Fried, sweet dough is always hard to resist.
And, it’s that tantalizing allure that beckons me to drag my bleary-eyed husband to Hole Doughnuts in West Asheville on a Saturday morning. The line snakes out of the quaint, New Orleans shotgun-style donut shack off Haywood Road and spills out onto the patio where some donut revelers are already enjoying their pastry purchase on the picnic tables.
The wait gives you some time to study the baby blue Hole Doughnuts vintage truck parked out front and the line moves quickly enough into the confines of the shop to understand why so many people are packed between the shiplap walls waiting for their puffed pastry.
Hole Doughnuts only offers four varieties of donuts daily: vanilla glazed, cocoa rub, toasted almond sesame cinnamon, and a rotating seasonal flavor. The employee at the register proclaims excitedly with explanation that Hole Doughnuts recently mastered the addition of a fruit topping to the doughnuts, an achievement that had previously evaded the master donut makers, but we politely demur at the suggestion of the seasonal and opt for the three regular flavors.
We pay and move to the left of the counter, joining a long line that snakes down the length of the shotgun-style shop that runs parallel to the open kitchen. Really, in fact, there is hardly a barrier between kitchen and customers as a line of vintage swivel stools run alongside where the employees are making each order of doughnuts as they roll in from the register.
With the purchase of a donut, you get invited to a free show, almost an old-fashioned donut theater if you will, that plays out in front of your eyes as you wait. There are the “actors”: an employee in a porkpie hat in the left corner, silently rolling out the sweet, yeast dough made from organic Lindley Mills stone ground flour and cage-free eggs. And there’s another woman, standing next to him stretching each ring of dough into its irregular shape as another employee dips the batch into the rice bran oil to fry the doughnuts and flips them with drumsticks as they turn golden.
The fry-to-order ethos plays out in enough time probably to take in half of a real theater production and also probably gives you enough time to enjoy your cup of PennyCup coffee. In fact, it takes nearly 25 minutes to receive our order of three donuts; the moment the employee yells out our name and hands us our white paper sack, we can hardly wait to gnash our teeth into our purchase like we’ve been starving and anticipating the intermission.
The Hole donuts are larger than your average glazed Krispy Kreme. If KK is the standard, then Hole donuts is its quirky, irregular-shaped crackled cousin. The donuts are bulbous, a touch sweet, but not overly so, and give lots of chewy bounce when you finally sink your chompers into them. The cocoa rub is dusted with cocoa powder and gives a hint of chocolate flavor from between the donut’s nooks and crannies. The toasted almond sesame cinnamon is even better, a pleasing combination of savory and sweet, and its crunch provides a nice foil to the pillowy yeast donut.
Bon Appetit recently and boldly declared Hole Doughnuts’ Molasses Bourbon donut as its “Favorite Doughnut of the Year” in 2016. Are the donuts that good? Perhaps so, but there’s only one way to find out— you will have to judge for yourself by eating one.
HOLE DOUGHNUTS | 168 Haywood Road Asheville NC 28806 | 828.774.5667