John T. Edge, writer, educator, and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, wrote a book on doughnuts, aptly titled Donuts: An American Passion, that explores America’s fascination with fried dough. He spent time researching them across the country and came to the conclusion that, “Yeast or cake structure, rice or wheat flour, Italian or Dutch origin, it mattered not a whit. I sought donuts that told me a story of America. And the tales surfaced quickly, came easily.”
Here are some of the best places in the South that tell that story and speak to us in sugar-sweet tones of all that is good and comforting.
The Donut Shoppe
Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Since 1980, The Donut Shoppe has been serving up all the standards made fresh every morning in their little restaurant in Muscle Shoals. The apple fritters and red velvet cake doughnuts may catch your eye in the bakery case, but if you look closely, you’ll notice the tubs of fillings—white “wimpy” cream, Bavarian cream, strawberry, and lemon—off to the side. The filled doughnuts in the bakery case, well, aren’t. They’re just blanks that are sitting there waiting for you. The folks at The Donut Shoppe don’t fill them until you order them, so they never get soggy, and they end up being a treat you’ll be willing to drive back for over and over again.