Dining With Denise Neil

Review: Designer doughnuts sweeten up south, west Wichita (+video)

Wichita has come a long way since the chocolate-covered Daylight Donuts long john was the most daring doughnut in town.

Today, the city is home to an ever-growing list of shops that specialize in doughnuts that are less doughnuts and more dessert. Designer doughnuts are the latest trend in sweets, so hot they’ve overcome the cupcake craze. They’re imaginative, decadent and colorfully topped with frosting, cereal, bacon and candy. If you eat more than one in a sitting, you’ll regret it.

Two of the latest local participants in the designer doughnut trend, which originated in big cities in the early 2000s at places like VooDoo Donuts in Portland, Ore., are Hurts Donut at 7010 W. 21st St. and Rolled Donuts & Meat Pies at 1050 W. 47th St. South.

Hurts, which opened in July, is a franchise of a chain started in Springfield, Mo., by Valley Center native Kas Clegg and her husband, Tim. They opened their first shop in Springfield in 2014. Today, they have five Hurts, including two in Springfield, one in Norman, Okla., one in Coralville, Iowa, and one in Wichita. They’re actively searching for spots on Wichita’s east side and in Hutchinson and have stores opening in Lincoln, Neb., and Tulsa this spring.

It took me months to even sample a Hurts doughnut. When it first opened, lines were out the door. For weeks, I’d drive by and determine I just couldn’t wait that long for a doughnut. This wasn’t just in the morning, either. Hurts is open 24 hours, and even at 9 p.m., the lines were 50 people deep.

Recently, it’s slowed down a bit. Though I still frequently see lines, at many times of the day you can now walk right up to the counter. When you do, you’ll be overwhelmed by all the color and variety. My favorite thing about Hurts is that it sells raised yeast doughnuts and the more dense cake doughnuts. Both are top-rate.

Nothing compares to a pillowy yeast doughnut, and Hurts’ yeast doughnuts are particularly light and airy. On a recent visit, I had the shop’s famous Nutella doughnut, which is a sugar-coated yeast doughnut filled in the center with enough Nutella to make a couple of sandwiches. I ended up scooping more than half of the Nutella out, which seemed wasteful, but it made the doughnut more manageable. Other yeast varieties I sampled included a Cookie Monster doughnut topped with bright blue frosting, candy eyeballs and Oreo crumbles; another topped with crumbled graham crackers and a slightly burned roasted marshmallow to re-create a S’more; and one topped with chocolate, caramel and sea salt. All were so sweet, they made my teeth hurt, but it was fun to cut a bit off of each, sample and discuss. The Nutella was my favorite.

The cake doughnut options are just as inventive. They’re bigger than your average cake doughnut, maintaining the same circumference as the yeast doughnuts. The batter also creates a more airy cake doughnut, which I prefer to all that dry denseness. Hurts’ cakes also have a nice crunch on the outside. We tried one with a peanut butter frosting and mini-Reese’s Pieces on top, and a chocolate “dirt worm” doughnut topped with crumbled Oreo cookies and a gummy worm. The best cake doughnut was designed to look and taste like a Hostess cupcake. It featured a chocolate cake doughnut with whipped cream in the center and a chocolate glaze on top, carefully decorated with the Hostess cupcake’s signature curly swirl.

When Hurts’ owners first talked of opening in Wichita, they touted their sausage gravy-stuffed doughnuts and sloppy Joe doughnuts. Those have yet to make it to the regular menu, though the shop did just introduce a breakfast sandwich that features sausage, egg and cheese served between glazed doughnuts. Though I’d likely stick to the sweet classics, I’d like the option of trying these crazier inventions.

Besides the texture and variety of toppings, what I like about Hurts’ doughnuts is the care taken in the decoration of each creation. The doughnuts are meticulously and generously topped so they look as good as they taste, and you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. The shop also has a hip decor, which makes it fun to visit. Stained concrete floors, wooden tables, industrial-style light fixtures, exposed red ductwork and a giant photo of Jim Belushi are among the designer touches. Its employees are young, perky and helpful.

Hurts also sells coffee, soft drinks and doughnut milkshakes, which are milkshakes topped with a whole doughnut. It also has a drive-through and a delivery truck.

Rolled Donuts & Meat Pies, which opened around the same time as Hurts in July, is a slightly less slick production. The cavernous shop isn’t as stylishly decorated, and its doughnuts aren’t as carefully constructed. But it has plenty to recommend it – especially its divine fried pies stuffed with savory fillings.

Rolled, which was opened by Derby Donut owner David Rhue and his brother Dan, is set up in the former Taco J’s space at the northeast corner of 47th and Seneca.

The shop, which gets heavy patronage from nearby Cessna, also serves crazily topped doughnuts in many of the same flavors Hurts has, including a bacon-covered long john, superhero and cartoon character doughnuts and cereal- and candy-topped doughnuts. It also serves cake and yeast doughnuts and makes good versions of both. I particularly liked the blueberry cake, which was moist and full of fruity flavor, and the basic glazed, a yeast doughnut that was bready and not overly sweet. The doughnut case also had large bear claws, twists, old-fashioned cinnamon rolls and other specialty doughnuts.

But those meat pies are what make Rolled so special. The kitchen stuffs yeast doughnut dough with savory fillings like ham, egg, cheese, chili, pepperoni and onions, then deep-fries the pies. The result is a wonderfully flaky crust that manages not to retain grease and contains a piping hot, melty center. I loved the Cajun, which was stuffed with sausage, ham, Swiss cheese, green peppers and crunchy onions. A more breakfast-themed pie had a ham, egg and cheese center melted together into a perfect flavor and texture combination. I wanted to try the Philly cheesesteak pie, but on the day we visited, Rolled was out of beef and bacon. They explained that they’re choosy about their meat source and since a shipment was late, they decided not to settle for an inferior replacement. That’s about the only explanation I could accept for an offense as egregious as missing bacon (which also meant no bacon long johns).

The employees told me they considered serving the pies baked, but cooking them would take too long. They’re so good fried, but the fact that fried pies are fairly offensive in the calorie department is about the only thing that will keep me from driving south to get them weekly.

Rolled also serves coffee, bottled sodas and fried fruit pies.

Hurts Donut

1/2 out of four

Where: 7010 W. 21st St.; 316-226-1371

Hours: 24 hours a day

Alcohol: No

Price range: A dozen glazed are $8, a dozen Hurts’ employees’ pick is $12. A dozen you pick is $15. Cinnamon rolls and maple bacon donuts are $3. Single doughnuts range from $1 to $2 apiece.

Website: http://hurtsdonutwichita.com

Rolled Donuts & Meat Pies

out of four

Where: 1050 W. 47th St. South; 316-425-3133

Hours: 4 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 4 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Alcohol: No

Price range: A dozen doughnuts are $9.90, regardless of toppings. Single doughnuts are 99 cents apiece. Larger rolls and sticky buns range from $1.99 to $2.69 apiece. Meat pies are $4.79 apiece.

Website: www.rolledbakery.com