The Arlington Files: The Donut Shoppe
I’ll be honest – Arlington is not a hotbed of culinary excitement. Even the extended areas of Regency and “Down University” seem to be one never ending strip mall filled with fast food, megachains and questionable Chinese buffets. However, we have one thing that you can’t get anywhere else in Jax – the best doughnuts. Ever.
Not too long ago, The Man and I tried to move. We thought, even at the depth of the housing crisis, it would be worth our time and money to try to get to Riverside. We had “grown up” there as 20-somethings slurping Chocolate Frosted Sugarbombs at Fuel and being Zambonied out of Club Five long after last call. For any serious foodie, Riverside/Avondale is still the place to be. I had idyllic visions of our family biking to the RAM and strolling down St. Johns to munch Peterbrooke Chocolates after my well behaved children silently ate lunch at ‘town. Alas, it was not to be. Shockingly, a house in Arlington wasn’t anyone else’s dream last year either – even one with an 8×10 raised bed garden and just .7 miles to the elementary school.
After we decided to stay, I made the effort to try to find somewhere great in my neighborhood. There’s a lot to love here if you’re diligent and brave. Lewey’s Crab House gives us three dozen live crabs for $30, there’s a nice, clean Popeye’s here and if you’ve forgotten how good those biscuits are, I’m here to remind you. We have a spanking new Wendy’s on Merrill, which I prefer among all the drive-thru burger chains. But, even with all this, there was nothing I could really get excited about. Even after 11 years of residence, I had yet to find passion in Arlington. Then, I tried the doughnuts.
Notice the ethereal glow…
The Donut Shoppe is located in a little building on University near JU that depends on the gas station next door for overflow parking. It’s not new – the Donut Shoppe has been serving up the awesome since 1962. It’s a hole in the wall – a tiny little place that will rock your world. We may not have boutique cupcake stores or purveyors of wheat grass extract, but gosh darn it, those doughnuts are beyond amazing. I’ve tried the apple fritter, chocolate covered, chocolate Bavarian, eclairs, chocolate cake doughnuts and more, but the original glazed is the true star. Imagine everything you love about a Krispy Kreme – on steroids. So fluffy, so sweet, so delicious – as you bite into it, the fluff is almost marshmallow-like in its airy lightness. It leaves one with the impression that this is the essence – nay – the idea of a doughnut, floating in time and space and held in the here and now only by a thin veneer of crispy glaze.
I will say, without equivocation, that these are the best doughnuts in Jacksonville. I would put their quality and general deliciousness up against any pastry in Jacksonville. I have never had a better doughnut anywhere. As a little kid, I went on a field trip to a Krispy Kreme and stood at the end of the production line. My little 8-year-old bird mouth took in a doughnut that was still warm and the glaze still liquid. It doesn’t get any fresher, but it pales – PALES, I SAY! – in comparison to a Donut Shoppe glazed. I would sooner eat a three day old Donut Shoppe glazed than a just-born Krispy Kreme. That’s how good they are.
How do you get these beautiful little rings of heaven? Well, you can hang up the idea of moseying over after work or on your lunch hour. The Shoppe opens at 5 a.m. and, though they are open until 1 p.m., you’d better be standing in line with cash-in-hand before 9 a.m. or you will be sorely disappointed. The store operates on a cash-only basis and they ALWAYS run out of doughnuts. Prices vary, but we got out of there with a dozen doughnuts, an apple fritter and an eclair for a little over $10. Bring a twenty and go wild – after all, you just can’t get these in Riverside.
Apple Fritter – very NOM!
The Donut Shoppe is located at 1721 University Blvd. North in Arlington. There is no website, but you can give them a call at 743-1844.
In any other pastry shop, this eclair would be the star – light, creamy, chocolatey awesomeness. She is only out-shined by the simplistic perfection of the humble glazed doughnut.
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all images copyright © 2011 by jodi a. kasten • all rights reserved