Connecticut National Doughnut Day Delights: Neil's Donuts & More

Douglas P. Clement/Connecticut Magazine

 

Neil’s Donuts and Bake Shop

In March 2013, Saveur magazine did a cover story on “The 50 Finest Donut Shops in America” and included Neil’s Donuts and Bake Shop in Wallingford on the list.

Our friends at roadfood.com have declared, “The best donuts I've ever had.”Last year when we took on great homemade Connecticut doughnuts for National Doughnut Day—and as we solicited input as we prepared to take another bite this year—Neil’s was the name that kept coming up.

So we went to Neil’s Thursday morning to see for ourselves—and wow!

Also see

National Donut Day Appetizer: New Donut Crazy, Shelton ('Fat Elvis' & Beyond)

And Best Homemade Doughnuts in Connecticut for National Donut DayIn a Doughnut Day cascade of donuts in our office, Neil’s were judged by many to be the best of the best, with exclamations like “Oh my God!” (The powdered sugar donut split down the middle and bursting with white cream rimmed with colored sprinkles.)

The lemon cream in the doughnut that’s all sunny and yellow on top was a kind of litmus test for some of our tasters, who declared it really lemony (an attribute) without being overly sweet (another attribute.)

“The best donuts I ever tasted. I'm addicted to Neil's,’ one fan declares on Facebook.

Neil’s is located in a low-slung building at 83 North Turnpike Rd. in the Yalesville section of Wallingford—a short distance from the Wilbur Cross Parkway, Exit 65; easy off and easy back on), but it can be tough to spot for the uninitiated.Even at 9:30 (presumably doughnut purists come earlier?) we could barely get a spot in the parking lot and the small bakery was crowded, which had no impact on the friendly staff and speedy, caring service.

What else to say? Neil’s makes more than 30 varieties of doughnuts fresh daily, and has been serving New Haven County since 2001. Discover it, you’ll be glad you did.The phone number is 203-269-4255 and hours are: Tue - Fri 6am-3 pm, Sat 6am-2pm, Sun 6am-1pm.

Brooklyn Baking Co., Waterbury

There’s a treasured genre of food stories that involves the joys—and bragging rights—of discovering something delicious, and perhaps unique, in an unlikely location.

In our ongoing search for Connecticut’s best handcrafted doughnuts, heightened at the moment in honor of National Doughnut Day on Friday, June 5, we’ve discovered a (locally beloved) bakery in Waterbury that fits into the diamond-in-the-rough narrative tradition.

We picked up an assorted dozen doughnuts Wednesday morning from the Brooklyn Baking Co., and knew as soon as we lifted them out of the box for photographs that they were going to be delicious. The colors, textural aesthetics and happily uneven shapes and sizes were our first clues, and our instincts were affirmed by the feathery weight of the doughnuts.Our expert tasters then politely swarmed and praised the light, airy quality of the doughnuts, as well the delicious (but not over the top) flavors—from classic glazed to apple filled, chocolate topped, cinnamon sprinkled and more.

Brooklyn Baking Co. renders classical mode doughnuts made with great skill and a gentle subtleness. And the icing on that is the value quotient. A single doughnut is 75 cents, a half-dozen is $3.60 and a dozen is just $7, or 58 cents each.

So why is Brooklyn Baking Co. an undiscovered gem, given that it has a long, well-known tradition in Waterbury and a proud local fan base? (We went after getting a tip in a comment on our Facebook post saying we were looking for great Connecticut doughnut places.)One reason is that connecting—both online while planning a visit and physically while driving there—is more of an adventure than most food discoveries in the digital age.

There’s a website, which is printed on the bakery’s business card, but when you get there you’re greeted with a message that says, “Welcome to namecheap.com. This domain was recently registered at namecheap.com. The domain owner may currently be creating a great site for this domain. Please check back later!”

There’s a Facebook page—or at least a template that yearns to become an actual Facebook page.Then, for the uninitiated, there’s confusion about exactly where the bakery is located. Google searches leave the impression that Brooklyn Baking Co. may be located on John Street in downtown Waterbury, or on Reidville Drive (that Facebook page template has it located on Reidville Rd in Naugautuck).

The bakery was located on John Street but a little over a year ago there was a fire at that location. (The bakery staff says there’s still a bakery on John Street and it’s for sale.)Brooklyn Baking Co., meanwhile, moved to 464 Reidville Drive, which is the service road parallel to I-84, just east of the downtown. (It’s in the back of the CVS plaza).

These days, getting there can be challenging in another way, as the bakery and other stores along Reidville Drive are being impacted by the intensive prep work for an I-84 widening project.

For anyone other than a Waterbury insider, all of that might add up to making Brooklyn Baking Co. seem like a potential gem that will take some effort and commitment to discover.

Meanwhile, the pleasant folks at the bakery—with customers enthusing “everything is good here” without being solicited—concentrate their efforts on what they do best, baking.

Brooklyn Baking Co. has display cases full of yummy things, like cupcakes and cream puffs (above), cookies and more, and also has a case with some hearty looking breads.

It’s closed on Mondays, open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The phone number is (203) 596-3500.

Doughnut Inn, Fairfield and Stratford

As much as you may want to, you can’t spend the night at the Doughnut Inn,but you can enjoy a variety of crisp delicious doughnuts that taste the way you expect the products at a national doughnut chain too taste. There’s no reinventing the doughnut wheel here; instead this group of three Connecticut doughnut shops focuses on crafting classic flavors like jelly-filled, chocolate glazed, old fashioned, glazed, sprinkled, cinnamon etc. Big and dense these round pieces of dough might not take you to the highest levels of doughnut enlightenment, but they are solid offerings and will easily satisfy your doughnut cravings.

In addition to its namesake (doughnuts) this local business, in operation since 1977, offers a taste of old time Americana serving up daily rations of coffee muffins, croissants, bagels, and an assortment of breakfast sandwiches.

Those seeking one of the Doughnut Inn locations should be aware of some confusion surrounding the local chain (evidently a common theme in the Connecticut doughnut world). The Inn operates three shops, two in Fairfield (2480 Black Rock Turnpike and 562 Post Road) and one in Stratford (2505 Main St.). A fourth “Doughnut Inn” exists in Monroe but is not associated with the Doughnut Inn locations in Fairfield and Stratford and there seems to be some bad blood (dough) between them. Last year the Monroe Doughnut Inn made state headlines when the shop banned an allegedly rude 4-year-old boy from the store. The original Doughnut Inn chain made it clear in several Facebook posts, including the one below, that they were not associated with that store or that decision, and that previous legal action regarding the name had been taken.

We want to thank our loyal customers for the kind words and support. For those who did not read or hear, the Monroe...

Donut Crazy, Shelton

Opened just this March, Donut Crazy in Shelton is making a … well, crazy foray into the Connecticut doughnut scene.

Owner Jason Wojnarowski’s plan was to make “crazy doughnuts” in his friendly shop on River Road across from the Sports Center of Connecticut, and judging by the growing number of fans, it’s been a success.So what’ so crazy here? Obviously, the doughnuts themselves—every day there are about three dozen varieties available, and although one-third are standard (glazed, jelly, powdered, etc.), the rest rotate from a wildly creative selection.Some favorites: Fat Elvis (banana cream center, peanut butter topping with banana slices, bacon and chocolate drizzle); Kookie Monster (glazed donut topped with blue frosting, crushed Oreo cookies and vanilla drizzle, above); Cinnamon Toast Crunch (vanilla frosted doughnut covered with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, top); Nutty Nutella (Nutella ganache, chopped hazelnuts and sea salt); Kandy Krush (topped with chocolate ganache, caramel drizzle and crushed Kit Kat bars); and Maple Bacon (exactly what you think, below).

Doughnuts are $12 per dozen, with specialty ones an extra $1.40 each.Vitals: 785 River Rd., Shelton, (203) 538-5560, donutcrazyct.com. (There's also a smaller location with a much more limited selection at 3690 Main Street

in Stratford, (203) 386-1999.)

Excerpts from last year's National Doughnut Day story:Dottie’s Diner, Woodbury

Dottie’s is a classic hometown diner with great food and great style, and a long tradition of offering what may be the very best homemade doughnuts (right) in Connecticut—at least we’ve honored Dottie’s as such many times over. We stopped in Wednesday morning to pick up a dozen, and were thrilled to see a selection that stretched beyond the sugary cinnamon staples to include chocolate-capped doughnuts and cream-filled ones in both chocolate and white powder varieties. And if you get a dozen, they are lovingly ensconced in a pretty Tiffany-blue box.

Vitals: 740 Main Street South, Middle Quarter Mall, Woodbury, CT 06798, (203) 263-2516, dottiesdiner.com

Whitney Donut and Sandwich Shop HamdenWe also picked up a dozen at Whitney, and these delights also drew raves from our staff. The jelly doughnut shown here was perfection of the form; so beautiful it should be the subject of a painting. But our thoughts are less important than a comment on Whitney’s Facebook page says it better: “Best place ever... best coffee, best sandwiches, best staff, and awesome owner. Great, friendly atmosphere too! … We always go out of our way to go to Whitney Donut. It's timeless. Love it.”

Vitals: 2574 Whitney Ave, Hamden (203) 248-9095

Orangeside on Temple, New Haven

Known as the “home of the square-cut doughnut,” Orangeside on Temple in New Haven breaks doughnut tradition with its unconventional sugary confection. Inside this breakfast shop with a modern American diner feel, the dreamed-up delights are displayed right as you walk in. Flavors range from simple and sweet powdered andglazed to sweet-tooth-satisfying apple caramel and Snickers bar. To guarantee freshness, original owner Anthony “Tony” Poleshek Jr. hand-cuts the doughnuts the night before they’re sold. These doughnuts look unique, but their shape is more than just a marketing gimmick—cutting squares eliminates scraps, so nearly every doughnut is a first cut, instead of a more dense, oiler re-rolled one. And it was love at first bite. The flavorful, light, airy dough, topped with a light coat of glaze makes for one delicious doughnut—forget calorie counting; you can’t just have one bite. The shop also plans to roll out an Orangeside food truck to serve square doughnuts and coffee. New owner Jakob Satir says people come for the doughnuts because “they’re larger than regular doughnuts (4-by-4 inches) but also because there’s an exotic, or rather eclectic array of flavors.”

Vitals: 25 Temple Street in New Haven, (203) 773-1000, orangesideontemple.com/

Faddy's Donuts & Ice Cream, Windsor

"We cook on-site and on demand, every day," says Faddy's owner Michael Rittlinger, who worked in direct mail services for 30 years before deciding to open his own place to deliver amazing doughnuts (and ice cream) instead. "Nearly 75 percentof our donuts are served warm, right out of the boiler—we try to time it so that everyone gets a warm one." Clearly, he's got the perfect package as fans flock to Faddy's, where they can find 10-12 different kinds of doughnuts on any given day, including jelly and raised sugar varieties. The most popular are his apple cider doughnuts, which are rolled in cinnamon and sugar—a delightful crunchiness on the outside while still staying moist on the inside. He also takes Faddy's on the road (look for Faddy's trucks in the next year), making his donuts available at farmer's markets and fairs across the state. You can enjoy them at Cabela's in East Hartford, too.

Vitals 309 Windsor Avenue, Windsor, (860) 978-4849faddys.com

Bridgewater Village Store, Bridgewater

This classic village gathering place owned by Peter May, the man who revitalized the juice brand Snapple, is a great pit stop for breakfast, lunch, Bridgewater Chocolate and, yes,  homemade baked goods that include yummy doughnuts—just one of its charms that joins folks of diverse demographic backgrounds. One of our editors fondly remembers stopping in for an afternoon coffee and scone to find the late Skitch Henderson, founder and artistic director of the New York Pops, enjoying a powdered doughnut, strategically wearing a jacket over his conducter’s black tie and tails.

Vitals: 27 Main St S, Bridgewater, (860) 354-2863, bridgewatervillagestore.com

Heav’nly Donuts Derby Locals flock to this old-school doughnut joint off of New Haven Ave. in Derby. Regulars interact with the workers behind the counter and a large variety of doughnuts are offered daily. (We tried and liked the doughnuts to the left.)

Vitals: 658 New Haven Ave, Derby, (203-734-4185).

Stew Leonard’s Danbury, Newington, and Norwalk

Every autumn this super diary store serves a delicious taste of the season in the form of apple cinnamon doughnuts. They’re great straight from the package but heat them in the oven for a few minutes for a truly divine doughnut experience.

Vitals: stewleonards.com.

Flanders Donut & Bake Shop, East Lyme

Subsequent to posting this story, we were scolded on Facebook for not including Flanders or recognizing enough places in southeastern Connecticut. As we said at the top, our list of best doughnuts isn't meant to be exhaustive, but it is a living document that will grow as we discover more places. Hence this update to include Flanders. We called the bake shop to get the scoop, but it seems it was too late in the day to catch the owners or bakers—a good sign at a place not far from I-95 that impressively opens at 4 a.m., according to its Facebook page. There, one fan who attended the Coast Guard Academy wrote about reconnecting with a favorite place: "I have reminisced of Flander's honey wheat donuts since graduation from CGA 20 years ago and they did not disappoint, even with the highest of expectations." So consider discovering Flanders (for yourself and for us) kind of like an order.

Vitals, 327 Flanders Road East Lyme, (860) 739-6320

Also check out Beach Donut Shop in Clinton, and as you prepare to dig into Connecticut’s best homemade doughnuts on National Doughnut Day—and beyond—also make sure to check out the places highlighted by our friends and content sharing partners at Ctbites.

Our post was inspired by theirs, which also includes such treasured places as the following:

Coffee An' Donuts, Westport

Lakeside Diner, Stamford

Darien Doughnut, Darien

Lorca, Stamford

(This article was originally published on a different platform. Some formatting changes may have occurred.)