I made an accidental discovery on the donut trail. And those are often the best scenarios for finding good donuts. I was in Cincinnati to explore four breweries: Rhinegeist, MadTree, Listermann’s and 50 West. I had an elaborate plan of visiting the new Jungle Jim’s, Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream and the Senate before meeting my contact in Cincinnati for brewery exploration. However, there was a snag in the plan. I was driving to Cincinnati, on a Friday, in the rain. That was a recipe for inefficiency. I had forgotten what a shitstorm the freeways of Cincinnati are. En route I-71 was stalled due to a semi accident and then the rain started and then Mrs. Gourmand and I hit the 275 belt right at rush hour. As the duder would say, “Suck It.” It became clear that the plan was not going to work and I might be lucky to make it just in time to start the brewery tour.
While looking for a parking garage in The Over The Rhine I spied what looked like a promising donut shop but donutery research was not on the plan…or the timeline. As luck would have it, we got to the Senate minutes before it opened, so we had just enough time to head back in the opposite direction to Holtman’s Donuts. I’m glad we made that detour.
Looking at the outside of Holtman’s, I had a good feeling that they would deliver. It was a simple storefront with the hours posted in the door. Holtman’s is open seven days per week which is always a good sign. Another good indicator was that they are open to 9 pm Tuesday to Saturday…so they recognize that people NEED donuts past noon. Another good sign was the donut with a bite taken out of it logo as the iconic image over the threshold. I was excited the moment my hand touched the door.
Just to the left of the entrance you can see the enclosed bakery area. Most donut shops block the line of sight from the counter to the production area. Letting customers see what happens in the art of donut making is a sign of pride in their craft. So at this point, not even 4 steps past the door, my donutry confidence rating scale (D.C.R.S) was registering off of the charts. Then I saw the two super comfy chairs for extended donut eating and the wooden communal table. The table has four stools attached to it with old hardware that allows the seats to swing out in many directions. Cool, retro, comfortable and practical…yep, I was simpatico with this place and I had not even made eye contact with the donuts themselves.
So now, over 400 words in to this story…on to the donuts. There was not an overwhelming selection available which is my mind is a good thing. At places like Bill’s and Donut World I have sometimes been perplexed by having too many choices. Also since it was late in the day, a good amount of the inventory had been decimated by roaming herds of Over the Rhine hipsters. I spent a long time staring at the donuts trying to make the best selections. Exhibiting more contemplation than would be considered normal or socially acceptable I finally decided on the following: Blueberry (cake) glazed, Blueberry Cream Cheese, Cherry Fritter and Maple Bacon Blueberry Cake.
Hot Dog (read this with the tone and inflection of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life)! Using Mrs. Gourmand as an assistant sampler, we evaluated and deconstructed each donut in great detail. We found the best elements of all of the donuts were the glazes and icing. The Cream Cheese icing was the best I’ve encountered in my adventures in donut hunting. The regular glaze featured on the other donuts we sampled was equally impressive. The standout was the fritter. And while I only tried one, I can say with some degree of confidence, that Holtman’s has the best fritters in Ohio. They make what I call the Goldilocks Fritter which balances all of the critical elements a fritter needs to knock it out of the park. The fritter is neither too thick or too thin. It is crunchy on the outside yet incredibly soft, moist and fluffy in the inside. Each bite was a taste of perfection with the proper balance of everything an old school fritter should constitute. That alone, warrants a trip to Holtman’s. Welcome to The Ohio Donut Trail Holtman’s, I look forward to another visit.