In recent years, Providence, Rhode Island, has seen a growth in coffee culture. Specialty shops have popped up across the city and residents have been reaping the benefits. Rising to the occasion, coffee’s best buddy, the donut, is showing up in force, with a veritable donut renaissance in PVD.
Providence has always had a pro-donut climate. A very unscientific cross-reference of Google Maps and Wikipedia shows that Providence has at least one Dunkin’ Donuts per square mile. Heck, the downtown area’s sports complex is called the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. But something is different now. There’s an excitement in the air and a buzz on social media. The city is geeking out over donuts—special donuts. From old-school bakeries to new-age specialty donut joints, destination dunkers and Instagram donut-lovers alike have made a point of making the most of the Providence donut scene.
Shanel Sinclair of Augusta Street Kitchen is a recent transplant to Providence and a baker of flour-free donuts. She offered some insights as to why the city is a perfect incubator for donuts: “The Providence food scene is small, it’s easy to navigate. The vibe is much more like that of a community. There is a lot of support for food movements here.” When pressed on the donut boom, Sinclair said, “I’m not sure why it’s donuts, but it’s definitely happening.”
Lori Kettelle, co-founder of PVDonuts, offered similar sentiments over the Providence food scene, “Our state and capital city have so much to offer in such a small space. The community here is incredibly supportive and people come from all over to visit Providence, so we honestly couldn’t have picked a better place.” Kettelle went on to confess her surprise over the attitude towards donuts in the city. “It’s really amazing to see how crazy it got. To be 100% honest, we didn’t open the shop thinking that we were riding some type of wave, we opened it because we just loved donuts and wanted to bring something new and different to the city.”
Adam Lastrina and Todd Mackey, co-founders of Knead Doughnuts, never questioned that Providence would be supportive of the donut cause. “Every great city has a legendary donut shop. We felt that our city lacked that,” said Lastrina. “We only wanted to do this in Providence,” Mackey chimed in, “people support each other here and we wanted to contribute something else to the city.”
Rhode Island’s love affair with the donut doesn’t show any signs of letting up. The guys at Knead Doughnuts agree. “Why donuts? Because donuts are magical. There’s lots of nostalgia tied to them,” mused Mackey. Lastrina offered his support, “They aren’t a trend. People will always go out for donuts, just like ice cream.” The line of customers at the counter staring gleefully at the spread of donuts seemed to agree.
Here are a few choice locations for donut lovers:
Nestled among the 19th-century mercantile buildings of Downcity Providence is Knead Doughnuts. This bakery occupies a historic building and the beautifully restored interior is almost as pretty as the pastries. The doughnuts here are a solid combination of traditional and gourmet. Favorites like the Old Fashioned and Boston Cream nestle in with interesting takes on classics like the Matcha Old Fashioned and the Jelly Filled with peanut butter glaze. All donuts are made from scratch and coffee by Native Coffee Roasters is in great supply.
Silver Star Bakery
This Portuguese bakery is stocked from top to bottom with pastry and breads, but on weekends the bakers roll up their sleeves and add some classic donuts to the mix. Silver Star Bakery feels like the magical goodies store you visited with your grandmother; the one your parents refused to let you go to. Fluffy glazed donuts are king here.
PVDonuts screams fancy. A quick glance at their Instagram reveals explosively colorful treats pulled from the pages of Willy Wonka. Their donuts are handmade and hefty. Perhaps their most iconic donut is the Cereal Milk, a brioche yeasted donut covered with Fruity Pebbles.
Creativity runs in abundance. The excitement of customers in line can only be compared to kids in a candy store. Hot coffee is supplied by local favorite Borealis Coffee Roasters and iced coffee is supplied by The Nitro Cart.
It takes a few extra minutes to find this bakeshop in the far corner of West Providence, but it’s well worth the trip. DeLuise is a time capsule in the best way. For over 70 years the folks at DeLuise Bakery have been creating confections and pleasing locals. Classic donuts that are as relevant now as they were ever. Grab a brown paper bag filled with your favorites and get munching.
Augusta Street Kitchen
Founder Shanel Sinclair never set out to make donuts, but her interesting options, including gluten-free and paleo donuts, are very well received. Her health-oriented brand of donuts are now a staple of Augusta Street Kitchen’s offerings and donut-nuts and health-nerds will be happy to see them get a permanent home soon at 361 Academy Avenue—the bricks and mortar shop has been long in the making.
The Grange is a vegetarian restaurant/cafe that has made its mark through innovative vegan meals and plant-based takes on comfort food. Beyond their great plates, the kitchen also thinks up a new “Sweet Thing” pastry daily. Though this joint isn’t strictly a donut shop they often have an amazing donut offering on weekends. If you’re grabbing a coffee supplied by Stumptown or staying for a meal, be sure to also get a vegan donut when available.
Eric Tessier is a freelance journalist based in Providence, RI. Read more Eric Tessier on Sprudge.