Doughnut Safari 2002
[Editor's note: A correction ran concerning this story; see end of article.]
300 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.4195
639 22nd Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.789.5326
A Baker's Wife's Pastry Shop
4200 28th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.729.6898
Most people would say that the worst thing that happened on Great Doughnut Safari 2002 was my run-in with the Dirty Old Man of Bloomington. There I was, sitting in the window of the 90th Street Bosa Donuts, a plain cake doughnut and a glazed cruller before me, innocently trying to think whether the view out to the corner of Penn and 90th reminded me more of the Texas panhandle or the surface of the moon, if the surface of the moon had a lot of new filling stations. The twinkly-eyed man seemed nice enough when he asked to share my table, and I was filled with rushing love for the simple life, where $2 buys you sugar, caffeine, companionship, and a good 12 cents change. He claimed a career as a real estate evaluator, and he said a lot of people thought he should retire. Oh, people, we agreed. But there's just so much fishing a man can do in a year. Oh, fishing, we agreed. As two raisins in a mincemeat were we. But a man sees a lot in his line of work. Really? I settled in for harrowing tales of building-code violations. But no. The tea tray got pretty sticky and pretty icky pretty darn quick. One minute we were passing bathrooms with half-clad teens, and before you could say "dunk my cruller," the landscape was chock-a-block with nearly nude kimonoed lasses under hair dryers, couples in full coitus, and gratis go-rounds at north-side whorehouses. (Note to filth-minded centenarians: "Under a hair dryer" makes about as much sense to today's tender blossoms as "raisins in a mincemeat." Instead, proceed immediately to your local tattoo parlor for nose-tip tattoos of pop icon Celine Dion, as this is what all the kids most strongly desire.)
"Good luck!" I cried inexplicably, as I fled for the safer, more wholesome environs of downtown Minneapolis. And I think most people would say that that run-in with the dirty old man was the worst thing that happened. But that's because they didn't have to put any of the doughnuts from that place in their very own mouth that they've had since they were a little girl. That was the worst thing that happened. The worst. Crystalline, greasy, tasting like chemicals and mix, these were really bad doughnuts. My previous two stops, at a Donut Connection and at nearby Sunrise Donuts, were just as bad.
I had set out to get a lay of the doughnut landscape now that Krispy Kreme is coming. (For information about Mel-O-Glaze, a stellar south Minneapolis doughnut emporium that I've already covered in depth, see "Freeeom and the Sugar Doughnut," published September 22, 1999 and available at www.citypages.com/archive/.) And you know, to establish the groundwork for UPCHUKK! (Unified People Critical of, Hostile toward, and Ugainst Krispy Kreme!) I know. I'm the only person between the St. Croix and Red rivers who isn't right now crafting rose-petal garlands to welcome said doughnut chain. (Sometimes I think if you listen carefully in the night you can hear a million dreams braid together in one yearning voice, one haunting plea of 'Whom do I have to blow to finally get a chain restaurant established around here, and preferably in the wealthy suburbs?' Why, someone's been doing the work so you don't have to: Krispy Kremes are supposed to open in both Maple Grove on April 23 and the Mall of America early this summer.)
Ahem. With the god-awful doughnut competition they've got in the half-dozen suburban doughnut locations I tried for this story, no wonder membership in UPCHUKK! is so low. But there are some really excellent doughnuts in, strangely, more urban areas of Minneapolis, like in the middle of downtown, at Lone Doughnut Café, where they make all their doughnuts fresh every day. At Lone Doughnut I had a stand-up plain cake doughnut ($.55), a light and yeasty cruller, and a couple of others that were all pretty much flawless. And the experience was topped off by some good coffee and nice people-watching--the place is roughly on the corner of Second Avenue South and Fourth Street South, above Kieran's, and allows you to both spy on smokers outside and watch skyway sprinters within. I'd forgotten that you can tell who's an outsider in the skyways by their coats, because those people don't have offices to store their coats in. I love stuff like that. Oddly enough I also ended up loving the pastry equivalent of a Mounds candy bar: My favorite Lone doughnut turned out to be an ornately topped coconut/chocolate-drizzle concoction that didn't taste sickly or chemical or any of the things one associates with that thickness of topping.
Toppings were what struck me most on my recent visits to Blackey's Bakery, too. This Danish and Polish bakery, on 22nd Avenue Northeast in between University and Central, used to have only a very few doughnuts and a lot of artisan-made European baked goods of unusual sophistication and cheapness. Today Blackey's does a big doughnut business, and if you're given to such musings you can really get pretty gaga over the little European pastry habits that elevate these fresh, sweet, light little joys. For example, I had never had a chocolate-glazed long john worth having, in my whole entire life, till I had one at Blackey's: touched with rum, rich with imported chocolate, and resting on the sort of airy, eggy, simple pastry that dissolves on the tongue and inspires bite after bite to see if it really was that light--wow. The brown-sugar glaze on the cake doughnuts has a homemade burnt-butter tang that's so very pleasant; nut toppings taste just-toasted and so fresh. Filled doughnuts like one with a minced-peach-pie sort of filling send cardamom and cinnamon into the air when you pull them apart. Ooh, Blackey's. There is none better.
Unless you are a cake-doughnut purist, in which case you'll need to quit your job and move into the smallish space in front of the counter at A Baker's Wife's. Once you live there, you'll be able to purchase all the 42-cent beautiful, handmade, fresh, sweet-smelling, light, perfect perfect perfect cake doughnuts you'd ever want. True, small children in the neighborhood will call you the cake-doughnut monster and see your face in their dreams, but what will you care? You'll have the best cake doughnuts ever: honey-brown, crisp and ridgey on the bottom, slightly swollen this way and that with the true sign of home-making. They're substantial but light in the mouth and just cry out for a kitchen table and a cup of coffee. Which, funnily enough, are other things in the front of this little bakery that walks the strangest line between first-class pastry and rural-Brainerd atmosphere. Yet, as the doughnut monster, you'll have plenty of time to explore this dichotomy, living richly on buttery lemon bars with the substance of pure French tarts, and crumbly pecan tartlets as delicate as lace. Who knows? You might even figure out how to fashion coffee stir sticks into fangs and thereby frighten Krispy Kreme away. Sigh. I guess I just have to reconcile myself to the coming onslaught of stories about how locals are so happy about Krispy Kreme they're carving their heads into doughnuts and moving into their barbecues. Oh well. I guess worse things have happened.
Correction published May 2, 2002:
Owing to a reporting error, the original version of this article incorrectly stated that the Mel-O-Glaze Bakery, located at 4800 28th Ave. S. in Minneapolis, had closed. In fact, the bakery remains open and has merely relocated its retail operation around the corner. The address remains the same; the phone number is 612.729.9316. The above version of the story reflects the corrected text. City Pages regrets the error.
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