Bar raised for donuts in Orange County
All photos by Melanie Kim/THE CHIMES
I experienced a case of deja-vu when I wandered into Donut Bar and gazed upon racks of fabulous, fluffy donuts. I had stood in a similar shop surrounded by similar donuts in downtown San Diego last August before interviewing owner Santiago Campa about the phenomenon his little shop had inspired in my hometown.
LOVE FOR THE CRAFT
Only this week, I stared down blood orange yeasted donuts and red velvet cake donuts in Fountain Valley as I awaited Hector Garcia, the executive chef and owner of Donut Bar’s first Orange County location. A self-described donut fanatic, it would be an understatement to say that Garcia simply likes his job. He and his wife Lily spend their days overseeing a donut-filled wonderland.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved donuts. My dad’s a truck driver, so every time he would go out across the country and come back, he would always come back with a box of donuts,” Garcia said. “My favorite donuts were the ones from Portland, Oregon, called Voodoo Donuts.”
Much like Voodoo Donuts, Donut Bar has received regional and national attention since the San Diego shop opened in March 2013. The Orange County location is no different from the original in the amount of press it attracts, Garcia said.
“San Diego’s only been open a year, we’ve been open for a little over a month and within that one year we’ve hit number 21 in the country for best donut shop by Thrillist magazine and [have received] all kinds of other press. USA Today just reached out to us last week, they want to put us in the top ten in the nation for best donut shops,” Garcia said. “That’s huge for a donut shop, we’re super thrilled about that.”
RAISING THE BAR
And that is the thing about Donut Bar — nothing is done on a small scale. Yeasted donuts bigger than your hand — or at least bigger than my hand — await customers every weekday morning when the shop opens at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on weekends. The cake donuts are nothing to sniff at either, elevating their type to a rich, moist donut bursting with flavor. Workers produce about 2,000 donuts every night to be sold each day, making the donuts, glazes, fillings and toppings from scratch, often from local produce.
“All our staff are real culinary artists. For our toppings, we make all our glazes here at home. On top of that, most donut shops will have a screen of 30 donuts and they’ll have a glaze table where they just glaze all of them at once — not our donuts. Each one is hand dipped, hand decorated and there’s a lot of love and labor involved in our donuts,” Garcia said.
In the donut world, Donut Bar is the proverbial raised bar. Though the flavors are familiar — key lime pie, bacon-maple, Nutella and lemon, to name a few — the presentation is thoroughly sophisticated. Though $2-3 per donut seems steep when the average donut shop offers a few donuts for that price, I assure you every bite is worth each penny spent. Other donuts instantly pale in comparison to the perfection achieved by this donut-lover’s haven.
May their lines stay long, and may you be in them before heading home for the summer. Just be sure to arrive early as they often sell out by noon.