“Donuts!” The children shrieked before I had even finished my sentence. “Listen!” I said in a loud whispering, motherly sort of tone. “We are on a mission to find the best donut in St. Augustine. We are donut detectives! We are going to be sneaky.”
There is nothing a three-year-old enjoys more than repeating the word sneaky with the best mischievous expression on her face, and that is just what my toddler did. Then her older brother renewed their “Donuts!” chant, and the two of them paraded around the room in the direction of their shoes. Clearly, neither had yet mastered the concept of sneaky. No matter—off we went.
We headed downtown on a cloudy, cool morning. We found a parking space on a side street lined with brick, and the children did a combination of idyllic hand-holding and sibling squabbling as we meandered to our first stop.
The Detectives Investigate: Swillerbees
*UPDATE* The location in St. Augustine permanently closed but their location in Flagler Beach is still up and running!
There, behind a glass case, sat a series of large, fat donuts. They were covered over with fancy frills and colorful toppings. They looked, gourmet. They looked exotic. The mini-detectives and I took note that they looked like they belonged in our mouths.
The lady behind the counter gave the tot—who was salivating over a pink donut dubbed “unicorn poop”—a kind smile. The boy dipped his tongue into a beautiful dollop of whipped cream set prettily at the top of his donut and began to squabble with the tot over the unicorn poop. I got curious and gave the unicorn poop a try, and it was delightful. Swillerbees is really onto something here—kids already think poop is hilarious to talk about, and now it is also delicious.
Afterward, we hauled our donut box to the van, because we were being sneaky. “We are donut detectives,” I reiterated, “We don’t want the other donut places to find out we are investigating them.” The children nodded, starting to grasp the gravity of the situation. Donuts are serious business. While holding the tot with one hand, a donut box with the other, and the wind blowing my hair in my face with no free hand to remove it, we dropped off that donut box. On we went to stop number two.
The Detectives Investigate: The Donut Experiment
We entered the small building and saw a long table set to the side of the room. It called to the children with its coloring books and other child-friendly materials. I took a seat in a chair, selected my mini-pencil and an order form, and set to work ordering our donuts in between the tot showing me every page in a superhero coloring book.
“Yep, that’s Batman,” I muttered as I perused the form. There set before me in words was a buffet of donut toppings—a donut enthusiast’s fantasy. I checked off the frostings, toppings, and drizzles I would prefer on our donuts and walked the form up to possibly the nicest restaurant employee in St. Augustine. Within a few minutes, the donuts were ready—and they were warm! The nice man had even thrown in a free donut because I had inquired about donut holes and he had apologetically said they would take twenty minutes to make. I wondered if my donut detective badge was showing. Nope, it was just good old-fashioned customer service.
And the taste, you ask? They were delicious. The chocolate frosting may have been the best I’ve ever eaten. The cake donuts themselves had that classic nutmeg undertone and a fabulous texture.
The mini-detectives and I gathered ourselves up from our sugar high and made it to the van for a drive back toward the south end of town.
The Detectives Investigate: Fiction Donuts
Stop number three, located in the same parking lot as our beloved Aldi, was just a quick drive from downtown, and conveniently located closer to the detective’s headquarters—my house. At this point in our donut drunkenness, it was about eleven in the morning. The shop was pleasantly quiet, as only people really bent on donuts show up so late to get their fix. Despite the late hour, the case was stacked with lots of pretty things. There was a colorful mixture of both yeast and cake donuts, with unique flavors like “pink lemonade” and “chocolate stout.” At this point, I was deeply invested in this investigation, so I bought six more donuts.
I consider myself to be a connoisseur of chocolate cake donuts, so of course, that was the first one I tested and … it passed! The chocolate flavor reminded me of that cocoa sort of taste you get with homemade baked goods. The tot quickly ate all the frosting off the “pink lemonade” one, which was also delicious.
So, where is the best donut? What did the detectives discover? We discovered that I am probably not qualified to be judging one donut from another—I just can’t discriminate. I asked the mini-detectives what they thought on the matter. The boy spoke up loud and clear, with a leftover donut in his mouth: “They are all good!”
Not one for doling out participation trophies, I must say that The Donut Experiment has a winning combination: warm, fresh donuts, and excellent customer service. They are also just a short stroll from Flagler College, where a warm donut can be eaten underneath Henry Flagler’s ornate architecture. Donut eating just doesn’t get anymore St. Augustine than that.
Now the mini-detectives and I had better take a few days off work, before indigestion sets in.