If you love donuts (and who doesn’t), you might want to consider being just a bit more generous when you see the ubiquitous Salvation Army bell-ringers and their familiar kettles standing in the chilly winter air to solicit donations. The Salvation Army didn’t invent the first donut, but you can certainly credit much of their popularity to this philanthropic group. During World War I, the “lassies” in the Salvation Army prepared donuts for thousands of soldiers, an act which along with their compassion endeared the group to the American public. It also stimulated a taste for donuts which hadn’t existed before the war among the American public.
In 1938, the first Friday in June was established as “Salvation Army Donut Day” in Chicago, not only to honor the Salvation Army but to help raise much-needed operating funds for the group. It was also set aside as a tribute to the Salvation Army lassies who made and served the donuts during World War I. Although the spelling has been shortened from “doughnut” to “donut” over the years, by any spelling the donut has been the Salvation Army’s trademark since World War I.
In recent years, donuts and their high-carb brethren have been vilified and all but banned by the “nutritionally correct” who believe America should supplant these deliciously decadent orbs with beet juice, tofu, carrots and celery sticks. Coupled with the advent of the carb unfriendly Adkins Diet, donuts went through a period in which they were as popular as terrorist extremists at a New York City fire department party. Even the sanctified Krispy Kreme saw stock prices plummet.
Albuquerque has in recent years seen the demise, departure or diminished numbers of Krispy Kreme, Shipley’s Donuts, Winchell’s Donuts and even most of the city’s Dunkin’ Donuts. Whether it was an onslaught of health-crazed fanatics, reduced ranks in the police force or a combination of other factors, the Duke City can hardly be called the Donut City. Perhaps the one donut restaurant which did more to resurrect the popularity of donuts in the Duke City is the aptly named Duke City Donuts.
Duke City Donuts is located in the far northeast heights Scottsdale Shopping Village (on the northwest corner of Eubank and Candelaria). Turn into the Village and the very first business you will see is Duke City Donuts which moved to its new location in May, 2012, very shortly after being honored by Albuquerque The Magazine. In its annual Food & Wine issue for 2012, Albuquerque The Magazine awarded Duke City Donuts a Hot Plate Award signifying the selection of its maple bacon donut as one of the “most interesting, special and tasty dishes around.” Considering the thousands of potential selections, to be singled out is quite an honor.
Duke City Donuts is not a pretty new face to the Scottsdale Village Shopping Center, but a change in ownership in 2007 precipitated a change in direction and vision for the store. One of those changes was diversification from chocolates which meant the inclusion of delectable and delightful donuts, the type of which might make Homer Simpson swoon. That change of direction and vision was reenforced in 2011 when the store changed its name from Enchantment Chocolates to Duke City Donuts.
The menu is replete with raised donuts and cake donuts with flavors of the week for every day of the week. On Monday, it’s blueberry; on Tuesday, it’s cherry; on Wednesday, it’s lemon and on Thursday, it’s strawberry. Friday’s flavor of the day is chocolate while orange is the flavor of the day on Saturdays. A seasonal favorite is pumpkin donuts which are made in a variety of ways.
Flavor of the day doesn’t mean solely one donut featuring that flavor. On the Saturday of my inaugural visit, orange, the flavor of the day was featured in a chocolate donut, an orange cake donut and an orange raised donut. Flavor of the day also doesn’t mean obviously artificial flavoring that barely approximates the select flavor. The orange donuts have a pronounced citrus flavor, a sweet tanginess reminiscent of the sun-kissed orange in its peak of flavor.
Donuts are topped with a variety of decadent frostings including a maple frosted donut which would make any Canadian proud. The maple actually tastes like maple, not like white icing tinged brown. It’s a novel concept other proprietors of donuts should follow. More of them should also top maple donuts with a single piece of crispy fried bacon. It’s an interesting and delicious example of flavor contrasts where sweet and salty play against one another.
True to its former name, Duke City Donuts features a menagerie of sweet treats the nutrition police are sure to disdain. Aside from homemade chocolates, the store showcases a variety of fudge and other homemade candy. It also sells a nice selection of popcorn in flavors other than the de rigueur standards. The popcorn is colorful and delicious and is available in such flavors as blueberry and chocolate. You also don’t have to wait for the State Fair if you crave cotton candy. Duke City Donuts has that, too.
16 March 2013: October may be National Doughnut Month, but the magazine Everyday with Rachael Ray celebrated a “hole lotta love!” in March with a pictorial of some of America’s most “fancified and accessorized” donuts. Included in the almost good enough to eat photo shoot was a Samoa donut (toasted coconut, caramel and chocolate) from Duke City Donuts. The Samosa is much better than its photograph because you can indulge in its decadent deliciousness.
Every time we visit Duke City Donuts, we find a new favorite–or at least something new and interesting. In the latter category is a Lucky Charms cereal donut painted green in honor of the Emerald Isle. It’s too sweet for me, but perfect for my Kim who’s much sweeter. It wouldn’t be New Mexico if donuts didn’t incorporate our official state vegetable (no, not the pinto bean; the other one–chile). The chocolate-bacon-red chile-bacon donut packs a back of the throat punch. It’s the type of donut you’d want a glass of milk with. Similar to New Mexican restaurants, Duke City Donuts can actually ask the official state question–”red or green” because one of its donuts combines apples and green chile. This one not only has a nice piquancy, it has a freshly roasted flavor, too.
Duke City Donuts, where you can celebrate Donut Day everyday may offer the very best donuts in Albuquerque–donuts so good, owner J.D. Dame changed its name to reflect the popularity of the peoples’ choice product. Provided that same enchantment continues to permeate that glorious fried dough, he could call the restaurant anything he wants and donut lovers will beat a path to his door.
Duke City Donuts
3107 Eubank Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
1st VISIT: 18 July 2009
LATEST VISIT: 16 March 2013
# OF VISITS: 8
BEST BET: Chocolate Orange Donut, Orange Donut, Glazed Donut, Maple Frosted Donut, Maple-Bacon Donut, Coffee Toffee Donut, Pumpkin Cake Donut, Spicy Pumpkin Donut, Glazed Pumpkin Donut