We need to talk about the donut situation. I know there are greater problems facing us right now, but also, from another perspective, no there aren’t.
For years, the standard was that donut shops were open 24 hours a day. That’s how they came to be associated with cops, alcoholics, and other people whose professions have them up all night. It was good and proper, and it rebutted the pernicious falsehood that donuts are a “breakfast food.”
But a new type of donut shop has begun to proliferate that flouts the norms of society, capitalism, and decency. Instead of being open 24 hours, or even something reasonable like 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., they are open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. or until they run out of donuts, whichever comes first. That means sometimes you might want a donut during normal business hours yet be unable to get one because the place that sells them just, you know, doesn’t have any.
But wait, it gets worse. Some of these lazy shops that make a batch of donuts in the morning and then are too exhausted to do anything else, once they have depleted their donut supply, will stay open till closing time anyway. Why? In case someone wants to buy a cup of coffee. That means sometimes you pull up to the donut shop and are happy to see that they are still open, but then you go inside and find that they do not have any donuts, even though they are open and a donut shop. Then you turn into the Hulk, smash your fists against the empty display case, and leave a swath of destruction as you stomp away to hurl yourself into the sea.
I’m sorry, but this is America. When I drive to the donut shop, I shouldn’t have to cross my fingers and HOPE that they have donuts when I get there. Of course they’ll have donuts: they are a donut shop. If they sell all the donuts they made that morning, they’ll make more donuts. That’s how this works.
You wouldn’t accept this in any other situation. “Let’s go to Outback Steakhouse.” “Ooh, I hope they have steak!” If you walked up to an Outback and found that they closed early today because they ran out of steak — or worse, ran out of steak but stayed open in case someone wanted to buy a potato — you’d be justified in angrily phoning the CEO (Australia P. Outback) and asking what the hell kind of operation they’re running over there. You wouldn’t just say, “Aw, shucky-darn, no steak for me today. Better luck next time!”
A donut shop like this assumes its wares are tasty enough to justify the emotional rollercoaster involved in obtaining them. But they are not. I can make that blanket statement because NO donuts are tasty enough to compensate for such cruel mind games. Given the choice between B+ donuts that are a sure thing and A+ donuts that might not be there when I arrive, I will choose the former every time. Donuts should be a source of comfort in these times of anxiety and uncertainty, not a further cause of it. I SAID GOOD DAY.
My attitude toward all bakeries, restaurants, and other food emporia is that while I am pleased to purchase and consume their delectables, when it comes down to it, they need me more than I need them. Eating at a restaurant is nice, but it’s not like I’ll starve otherwise. There’s food everywhere! The grocery stores are full of it! So if the wait for a table at a restaurant is more than 15 minutes, and if I have any say in the matter (which I usually don’t, for this reason), then I say let’s go somewhere else. Why wait? Food is abundant! There’s probably another place that sells it less than 100 yards from here.
Here in Portland (city motto: “Whites Only”), the most popular ice cream parlor is Salt & Straw. During the summer, there is frequently a line out the door, which is absurd. We live in a land of plenty. There is no reason to wait in line for food. Portland has several ice creameries that are just as tasty as Salt & Straw (like Ruby Jewel), just as locally sourced and tenderly milked from consenting cows, but that aren’t overcrowded with customers who only went there because they saw the long line and figured that must mean it’s the best.
As ice cream is to Portland, so is barbecue to Austin (city motto: “Sorry About the Rest of Texas, Y’all”). Boy howdy, people in Austin love their barbecue. They speak of nothing else. I have never had a conversation in Austin that did not end with everyone slathered in sauce.
There’s this one place, Franklin’s, that’s like those infernal donut shops in that they make one giant batch of meat early in the morning and that’s it, no more, we’re spent. And since Franklin’s is very popular, the only way to get meat is to be there when they open, which means getting in line before dawn. Out of bed and in line to purchase smoked meats hours before you’ll be hungry to eat it! And you might not even get any! Despite your efforts, you might be too late to win the meat lottery. This is no way to live, friends.
Is it good barbecue? Yes, very. Is it worth getting up early and waiting in line for? You will by now have discerned my answer to this question. It’s just food, you guys. We are surrounded by food, and in Austin, we are surrounded by barbecue. You don’t need to go to Franklin’s.
Have you ever had good barbecue — I mean, really, really good barbecue? You have? Well, it tastes like that.
Now, please don’t take these denunciations to mean I look down on people who enjoy waiting in line for basic services, or that I think they are fools who waste their time, or that I believe I am better than they are. All of these things are true, but please don’t think that I think them. We need to be unified as we face the crises of our day, including the new Oreo flavors, which have gotten way out of hand.
[ Since you asked, the Portland donut shops that sometimes don’t have donuts during business hours are Coco and Blue Star. Avoid them unless you are going first thing in the morning. Same goes for Annie’s, which is better-stocked but not as good.
Voodoo Doughnut is open 24 hours, and while their gimmicky donuts that attract tourists are OK, their regular donuts are quite good. Heavenly Donuts is also open 24 hours, but is hit-or-miss in terms of quality.
Tonalli’s has terrific donuts and is open until midnight! I have wandered in as late as 11:30 and found plenty of selection remaining. They also sell ice cream, but it’s just Umpqua brand (which is fine, but you can buy it in a grocery store).
My favorite donuts in Portland, and the most reliable, are at Helen Bernhard Bakery. They close at 6 p.m. and have everything in stock (give or take one or two items) the whole time. Helen’s donuts are tasty, moist, crunchy where appropriate, and inexpensive. They have my fat, sticky seal of approval. ]