When I go to the donut shop, I always give a chance to that original, plain looking cake donut. There are fancier and more attractive looking donuts. Crème filled kinds and those with powdered sugar on tops. The long ones with the funny name. The bear claws and all those others don’t seem too much like donuts and more like desserts. But I like the old-fashioned cake donut with its cracks and ordinary shape.
I also like it when there’s a sign out front that mentions that old-fashioned offering, and I like it when the spelling is doughnut. When I see all this, I know I entered a place that knows what it has to offer and is proud of it.
I like coming up to a counter where there are lines of donuts waiting to be picked. The simple kinds of counters that you know the store hasn’t updated since the day they opened. The Formica tops are faded in sections where donuts have long been passed from store owner to happy customer. The display a bit too high for toddlers to easily see all the offerings.
On the big display behind the counter, I like seeing donuts sitting on those long, rectangular yellow trays that I can see are also lined up on racks in the back kitchen. They remind me that there are simple steps involved in making simple food, made by simple people.
I think the old-fashioned donut goes best with a cup of black coffee. The two aren’t competing against each other for best taste or most memorable look. They know that they go with each other because that’s what they have done for generations.
In these uniquely American places, there is usually an immigrant, someone that came, or someone whose parents came to our country to begin from the ground up. Plain, old-fashioned caked donuts may have not even been a thing in their home, but they know how much we love them and how much our parents and grandparents love them, so they are dedicated to making a living making them for us.
They wake up in the dark, early hours of the mornings to make sure that their doors are always open before we head out to work. The coffee is always hot. The donut, always what you expect. Depending on where the owner grew up, sometimes you see cultural additions to the menu. Some offer breakfast burritos, others croissant sandwiches.
When not on the run, I like to sit in the bar stools at the counter or in a booth next to a large window facing the street. It seems like the same cast of characters makes its way through the doors each time I’m there. Like me, they also like going to a place that knows what it offers and does it well, day in and day out.
On a Saturday morning, when there isn’t an office meeting on the calendar and when the weekend needs something to help kick it off, a plain, old fashioned donut with a black coffee in a styrofoam cup is always a good thing.