C-U residents of a certain age remember when the building which currently houses Maize on Green Street was the storefront for Ye Olde Donut Shoppe, followed by Ye Olde Hickory Pit Barbecue. I personally have no knowledge of the food either place offered; it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I tried my first Ye Olde donut from one of their current outlets: a booth at the Market at the Square.
To set the stage a little, on what was likely a steamy Saturday morning I coaxed my children to get out of their air-conditioned comfort zone to hit the farmers’ market with the promise of breakfast. Knowing that their patience with the whole mission was thin to begin with, I decided against waiting in the crazy-long line for a newish local doughnut truck (I believe you know which one). We saw that there was virtually no line for Ye Olde, and opted to give them a try. We were all instant fans. At that time, it was rare for my youngest to eat an entire donut instead of just strip mining the chocolate layer off the top, but he gobbled up the whole thing. I was impressed with the quality of ingredients, the just-right sweetness, and the texture.
Of those qualities, I’d say texture is where Ye Olde excels. Their yeast donuts are slightly chewy on the outside, yet pillowy soft in the middle, which I consider perfect. Their old fashioned donuts and fritters strike the balance between crunchy crust and a dense, moist crumb that is the hallmark of those varieties. Both of those types also get a generous lacquer of sweet glaze which adds another layer of both flavor and crunch.
My family has sampled quite a few Ye Olde donuts over the past couple of years, both from the market and from Circle K (Ye Olde supplies all of the Circle K stores in town, plus all locations of Espresso Royale, with their bakery-case donuts). They are always just about the prettiest donuts around, no matter where they come from, but the flavor can be inconsistent. I feel like it comes down to the oil; a few times I’ve detected a bitterness on the finish which suggests that batch was fried in oil that’s a little past its optimal usage. Or, maybe it’s due to something else entirely — regardless, I believe that sometimes the slight bitterness is there and sometimes it’s not. When it’s not, I would rate Ye Olde pretty highly on the “Best in C-U” list.
According to a News-Gazette article from nearly a year ago, Ye Olde is going to open new shops “at a later date.” I went to the location Google lists for Ye Olde but found out it’s their bakehouse — no retail space exists yet (although I was told by the worker loading up a truck for delivery that a store is still in the works). In the meantime, you can find Ye Olde donuts easily at the locations mentioned. They are more or less expensive depending on where you purchase them, but as far as I can tell the donuts are the same.
My advice: take advantage of the $10/half dozen deal offered at the Market some Saturday this summer and sample a little bit of everything. You may find, as we once did, that your new pastry love has been waiting for you in C-U all along.
Ye Olde Donut Shoppe
Urbana's Market at the Square
Sa 7 a.m. to noon
Photos by Rachael McMillan