Loose pants? Check. Comfortable shoes? Check. Ab stretches followed by some cleansing breaths and a swig of water, and it was go time. In honor of National Doughnut Day this past Friday, I set out to find the best doughnut in San Juan Capistrano.
National Doughnut Day was created by the Salvation Army in 1938, purportedly to honor the female volunteers who had served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. To boost the confidence and morale of the soldiers, Salvation Army members Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance conjured up the idea of providing the comfort of home-cooked food to military men.
(I’m sure that frying up doughnuts in helmets in wartime left little time for worrying about the dangers of trans fats and triglycerides.)
The number of doughnut shops in San Juan Capistrano is limited to three: Donut Hut and two Wendi’s Donuts locations, at Camino Capistrano and Ortega Highway.
When I enthusiastically greeted the cashier with “Happy National Doughnut Day!" I was met with a look of “Like I haven’t heard that one 20 million times today," combined with the “Don’t even think about getting a free doughnut” stance.
But the mood quickly changed when I told him of my self-imposed challenge (it probably helped that I name-dropped Patch.com). Immediately, store manager Ken Chauv stepped in to give me a quick tutorial of the difference between “raised” and “cake” doughnuts. Chauv explained that the puffier, lighter-style glazed doughnuts are called raised doughnuts because of the presence of yeast. The other, denser doughnuts lack the yeast, hence the name “cake."
Chauv deftly helped other customers, shifting between English and Spanish easily. His welcoming attitude made it obvious why his shop was so busy.
To make a fair comparison, I used my planned approach of ordering the same doughnuts at each shop. I ordered a plain cake and a glazed raised. I took one bite of each and moved on to the next store.
was clean and tidy. I learned from owner Saryching Chan that the store opened a mere 10 months ago. Chan, a humble and quiet woman, had a smile that showed how eager she was to serve.
There were fewer doughnuts on display than at the Hut, but after sampling its fare, I determined its offerings were much fresher. Chan also explained that the shop does not use trans fats. The first bite I took indicated right away I was in for a treat.
At , I found the same name but different owners. Shop owner and 24-year business man, Denny Tsai, served me my doughnuts. Also owner ofnext door, he told me of his other previous shops as far north as Santa Monica. He's been owner of this establishment for eight years. It’s no wonder that he could greet customers by name as they entered the door.
I thanked him for his service and took a bite of my tasty, sweet sample.
With my sampler pack of doughnuts in hand, I reached in to grab the one doughnut I actually wanted to finish. At the next stop light, I took another bite of the freshest raised, glazed doughnut of the bunch.
With glaze still on my face, I glanced at a truck that pulled up next to me. The driver gave me an embarrassingly large grin partnered with a thumbs up. He said something I couldn't understand but used the universal tummy-rub sign. I gave a solid thumbs up in return ... and held up the Wendi’s Donuts, Camino Capistrano, bag in agreement.
Thumbs up to .
The 5 pounds I gained well worth being caught with glaze on the face.