631 B Street, Downtown San Diego
Donut Bar has been written about and written about, so most probably know about its wide and interesting selection of giant donuts including triple chocolate, salted caramel, raspberry pistachio, and Homer’s Donut (pink frosted with sprinkles à la The Simpsons). I didn’t expect I’d have anything to add when I dropped by last weekend, but then I didn’t expect to be showing up at 6 p.m.
Donut Bar opens at 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on weekends) and closes when it sells out, which often happens before noon. Getting donuts there in the afternoon is rare — at 6 p.m., unheard of. Except the shop recently started reopening with a whole fresh batch of donuts on Friday and Saturday afternoons at 5 p.m.
That’s not the only change. The shop took over the suite next door, remodeling the ground floor so the counter runs parallel to the sidewalk with the line forming to the right, rather than a line out the door. Where the original counter used to be, you may now watch bakers knead long strands of dough. Which would be hypnotic, if the many colorful finished donuts weren’t there to distract you with more than a dozen tantalizing options.
Thanks to the extra space, there are now also 20 mostly local beer options at Donut Bar, which essentially means they’re making beer and donut pairings a thing. There’s even a house beer, a so-called donut porter made by nearby Resident Brewing. You can really taste the donut.
Since the beer bar operates separately from the donut counter (meaning separate order and payment), I suppose Donut Bar could just become an evening beer destination in its own right. But who can resist the opportunity to match a delicious donut with a delicious stout or porter?
Other beer styles are available, but most tend to clash with sugary food. I did notice a calzone-like “donut pizza” giving hungry customers a savory option (with marinara dip). But I’m hooked on the Vermont Maple Bacon, a genuine Vermont maple bar topped by crumbles of center cut bacon. It was delicious, of course, and probably had enough salt to stand up alongside an IPA or pilsner if I didn’t go for that porter. The shop threw in a rainbow sprinkle cake donut for free to celebrate owner/chef Santiago Campo’s birthday.
One more thing: the new Friday and Saturday hours mean fresh donuts by the dozen are now on the table as a party gift. If you thought showing up to the office with a couple boxes of Donut Bar made you a star, imagine the reception you’ll get bringing them to a dinner party, housewarming, or backyard kegger.