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Glaze the Trail

"A donut challenge, you say? I once ate 33 Krispy Kremes in under 15 minutes,” boasted the bartender, polishing a pint glass while behind the bar at the AC Marriott hotel in Butler County, Ohio. It’s no wonder that the discussion of eating a laughable amount of donuts garners the attention of strangers. After all, [...]
Danny Hamen

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“A donut challenge, you say? I once ate 33 Krispy Kremes in under 15 minutes,” boasted the bartender, polishing a pint glass while behind the bar at the AC Marriott hotel in Butler County, Ohio.

It’s no wonder that the discussion of eating a laughable amount of donuts garners the attention of strangers. After all, donuts are a part of the American identity. Look at Homer Simpson—a man whose love for the breakfast snack is arguably more representative of the American lifestyle than Ronald Reagan and his jellybeans. France has the beignet, Mexico has the churro, the Danes have the Danish, and America, specifically the Midwest, has the modern donut—our cultural take on a hunk of fried dough dunked in sugar, a product of our lineage after watching too many episodes of Twin Peaks.

When my editor told me about the Butler County Donut Trail, I was drinking a large cup of coffee at my desk, my stomach grumbling at the idea of adding a “hyper-local apple fritter” into the mix. Eight family-run donut shops in four hours seemed doable, especially considering it meant I got a nifty t-shirt upon completion and that I got to spend a day out of the office binge eating.

This is the story of the Donut Trail: one of gluttony, jelly-filled wads of dough, and a horde of strangers who love talking about donuts.

6:20 A.M.

Location: Stan the Donut Man, West Chester

Input: Blueberry Sour Cream Donut

We pull in to the first bakery just after dawn. The air is brisk as we make our way into the first shop—a small, unassuming place hidden in a strip mall a few miles from the hotel. Although the girl behind the counter, Miranda, goes to Miami University, she greets us wearing an OSU shirt—a welcome sight to us Columbus travelers. The walls behind her are lined with Cincinnati sports memorabilia and the aroma of freshly baked donuts clings to the walls. Stan the Donut Man has been making donuts for 20 years, quite a feat for a small business in rural Ohio. Miranda pulls out a few of her favorites to show off, and then hands us our donut passport—a small slip of paper that lists all of the donut stops on our route. After I decide on a blueberry sour cream donut to start my food adventure, she marks my card with a stamp that reads “scrumptious”—a perfectly suitable descriptor of my first bite. The donut is warm and velvety. The delectably sweet sour cream icing dissolves quickly in my mouth. I chase the donut with a cup of black coffee, and whistle on my way out the door.

7:17 A.M.

Location: Milton’s Donuts, Middletown

Input: Fried Cream Cheese Donut

As we pull into the lot, I notice a spirited crowd gathered inside the tiny shop, all patiently waiting for an iconic Milton’s donut. “They are the best in the world,” croaks an old man balancing himself on a mahogany cane. Well, technically, for now they are the best in the region, or so says a small sign on the counter asking patrons to cast more votes to make them the “Sweetest Bakery in the Nation.” Each team member is sporting a tie dye t-shirt and scampering around to accommodate the overwhelming amount of guests. I order the fried cream cheese donut, a house favorite. It is about the size of my fist. (Keep in mind, I have the hands of a bone-crushing giant.) I bite into the confection and it immediately oozes lukewarm, gooey cream cheese out the other side. Although the staff is all smiles, I can tell that they are too busy to field questions from nosey journalists, so I get my passport stamped with the word “delicious” and am on my way.

7:40 A.M.

Location: Martin’s Donuts, Trenton

Input: Apple Fritter

By the time we get to Martin’s Donuts—a small standalone, flamingo-pink donut shop in the boonies of Trenton, Ohio—thick flakes of puffy white snow are descending from the sky. Is this powdered sugar? My brain is already starting to feel the dough’s dizzying effects. At any rate, I hustle inside to find Misty helping a customer pick out a dozen. Each donut stop on the trail hosts a small road sign in the front entrance, signifying to guests that they are a participating member of the trail. Martin’s road sign depicts Bigfoot carrying some donuts on his back. A hefty man with long, silver hair named Harley ushers us to the back of the shop, showing us where the magic is made. He recommends the apple fritter, saying that the apples come from an orchard not too far down the road. Considering my fritter fantasy earlier in the week, I snatch one off the tray and take a healthy bite. “So what do you do here?” I ask, mouth full of flakey fritter. “I’m the driver,” says Harley with a grin. “And also the Sasquatch.”

8:20 A.M.

Location: The Donut Spot, Fairfield

Input: Raspberry Cheesecake Donut

About 30 long minutes passed before we reached The Donut Spot—not because it was that far away (about 10 miles or so) but because it was snowing so intensely that we were only able to drive 20 MPH down the long, country roads. Even then, my brakes locked up and caused my poor little Honda Accord to hydroplane, nearly sending us careening into a cornfield. Once I regained control, we lurched forward towards our next destination. No matter, though; the Donut Spot is warm and inviting, with walls striped turquoise and yellow, and decorated with kitschy signs about donut love. I choose a raspberry cheesecake donut, which is light and delectable—a perfect choice after a near-death experience.

8:40 A.M.

Location: Jupiter Donuts, Fairfield

Input: Miami Maple Merger Donut

Even though Jupiter Donuts is burrowed in rural Ohio, it has the feel of a hip, urban donut shop—from the coffee bean mosaic adorning the wall to the chintzy chalkboard menu,  to the braided turquoise hair of the young cashier. Although Jupiter is only two years old, it has the feel of a longstanding staple of Fairfield. I take a bite into their Miami Maple Merger, a long john body donut with maple fluff topped with candy pecans, and a smile. It was light, airy, and just the kick of sugar I needed to precede on my way.

9:35 A.M.

Location: Mimi’s Donuts & Bakery, Hamilton

Input: Reese’s Donut

It took about an hour to reach our next destination, but that is largely in part to the yellow Mustang that careened off the road into a small ditch. Nobody was hurt, but we had front row seats watching the tow truck fish out the luxury sports vehicle, unable to turn around due to the line of cars behind us and the increasingly dangerous weather. Sherry, the owner of Mimi’s, greets us with a smile and her famous Reese’s Donut. Having retired from the police force, she watched YouTube videos of how to make donuts, turning her into an aficionado nearly overnight. Her donut was rich and creamy, filled with velvety peanut butter—a savvy and delightful execution for a little old lady/ex-cop. (And yes, she’s heard the jokes.)

9:55 A.M.

Location: Kelley’s Bakery, Hamilton

Input: S’mores Donut

After eating seven donuts, you’d think the smell of another sugar shop would get to be nauseating, but when I stepped inside Kelley’s Bakery, the aroma was comforting. Their specialty S’mores donut was topped with chocolate, graham cracker chunks, and marshmallow pieces, inciting wistfulness for a campfire and a soulful rendition of Kumbaya on acoustic guitar. I smacked my lips, high-fived the nice lady working the counter, and made my way to our final destination.

10 A.M.

Location: Ross Bakery, Hamilton

Input: Dirt Trail Donut

By the time we made it into Ross Bakery, the display case was nearly barren. All of the exotic and popular flavors, like maple bacon and devil’s food, were picked over, leaving only run-of-the-mill donut options. Considering they’d be closed in a few hours, all of the early birds got the worms—quite literally, as their specialty Dirt Trail Donut is topped with a multi-colored gummy worm. Fortunately for us, they had expected our arrival and saved us one of their Oreo-topped gummy worm confections. A small child in a puffy pink jacket marveled at the donut as the clerk pulled it from the back room, coyly asking her grandparents for “one of those.” I looked at the expertly crafted donut, felt a food cramp in my belly, looked into the big blue eyes of the hungry little girl, and decided to hand it over, settling for something a little more unadorned to end our journey. The whole family was so excited by the offering that they insisted on taking a group photo with the specialty donut, further affirming the cultural significance of the donut: a reason to get up at the ass crack of dawn and spend precious moments with the ones you love.

Here’s to the donut, and to all of the mom-and-pop shops that wake up even earlier to make our breakfast special—a tasty testament to the American way.

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Food & Drink

Slice into our top picks for National Pizza Party Day!

Mike Thomas

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May 17 is National Pizza Party Day—a celebration that is near and dear to our hearts at (614). And what better day of the week for an office pizza party than Friday?

To help you and your gang decide which pie(s) to go with on this momentous occasion, take a look at this roundup of some of our most primo pizza content. Bone apple teeth!

The best pizza in C-Bus according to Columbest Voters

The results for Columbest 2019 were announced in the May issue of (614) Magazine, with Harvest Pizzeria taking the top spot in the “best gourmet pizza” category, and Mikey’s Late Night winning “best traditional.”

26,000+ Columbest voters can’t be wrong. Let these hometown heroes provide the pie for a pizza party you won’t soon forget!

Pizza – Columbus Style

Did you know Columbus has its own distinct style? Edge to edge toppings, crispy crust, cut pub-style – these are some indications that you’re dining on Columbus’ own signature ‘za. Not sure what we’re talking about? Refer to this list to see what we mean.

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In Pizza We Trust

Need to grab a pie on the go? Look no further than a Pizza ATM conveniently located at OSU campus. Fair warning, since reporting on this a few months ago, we haven’t been back to see if this still exists. Something tells us this was either too weird of an idea to last, or too brilliant to ever die.

C-Bus pizza on the big stage

At this point, our fair city is no stranger to coverage in national publications – and our pizza is no exception. Earlier this year, food blog Rave Reviews included Columbus’ own Rubino’s and Mikey’s Late Night Slice on their Pizza Road Trip roundup of the best pies in the nation.

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Hey, @fussbucket… Nice #BINOS! #SausagePizza

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Deep dish (if you must…)

Is deep dish more your thing? We (I) think there’s something wrong with you, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the sauce-on-top monstrosity you crave. Check out our top picks for the “best” deep-dish style pizzas in town.

Celebrating National Pizza Party Day? Of course you are! Let us know your pizza of choice in the comments.

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Food & Drink

Outerbelt Brewing: small town, huge brewery

Mike Thomas

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With no end in sight for the craft beer boom, upstart breweries are leaving the city behind for the wide open spaces of the suburbs.

According to a report from Drink Up Columbus, Outerbelt Brewing will be the latest to toss their hat into the central Ohio Craft Beer ring when they open their doors in less than a month.

Located in a former Lowes hardware location at 3560 Dolson Ct. near Carroll, Ohio, Outerbelt Brewing is not far from Lancaster.

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Outerbelt is scheduled to open to the public on either June 8 or June 15, depending on construction deadlines. The new brewery will occupy about 25,000 square feet, with about 5,600 square feet set aside for a taproom. Plans also include a spacious 2,000 square foot patio.

Upon opening, Outerbelt plans to offer 10 beers on tap, as well as cold brew coffee.

Look for Outerbelt this Friday, May 18 at the Columbus Craft Beer Week kickoff party at Giant Eagle Market District, where some of their beer will be available to try. Outerbelt Beer will also be on hand Saturday at the Six One Pour Ohio Beer Festival at COSI.

To view pictures and to learn more about Outerbelt, check out the full story at Drink Up Columbus.

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Food & Drink

4 brewers talk past, present future of C-bus beer scene

Mike Thomas

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With the rise of craft beer, celebrations of America’s most popular alcoholic beverage are nearly as plentiful as the varieties of suds found on supermarket shelves.

Whether it’s a day set aside in honor of a given style (IPA day is observed Aug. 2) or a pseudo-holiday cash grab from a major international brewery, (Arthur’s Day is not a thing, Guinness) beer fans have plenty of occasions throughout the year to toast their favorite drink.

In honor of Columbus Craft Beer Week (May 17-25), (614) spoke to Columbus brewers Colin Vent at Seventh Son Brewing, Dan Shaffer at Land-Grant, Craig O’Herron at Sideswipe Brewing, and Chris Davison, at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing in order to explore the beginnings of brew in the capital city, where it stands today, and what the future might hold.

(614): When you think of Columbus beer history, what comes to mind?

Vent: The recent history is pretty young. We were 7th or 8th six years ago, and now there’s over 50. Barley’s, Smoke House, Elevator, Columbus Brewing Company—those were around for 10 or 15 years, then all of the sudden, Four String, us, North High, and soon thereafter Land Grant popped up, and from there it’s just been crazy. Obviously all of Columbus [beer] history goes back hundreds of years; there used to be major production. Hoster was one of the largest breweries in the country.

Shaffer: I think of Barley’s, CBC, the people that were there at the beginning. We’re all standing on their shoulders. Obviously it’s all come a very long way. I’m trying to think of what the first craft beer I had in Columbus was. It was probably a CBC IPA.

(614): What are some prevailing trends that you see happening with beer in Columbus today?

O’Herron: I feel like we’ve gotten over a lot of the recent trends. We saw a lot of the New England IPAs, and then Brut IPAs to a lesser extent. I don’t know if there’s a trend that’s happening right this moment, but I’m sure we’ll see something new and wacky come around.

Davison: The national trend has been IPA, IPA, IPA, and I think Columbus is a microcosm of that. Ohio is an IPA state, and Columbus is an IPA city even more so than some other cities in the state. We’ve got a lot of the top-tier IPA breweries right now, a lot of people making really good IPA. I think that’s going to continue to rise, and I think we’re going to continue to see more styles [of IPA].

(614): What does the future hold for Columbus Beer? Have we reached a saturation point on how many breweries the city can sustain?

Vent: I don’t know that Columbus could take another 10 or 20 Land Grants and Seventh Sons, but I think it could take another 10 or 20 [breweries] that just want to have an awesome neighborhood brewpub. As many breweries as an area can sustain, that’s what there will be.

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Davison: I think it all comes down to what those breweries are trying to accomplish. Trying to be a production brewery that’s distributing cans across the entire state is going to get harder and harder, not that some won’t continue to grow and do that. I think there’s a ton of room for local brewpubs that don’t even want to sell their beer outside of their own bar. Every bar in this city could theoretically brew its own beer, and there’s no reason the city can’t sustain 500 breweries that are tiny like that.

Shaffer: Obviously people are gravitating towards local. I think it’s really cool that every neighborhood, instead of a watering hole, can have a local brewery. I think we’ll probably see more sours, probably more specialization. IPA’s aren’t going anywhere—there will be more IPA variants. When there is this much competition, you can’t afford to be a generic beer brewery anymore. There has to be something you’re passionate about, whether it’s Belgian or English styles, or pilsners, high-gravity stouts—whatever. There’s got to be something that you can say “this is what we’re all about.”

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