4616 14th St. W., Bradenton
This is the umpteenth entry in a weekly column dedicated to eats that are cheap. If you have an idea for a place to feature in Cheap Eats, comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter:@LeveyBaker.
No doubt: I mostly wanted to visit Bradenton Donuts because of the building.
Set right on U.S. 41, in a stretch dominated by gun shops, mobile home parks and fast-food chains, Bradenton Donuts' mid-century style just calls out to you. Its long roof, bent into the shape of a "W," sits atop the glass-paneled doughnut shop coated with fading yellow paint. On the left side, the shop's iconic blue and green sign rises from a clump of grass. Shaped like the roof of the building, it carries the shop's name, plus the image of a one-toothed man in a black suit and glasses carrying forth a tray of sweet pastries and black coffee.
On the opposite side of the building, where I park, a one-lane bridge leads back to a church offering services in Spanish and a thick cell tower rises to the west. Through a wall of windows, I can see low metal stools bolted to the floor, surrounding a couple of U-shaped counters.
The words, "Home of the Potato Raised," blaze in the clear panes, and indeed, Bradenton Donuts prepares its signature item similar to Turner's Donuts—with potato flour. Bradenton Donuts debuted as Mr. Donut in 1966, not long after Turner's landed in its current downtown Bradenton spot, and it's easy to picture the two competing in sugary sport, each trying to out-dough the other in psychedelic '60s Bradenton. You had to be there, man.
Inside, it's strictly regulars this Sunday morning. One customer chastises the man behind the counter: "You weren't here last week," she admonishes. Three other regulars sit on the low stools sipping coffee, with nowhere better to be. They're gossiping about a cop who must have just stopped in. The light coming through the windows is soft and yellowed, like someone's installed a retro Instagram filter on reality. The color palette ranges from soft pink to cream to teal.
The doughnuts are a hellacious bargain, at 80 cents a pop, $3.99 for a half-dozen or $7.75 for a dozen. The trays include all your favorites: maples, sprinkles, chocolate glazeds, Bavarian creams, crullers, apple fritters, cakes, lemon creams and more. Breakfast won't run you more than a couple bucks here.
Like the doughnuts at Turner's, the ones from Bradenton Donuts are soft and chewy, lacking the sharp crunch of typical yeast-raised types. The exception to the rule are the shop's apple fritters. A small one is thin and disc-like, and it's all crunch, with a dose of cinnamon. My wife, Rachel, points out that it's lacking in the apple department, but come on, who eats doughnuts to taste fruit?
She prefers the cruller, round and crinkled like a miniature swamp buggy tire. Crisp on the outside, airy within, delivering an almost-creamy flavor, it's delish. "It's a cruller, cruller summer," Rachel says, "but this doughnut makes it sweeter."
While the vibe inside Bradenton Donuts is relaxed and inviting, I'd suggest getting your doz to go. Every good doughnut deserves a strong, strong cup of black coffee to complement it, and Bradenton Donuts' brown water doesn't live up to those demands. Back home, a bowl-sized cup of unadulterated joe does the trick. Come for the building, leave with the sugar.