bargain shoppers should stop by early and look for the day-old table where doughnuts are $7.25 a dozen, said Castillo. “Those go fast.”
213 E. 12300 South, Draper; 801-790-2615 or https://www.facebook.com/DonutstarUtah/ Open 24/7.
Got a late-night craving for doughnuts? This shop, in the Draper Peaks Shopping Center, is open every day, all day. “We’re only closed three days during the year: Christmas, New Year’s Day and Easter,” said Jack Svedeen, who co-owns the shop with his father and brother. “We’re even open on Thanksgiving.” Svedeen said Donut Star is a large franchise in California, but the Utah operation has been allowed to use the name because the owners are friends. The shop has all the traditional glazed and cake flavors, several types of doughnut holes, apple fritters, bear claws, giant chocolate-cinnamon twists — called tiger tails — and cronuts, a cross between a doughnut and croissant.
Fresh Donut & Deli
2699 S. State St., South Salt Lake; 801-467-8322 or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fresh-Donut-Deli/111913162205283. Open Monday-Saturday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are no exotic flavors at this shop, said Brenda Le, co-owner with her husband, Wilson. “We make traditional, old-fashioned doughnuts." The couple bought the old Winchell’s on State Street nearly two decades ago — Wilson had previously worked with his brother in a San Francisco bakery. Since then, this tiny eight-seat shop has become a favorite stop for those craving a light and fluffy glazed doughnut, maple bars and apple fritters. Beware the doughnut holes — it’s easy to consume half a dozen of these melt-in-your-mouth treats before you actually make it to the office.
the big O doughnuts
248 W. 900 South, Salt Lake City; 385-770-7024 or thebigodoughnuts.com. Open Wednesday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No need to forgo deep-fried dough just because you’re vegan. All the doughnuts — both raised and cake options — are made without eggs, milk, butter or other animal products and are fried in palm oil, which is certified sustainable. The shop next to Vertical Diner, another favorite vegan eatery in Salt Lake City’s Central 9th neighborhood, sells two sizes — Big O and Little O — in most flavors including regular glazed, blueberry lavender, rose water and orange cardamom. Coffee from Blue Copper, up the street, and Utah-based The Queens' Tea are available, as are fresh-made Rice Krispie treats that are gluten-free.