The holey grail
Bryan Widener and Dannah O’Donnell
Why does the Pacific Northwest love its doughnuts so? Their love inspired Bryan Widener, whose résumé includes stints at Fat City and Magpie Caterers Market and Cafe, and wife Dannah O’Donnell to successfully experiment with making their own, and now they’ll be sharing their delicious skills via Doughbot. The flavors are numerous and seasonal, and frankly, amazing. I spoke with Widener, who shared samples of the holey goods, including the astonishing Red and Gold Raspberry, with a fresh golden raspberry on top. The new shop, located at 2226 10th Street, will have its soft opening at the end of July and a grand one in the beginning of August (visit www.doughbotdonuts.com for more info).
How’d you come up with the name Doughbot?
We were originally going to go with Pink Box Donuts, until we saw somebody out in Lincoln already had taken the name, so after a couple of days of throwing names back and forth, it finally clicked that we both like the antique tin robots, so we decided to make sort of a pun off it with Doughbot.
We took a vacation up to Oregon and we stumbled upon Voodoo Doughnut, and we both really liked what they were doing—kind of funky, cool; I really liked the bacon doughnut. But there was no place in [Sacramento] where you could get a bacon doughnut, so we decided to mess around and try our hand at making a bacon doughnut. And the first batch turned out really well, so we just kept messing around with them from there. We both agreed that we were pretty good at it, and that there really wasn’t a cool doughnut shop in town, so we’d open one up.
You won’t offer Froot Loop doughnuts like Voodoo does, right?
No, no. We went out to San Francisco and visited this place called Dynamo, which was kind of the other end of the spectrum there, like really gourmet, nice handmade doughnuts from scratch. So we kind of wanted to not really meet in the middle, but [to have] the best aspects of both: the funky flavors and handmade, sort-of-gourmet aspect.
How many flavors do you make?
Over a dozen. There’s bacon maple, cherry fritter, apple fritter, bacon apple fritter, cacao, vanilla glazed, Meyer lemon is out for summer—we try to stick to seasonal stuff. I want to say at least a dozen, with some repeats in the vegan selection.
The Meyer lemon really bursts in your mouth. Plus, your vegan ones aren’t caky.
Thank you. I think I noticed that with a lot of places that try to do vegan doughnuts, they try to do vegan cake-style doughnuts, which is just like a cake batter, so you don’t really get any sort of texture from gluten at all in it, as opposed to the yeast, which you need to work and let it sit over time and they slowly develop that chewiness.
There’s a flavor called “The Dude”?
Yeah, it’s a White Russian Bavarian crème filled with Kahlúa vodka glaze.
Are you a big Big Lebowski fan?
Yes (laughs). We were watching Lebowski one day, and I’m just like, “You know, I want a Kahlúa doughnut.” So we decided to call it The Dude.
Tell me about the new shop space.
It’s a pretty sizable space. … We’re going to do a pretty open, spacious layout. … We’re going to have a sealed-cement floor, the doughnut prep area is going to be kind of open, so people can see what’s going on. The back is going to have off-white walls with a lot of artwork hanging up. We want to get a pinball machine and one of those sit-down Pac-Man [arcade games]. … We’re going to open up real basic at first, not a whole lot of seating, not a whole lot of interior going on.
What’s your title on your business card? Main doughnut maker?
No, it’s “head doughnut engineer.”
And Dannah’s title?
Owner-slash-assistant to the head doughnut engineer.
In your wildest dreams, where’ll Doughbot go?
I’d like to turn into a more coffeehouse/cafe sort of space. Eventually, I’d like to open up just a separate bakery—make bread and other pastries and stuff—and just leave the doughnut shop exclusively for doughnuts. That’s hopefully within five years.
It would be great if you could sell them out of a street cart at night.
We were talking to the guys over at Edible Pedal, and they have a couple of bikes that we’re interested in to go out on Second Saturdays in Midtown; just bike around selling doughnuts, ’cause we’re a little off the map for Second Saturday. That’s one idea we’re kicking around.