It was a rainy, gloomy Saturday. My family and I were going about our normal Saturday morning routines; my dad was reading the paper while sipping his coffee, my mom was shifting through her emails, my sister was deep into her weekend school work, and I was still in bed. At around 12:30, I awoke to the sound of my cousin’s car pulling up to my house in the gravel driveway. They came to spend the day with us hanging out and watching the Miami and UVA football game. I got myself out of bed and arrived downstairs only to hear conversations about what to do about food. I proposed the idea to find Richmond’s best donut shop. Soon I found myself driving around Richmond to pick up donuts from Westhampton Bakery, Sugar Shack, and Dixie Donuts.
First up was Westhampton Bakery, or Westhampton Pastry Shop, as it is officially called. This place was disappointing in terms of atmosphere. The moment you walk in, instead of the smell of delicious pastry being baked, the only thing you can smell is cigarettes. Westhampton is not visually appealing either. The display cases must be from the 1970’s at best, and although many claim their pastries to be delicious, I did not find them to be all that visually appealing. When I asked about their donuts, I found that they only had glazed for that day. So, glazed it is.
Next stop was Dixie Donuts in Carytown. This place is pretty hard to miss, with the giant donut on the side of their building. My experience here began its downward spiral once I parked in their parking lot. I walked into an empty donut shop with one employee working, as far as I could tell. This was my first time visiting Dixie Donuts, and boy, was I disappointed. The server said, “We’re almost sold out for the day.” To which I said, “Why not make more donuts, if that’s the case?” She responded with a simple shrug of her shoulders. One would think that a donut shop would not be running low on inventory at around noon on a Saturday. The atmosphere inside Dixie Donuts was also very boring. I must say that if you see a donut shop with a massive donut on it, you would think that it would be equally as crazy inside. All you have is a basic case of donuts, which in my case was nearly empty, and a cash register. I left with cinnamon sugar and chocolate gingerbread donuts.
Last stop was Sugar Shack on Parham Road. I have plenty of experience here. I go to Sugar Shack at least once a week, which is usually to get snack for my advisory. I must say that I quite like this place. They have some of the most outlandish donuts you could possibly think of, and inside the place is pretty cool as well. All the employees are great when it comes to service. They are fast and extremely friendly and give great explanations about the different donuts they offer. They always have some kind of good alternative music playing, string lights going across the ceiling, and modern color choices throughout. I left with glazed, cinnamon sugar, and maple bacon donuts.
After arriving back home, I shared where I went and what I got with everyone. Immediately, my older cousin, Catherine, retorted, “Dixie Donuts sucks; they’re so lame. I’m not eating any of those.” She told me that after she moved here, her neighbors in the Fan told her to go to Dixie Donuts. She said, “I’m going to have to talk to my neighbors about this because I am really unimpressed.” Dixie Donuts was no one’s favorite. No one liked that they have cake donuts instead of the yeast donuts, which are more fluffy. Overall, Dixie Donuts came in last place among the competition.
Westhampton’s donuts received quite a lot of praise from my mom. She said that the glazed donut was, “Perfect in texture, and the glaze really makes it special, with a hint of lemon that provides a contrasting tartness that serves to actually increase the sweetness.” Westhampton Pastry Shop received a good second place in our tests.
Rather unsurprising, to me at least, Sugar Shack won the competition. My sister Brigid (’17) said that Sugar Shack’s glazed donut “has a nice and crispy outside and a perfectly fluffy inside, and the flavor is great as always.” My dad liked Sugar Shack’s maple bacon donut as well. He said, “This one wins hands down. It’s good enough on its own, but the salty-bacon and sweet-caramel and maple flavors of the donut, juxtaposed with the doughy warmth and creamy cold, creates a confluence of contrasts that are indescribably satisfying.” My dad gave Sugar Shack’s maple bacon donut his “M.U.D.” award (Most Underrated Donut). He says, “The only thing that would make it better would be if it were served heated with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.”
As for my favorite, well, I’m a simple man. I do not get into all the crazy different flavors and toppings that are put on donuts. Or any food, for that matter. Just give me a nice glazed donut from Dunkin’ Donuts, and I’m happy. However, of the three I tasted that Saturday, Sugar Shack has my vote.
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All photos by Rick O’Shea.