I’ve been called “donut girl” for years, because of my love (read – obsession) of donuts. Jelly, cream, chocolate, sprinkles, apple cider, Boston cream, no matter what kind of donut—I love them all. Perhaps because of this, I run almost every morning through the island streets. As my sneakers pound the pavement, the aroma from the island’s bakeries surrounds me. Though the scent of pastries baking is pretty intoxicating, I was clear headed enough to think about what sets one bakery apart from another a few blocks down. Yes, these are my thoughts as I’m trying to be healthy and exercise.
I decided it was time to eat my way through town to see what a few of OC’s bakeries are all about.
Dot’s cream donuts, no other donuts compare to them… at least that’s what my grandmother says. I live across the street from Dot’s, so every time I visit my grandparents it’s understood that I will bring my grandma a cream donut, or two. Yes, I live across the street from Dot’s, 31st and Asbury.
A blessing and a curse.
Dot’s is a quaint little shop, just enough room to get in and get out with your treats. On weekends, customers overflow from the door and onto the sidewalk— simply take a number by the door and it’ll be your turn sooner than you know it. 100% worth the wait. While my grandma swears by the cream donuts, my favorite is their jelly. As I bit into the donut on my tour de donuts, the jelly inside made my lips pucker up with its perfect combination of sweet and tart. Before I took my last bite, I already wanted another one and I would definitely wait in line again, but I was on a mission, so off to the next confection I went.
Hot fresh donuts. You haven’t lived until you have eaten a donut right out of the fryer, seen the baker smother it in cinnamon sugar and have it be piping hot when you go to take that first bite. This is the Browns experience. Since 1976, Browns has been serving up their “Almost Famous Donuts” to morning Boardwalk goers.
“I vacationed here every summer for the last 36 years and never had a Browns donut” Amanda McKeon, said as she brushed her son Kellan’s hair out of his eyes while they were waiting in line at Browns.
“Now anytime we take the bikes out, we stop at Browns,” said Amanda, looking at her children who were smiling back at her. Her daughter Emma opened her mouth as wide as she could, getting powdered sugar all over herself. Then gave a huge thumbs up when I asked how it was.
Browns is on the Boardwalk, and if you walk it just a few blocks south, you’ll once again be knocked out by the smell of pastries baking.
“(I think) we have the best donuts,” said Frank Sicurrella, as he stood behind the counter decorating the fresh donuts with chocolate and vanilla icing, cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar. Oves makes their donuts a little bit different than other places on the island, they replace oil with apple cider. This makes the donuts not as heavy and a little bit healthier.
“There’s nothing like it, I’ve been here for seven years; I love it” said Frank. He and a couple of coworkers pulled out a calculator, figuring out how many donuts they sell on a typical Saturday in the summer – over 5,000; 14 per minute. Oves, like Browns, offers a view of the Atlantic while you munch your donut.
For my next sweet treat, I headed between the beach and the bay on 14th Street.
Cathy’s 14th Street Bakery felt like I was walking into my mom’s kitchen. From the decorations on the walls, to Cathy’s family spilling out of every corner, Cathy made me feel like I was one of her own. Cathy’s was established just four years ago. Being a mother of seven, Cathy never thought having her own bakery was in her cards.
“Got my first cake decorating kit when I was 12 years old,” Kathy said with a chuckle. She’s been decorating cakes ever since.
Dessert is just stressed spelled backwards, so naturally, one of the better ways to relieve stress, is to indulge in one of Cathy’s amazing split cream donuts. It was the first thing as I saw when I walked through the door, the pink paint on the walls shone and drew my attention directly to the donuts. As I took my first bite, a voice in the background said “you’re going to find powdered sugar on you for a week.” Boy, was he right. The friendly atmosphere in the bakery made me want to go back as soon as possible, and the tastiness of the donut was just the icing on the cake… or in this case, donut.
I left Cathy’s in a split cream dream – the best version of a sugar rush I could have asked for… and still it was time to move forward and continue my donut taste test. Only this time, I wasn’t aiming solely for the circular treat.
Three words – Mallon’s Sticky Buns.
Mallon’s serves sticky buns that are out-of-this-world good, but what about their donuts?! I went for their plain donut with vanilla icing and rainbow sprinkles. Mallon’s makes their donuts with old-fashioned cake batter, I could tell by holding it that the dough was going to be rich and heavenly. The dough was thick with a cake texture, but the donut was not huge. It was the perfect size and consistency. And naturally I had to throw in a sticky bun too… these buttery buns are soft and rich and overwhelming delicious. I had mine to go, because I was headed to Asbury Avenue for my next donut conquest.
Nestled downtown in between shops and restaurants, Wards is a stroll down memory lane for life-long Ocean City visitors like myself.
“Nothing is better than fresh,” said owner Walter Hohman, as he made his way around the counter and dusted flour off his hands. For the last 39 years, Walter has been in the bakery every morning making Wards delicious pastries. It’s in his blood. His grandfather bought the bakery in 1941 from Mrs. Ward. Wards is known for their fresh, simple, old-school baking. While their donuts were staring at me, I went for a fried cinnamon bun. OMG. This was some of the best icing I have ever had. The cinnamon and sweetness of the icing blended perfectly together.
After my tour de donuts, I drank some water and headed home. When I passed the bakeries on my run the next morning, I knew exactly what made each one stand out – these bakeries all believe in fresh ingredients baked with love. That’s something I donut take lightly.
Text by Briana Duffy and Stefanie Godfrey
Photos by Macy Oteri