By Gillian Burdett

Plain, powdered, glazed or filled with sweet jam, doughnuts hold a unique spot in the American culinary scene. They were a sensation at the 1938 World’s Fair, they comforted troops during the World Wars, and today boxes of doughnuts can be found in workplace break rooms throughout the country.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, fried dough treats, known as oily cakes, were brought to the New World by the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam. Early 20th Century doughnut making machines made the doughnut business a profitable enterprise leading to the chains of doughnut shops we see across the country today. In 1938, the Salvation Army established the first Friday of June as National Doughnut Day. In 2017, National Doughnut Day lands on June 2. You can’t go wrong picking up a dozen at one of these Connecticut doughnut shops for your own celebration.

Neil’s Donuts And Bake Shop
83 North Turnpike Road
Wallingford, CT
(203) 269-4255

In 2001, Neil Bukowski, owner of Neil’s Donuts, left an unsatisfactory career in sales to launch his New York City-style bakeshop. At the time, the only option for doughnuts in the area was large chain shops with their bland offerings. Bukowki believed he could do better. The community agreed, and Neil now sells 150 to 200 dozen doughnuts a day. The shop offers 40 doughnut varieties, each hand cut and filled. The doughnuts at Neil’s are larger than industry standard, and the bakers are generous with fillings and toppings. Each year, additional employees are brought in to work National Doughnut Day, as their business more than doubles with the annual doughnut celebration.

Beach Donuts
344 E. Main St.
Clinton, CT 06413
(860) 664-5058

Master doughnut maker Ted Powaleny has been making doughnuts at his shop for more than three decades using 70-year-old secret recipes passed on to him when he purchased Beach Donuts. The original shop opened during the Great Depression at Old Lyme’s Southview Beach. Powaleny continues the made-from-scratch tradition at his small Clinton shop.  Beach Donuts offers 23 varieties made fresh daily. Beach Donut Shop made Grub Street’s list of 101 American Doughnut Shops with Serious Street Cred.

Elmwood Pastry Shop
1136 New Britain Ave.
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 233-2029

The Winalski family has been operating Elmwood Pastry Shop for nearly 70 years, with a third generation carrying on the tradition. All their baked goods are handmade from scratch daily with no preservatives or artificial fillers. You won’t get day-old doughnuts here. All leftovers are donated to local charities. Their doughnut lineup includes old fashioned-style doughnuts and crullers. They specialize in glazed doughnuts using a recipe brought to Connecticut from the 1939 World’s Fair. For something unique, try their peanut butter and jelly doughnut, a jelly filled pastry with a smear of peanut butter.

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King Donuts
467 Hartford Road
Manchester, CT 06040
(860) 643-5763

King Donuts is a local favorite, known for their outrageous variety of flavors. In addition to traditional plain, glazed and Boston crème, you’ll find blueberry cake and red velvet, if you get there early enough in the day. These oversized doughnuts do sell out quickly. This may be last doughnut shop in the area to make old-fashioned sour cream doughnuts. Call ahead with your order to ensure your favorites are available, or stop in for breakfast. This unassuming shop serves up hearty breakfast sandwiches, bagels, muffins, croissants and fresh brewed coffee along with their famous doughnuts.

Stew Leonard’s
100 Westport Ave.
Norwalk, CT 06851

You don’t have to wait for the autumn apple season to enjoy an orchard favorite. The bakery at Stew Leonard’s fries tender and light cider doughnuts year round. Stew Leonard’s is more than a grocery; it is a shopping experience offering kid-friendly activities along with groceries. Originally a one-location dairy store in Norwalk, Stew Leonard’s now has markets in Newington, Danbury and a few locations in New York State.

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