By Madison Rutherford
Before opening the first Donut Bar in San Diego in 2013, Chef Santiago Campa’s biggest struggle was strategizing how to put a twist on the classic confection, which he says “hadn’t been touched in years.”
Campa quickly proved there’s a lot more to donuts than icing and sprinkles. He says Donut Bar, which also has a location in Las Vegas, serves fried dough delicacies that are “good for the soul.” The small chain pushes the limits of the sweet snack, serving a cornucopia of creative flavors that are as aesthetically appealing as they are appetizing.
Last month, Campa opened his first Arizona location at the bustling Scottsdale Promenade, which has rapidly become a popular destination for donut-lovers of all ages. Modern lighting fixtures and pink neon signs make for great photo ops for Instagram-obsessed Millennials, youngsters will drool over the colorful Cookie Monster and Unicorn donuts and the 21-and-over crowd will appreciate the fact that yes, Donut Bar does have an actual bar. What better way to put a spin on the classic breakfast treat than pairing it with booze?
Donut Bar’s Scottsdale location boasts eight local brews on tap, including Huss Brewing Company’s Koffee Kolsch and Scottsdale Blonde, Papago Brewing Company’s Orange Blossom and Four Peaks’ Kilt Lifter. Patrons can also opt to wash down their donuts with a pineapple, mango or traditional mimosa.
Behind the donut displays is a giant window into the kitchen where customers can see the pastries being prepared. To the right is a small flattop griddle where French toast and grilled cheese donuts are fried up. Loud Top 40 music adds to the trendy ambience. Donut Bar merch is also available at the Scottsdale store – everything from growlers and pint glasses to T-shirts and golf balls emblazoned with the Donut Bar logo are for sale.
Of course, no donut destination is complete without coffee, and Donut Bar doesn’t disappoint. Along with drip coffee and espresso drinks, Donut Bar serves nitro cold brew – coffee steeped at cool temps and infused with nitrogen for a creamy finish. Try the house specialty (nitro cold brew, cream and coconut syrup) for a sweet version of the usually bitter beverage.
Donut Bar also does it a little differently when it comes to its hours. Every morning, the bakery/bar makes a batch of nearly three dozen different donut flavors from a rotating list (Campa claims he has nearly 100 donut recipes). Instead of making more to meet the demand, the store closes when it sells out of donuts to ensure they’re always fresh.
Flavors range from traditional to over-the-top – choose from crispy, sugar-dusted crullers to Nutella-stuffed cake donuts to maple bacon éclairs and just about everything in between. Spiced chai, red velvet, Twix and birthday cake Oreo are also options. Pair the blood orange donut with a pint of Papago Brewing Company’s Orange Blossom for a citrus fix or balance the excessively sweet cake batter donut (covered in cake batter glaze, buttercream and sprinkles) or “Big Poppa Tart” (stuffed with a Kellogg’s Pop Tart and drizzled with cake batter glaze, crumbled Pop Tarts and sprinkles) with a cold brew. Fans of The Simpsons will appreciate Homer’s Donut, an ode to the cartoon character’s favorite food. The crème de la crème, however, is the crème brûlée donut, filled with sweet custard and covered in caramelized sugar.
Most of the pastries are pretty sugary, but if super sweet isn’t your style, the eatery also offers several savory options, such as the Monte Cristo – a griddled donut sandwich stuffed with Black Forest ham, Swiss and American cheeses and house-made berry compote. While Donut Bar’s donuts aren’t vegan, it does pride itself on using plant-based shortening instead of animal fat.
The menu changes daily, but one thing’s for sure – there are always plenty of options and a few twists at Donut Bar.