By Katherine Hamilton | email@example.com
Three new doughnut eateries have rolled their way into town: Fiction Donuts, The Donut Experiment, and Swillerbees. For the good of the public, I sacrificed my refined collegiate palette to find out which place provides the most flavor payout for the right price.
Let me start out by saying – after I finished doing journalistic “research” for this review, I was nervous-twitching from all the sugar, frosting and more sugar I consumed. But I’m not mad about it. Not one bit.
I went to each eatery undercover to ensure the most legitimate customer experience. Here are my thoughts:
I hopped in the car with my testing companion and made the short drive down U.S. 1 from downtown St. Augustine. Upon pulling into the shopping plaza, I already noticed a brazen red sign tucked in the corner, which read in all capitals ‘DONUTS.’ A generic sign; however, when entering the shop, I was struck with how non-generic the interior is.
The shop is book themed, hence the word ‘fiction’ in its title and has an entire mural dedicated playfully to famous novels. The busy printed walls are complimented by the clean, modern and rustic-accented décor of the rest of the shop.
But back to the doughnuts – I got six. And yes, I shared them and ate them over the span of the evening while cramming for a test. Not my best idea or the healthiest coping mechanism, but alas I’m here to tell the tale.
Maple bacon, milk chocolate earl grey, peanut butter jelly, cranberry sage, original glazed and chocolate glazed with homemade sprinkles: my taste buds were pulled in several directions.
The maple bacon, original glazed and chocolate glazed were all yeast-based doughnuts; while the frosting was well executed, leaving sugary scrumptious granules on my lips after each bite, the bready texture of the doughnuts themselves made my jaw tire of eating before I had even finished. The rest were cake doughnuts – and they took the cake, as some would colloquially say.
Dense, yet spongy texture with light vanilla tones as the base for each one, the cake doughnuts stayed relatively true to themselves despite the costume change. Cranberry sage tasted like an accident in the spice drawer, but the salty-sweet amalgamation of the homemade peanut butter frosting was a dangerous kiss. The tender notes of bergamot in the milk chocolate earl grey doughnut begged for an accompaniment of hot tea, classical music and a plush reading chair.
I will acknowledge, I went in the afternoon before closing, so the doughnuts were not at their freshest. But to be frank, I was not particularly pleased or disappointed. Fiction Donuts has a good concept going, but the location and the doughnuts themselves leave a little to be desired.
Fiction Donuts receives 2/5 Donut Holes.
The Donut Experiment
The Donut Experiment is admiringly dedicated to the ‘mad scientist’ theme. Murals of beakers and exposed hardware give an authentic and funky feel, accompanied with clipboard ‘formula’ order sheets and a teasing doughnut conveyor belt/assembly line.
But the real scientist is the customer, who gets to choose exactly how they the doughnuts turn out.
A variety of glazes, frostings, drizzles and topping are available in an endless amount of combinations. I felt so inspired by the freedom to give my input and decidedly ordered one doughnut with strawberry glaze and fruity pebbles and another with caramel glaze and bacon bits.
These were no ordinary doughnuts – they were hot doughnuts. A big difference.
The playful crunch of the fruity pebbles mixed with the subtle creamy pop of strawberry left my mouth watering, and bacon bits and sultry warm caramel made me question whether or not I could eat a room-temperature doughnut again in good conscience.
My companion let me sample her fresh-off-the-fryer chocolate glazed doughnut, and I felt like I’d dived head first into Wonka’s chocolate river.
I did indeed lick my fingers shamelessly in public, and I’d do it again.
All the doughnuts are on the smaller side, so ordering more than one or two…or three isn’t something to be ashamed of – not that I would be anyways, nor should you.
The Donut Experiment received 3.5/5 Donut Holes.
Ahh, the last stop along my carb-filled adventure, but not least in the slightest. A perfect location for tourists, faculty and students alike, Swillerbees is tucked next to Claude’s Chocolates and a ghost tour shop and possesses a sprightly, wood accented, sponge painted interior which makes you want to sit for a while with friends and chat.
While they have other food and coffee options, the extensive glass display shelves of what can only be described as voluptuous doughnuts, overflowing with creative toppings and flavors, are the star of the café.
My personal favorite is the Miami Vice – a clever take on traditional Cuban combination of guava and cheese. Topped with an appropriately sized swirl of guava, the yeast doughnut hides a soft cream cheese frosting secret within, which I pleasantly discovered a bite or two in, and which kept me coming back for more. For the review, I also sampled a plain chocolate doughnut, despite my tendency and preference to gravitate towards decadence. Even without the frills and ribbons, Swillerbees does right by the originals.
I’ve tried a few other flavors, like the blueberry almond cheesecake and the seasonal apple pie crumb, and I have yet to be disappointed. The only complaint I can see having is that the doughnuts might be too heavy or sugary for more delicate eaters – but personally, I wouldn’t know what it’s like to have that problem. However, one doughnut is definitely enough to satiate anyone’s sugar craving.
Swillerbees receives 4/5 Donut Holes.