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The Best Donut Shops in Asheville—A Local’s Perspective

What is it about donuts that makes them so irresistible? Is it that signature shape? I don’t think so. You can’t taste shapes, and for that matter, just look at a Boston cream. Donut? Yes. Hole? No. The ramifications are extraordinary.

But returning to my main question, I decided to turn towards my hometown for answers: Asheville, Appalachia’s culinary bastion. I dove into the world of Asheville’s donuts, in search of above all else: the truth. And perhaps some free samples. After months of hardship, I return with all the information I have gathered, compiled into this guide to the best donut shops in Asheville. I can only hope my sacrifices have not been in vain.

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I was all up for trying some pate on my pastries, but as it turns out, this donut shop’s recipes are entirely duck-free. Which is probably for the best, in retrospect.

Originating from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Duck Donuts is a nationwide franchise. Usually I am critical of such large operations, but due to Duck’s partnerships with local nonprofits, I am willing to offer them an honorary certificate of localness.

Their donuts come dressed to impressed in festive combinations of coating and glaze, fan favorites including blueberry lemonade and maple-bacon. If you ask me though, the real raison d'etre here is their custom-order option, with which you could call into creation a peanut butter-Oreo-raspberry combo, and spend the rest of your day wondering why you were compelled to transgress the laws of dessert so wantonly, and indeed, why it was so delicious.

Located off Merrimon Avenue, Asheville’s north-south lifeline, their location has the dual advantage of being far away enough from downtown for easy parking, while still lying near enough to make for a convenient post-shopping-trip snack.

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Found practically in the middle of Asheville’s famous South Slope brewing district, Vortex offers an excellent variety of drinks. I don’t mean beer; they save their yeast and whatnot for the donuts. I mean espresso, tea curated by Dobra (a local favorite), and kombucha fermented by none other than buchi, my own preferred brand.

But y'all didn't come here for beverages, you came here for donuts, and so I will provide. Vortex offers the regular gambit—vanilla, sour-cream, and so on—alongside some truly intriguing varieties: mud-cake, vegan, and their signature "vortex," sure to suck you in with a classy chocolate-cinnamon combination, from which you will never be heard of again.

With Burial Beer, Green Man Brewing and the Funkatorium all just a short walk away—not to mention the new location of Asheville's award-winning Chai Pani—a stop here makes for an excellent prelude to visiting some of the South Slope's most famous sites.

Image by Upsplash

This entry takes us north along Merrimon Avenue, nearly at the gates of far-flung Woodfin.

Geraldine’s is a full-fledged bakery, offering far more than just donuts, but that's not to say they regard this whole-y delicacy as a simple sideshow. No, they show donuts the respect they deserve.

While not straying too far into experimental flavors, Geraldine’s clearly strives for a touch above one’s everyday fried-dough, baking donuts inlaid with sliced-almond, as well as their “Famous Frizster,” made Danish-style.

Accompanied by coffee from nearby Black Mountain’s Dynamite Roasting Company, Geraldine’s offers a break from the more energetic aesthetic of the downtown donut shops in Asheville, opting instead for a dense, sugary hominess.

Like Duck Donuts, this West Asheville donut shop has a custom-order option, but here’s the twist: Hole Doughnuts has an open kitchen, allowing you to see the action played out before your very eyes. Indisputably handmade, Hole Doughnuts are proudly lumpy and twisted, giving them visual charm, and by some mathematician's estimation, more surface area.

Their menu is to-the-point: vanilla glaze, cinnamon sugar, toasted almond-sesame, the weekly seasonal special, and coffee from PennyCup, a local small-batch roaster.

Of all the donut shops in Asheville, I find Hole Doughnuts to provide some of the most straightforward yet complex fare, and in their unapologetic dough-lumps lies an honesty I think we should all strive for.

best donuts in Ashville - fancy donuts
Image from Unsplash

This entry manages not only to cast its net far beyond that of a mere donut-shop—offering café fare for breakfast and lunch—but to also excel in the matter of fried dough.

This brings us back to the very start of this post: what is it about donuts anyways? I think the answer is novelty. On the surface, there’s nothing special about a ring of fried dough. But throw on some matcha glaze and pineapple drizzle, and there you have it: something delectably new. And that's just what you can find here at Stay Glazed. Chocolate-hazelnut, hummingbird-cake-cinnamon, lychee lemon-sesame; flavors beyond even my own wildest imaginings.

So if you got adventure in your soul, and donuts on your mind, you'd better check out this downtown café, located underground, just a short walk east from the Asheville Art Museum.

Businesses Mentioned

Duck Donuts

(828) 575-2177

182 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

Vortex Doughnuts

(828) 552-3010

32 Banks Ave #106, Asheville, NC 28801

Geraldine’s Bakery

(828) 252-9330

840 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804

Hole Doughnuts

(828) 774-5667

168 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806

Stay Glazed Donuts and Café

(828) 412-5718

22 S Pack Square, Asheville, NC 28801


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