In the Broadway District of Downtown Salt Lake City, you can find myriad shops with unique products, proprietors, and stories. Walking into The Big O Doughnuts you'll find it fits right in with the one-of-a-kind feel of that part of the city. The shop--with a name conoting a foodgasm upon eating their product--hearkens to the mid-twentieth century for its decor, but with a softer touch complemented by art from local artists hanging on the walls.
Speaking with Zak Farrington, partner of Jessica Curzon the owner of The Big O Doughnuts, I learned that this plant-based doughnut shop has a story as old and new as many you hear in small businesses throughout the country. "Ally and Jessica were driving around and wanted vegan doughnuts," he said. "That's not something you can easily find in Salt Lake so they thought 'let's do that' and started experimenting at home."
Ally is Jessica's daughter who works in the shop. After experimenting with recipes and flavors at home during the spring of 2015, they started to sell their doughnuts at the People's Market near the International Peace Gardens, as well as at Sugar House Coffee. Eventually, they wanted to open up a shop.
"We had this joke that we could kidnap Ron [Green's] dog and make him help us get space," Farrington said. Ron Green is the owner of The Green Ant and has a lot of influence in the area according to Farrington. The day after making this joke, Farrington drove down Broadway and saw a 'for rent' sign just a few doors down from The Green Ant--no dognapping required.
The Big O Doughnuts is a vegan bakery, though they prefer to be known as plant-based. "Vegan has a weird connotation," Farrington said. He said that plant-based is something everyone can relate to so it can be a less frightening term to customers who might not be vegan. "[Our doughnuts] are for everyone, and [they're] awesome doughnuts either way."
The model for The Big O Doughnuts is unique to Salt Lake City, but common on the East Coast. Instead of having a designated closing time, they open at 8 a.m. and close when the doughnuts have sold out. "We're so small, we don't have a non-stop baker," said Farrington. Instead, they all work together in their kitchen (at a different location) and make deliveries to the shop.
After a hectic grand opening, which just so happened to coincide with National Doughnut Day, they are fine-tuning how many doughnuts they should make each day. On opening day, they made 750 doughnuts--not anticipating the high demand on Doughnut Day--and sold out by 10:30 a.m.
In addition to unique business hours, The Big O Doughnuts keeps things interesting by using fresh, local ingredients where possible and makes everything by hand. "We don't want this big automated doughnut--we're a craft doughnut," Farrington said. It's a longer process to hand dip every doughnut and to mix everything by hand, but to Farrington and the others, it's a processes well worth it. "It's great to see us sell out, and to see people excited about our doughnuts."
The ultimate question is whether or not the doughnuts taste as great as they sound. With no reservations, I say yes.
The blueberry lavender was a must-have because lavender and blueberries are two of my favorite food items. The blueberry glaze is made with fresh blueberries, and the lavender flavor was bold--something seemingly rare in floral tastes.
Orange cardamom is exciting and new, the cardamom jumping out after a few chews and lingering into the next bite. The orange bite was as refreshing as a glass of fresh-squeezed.
The rose doughnut was a flavor I was intrigued to try, but also nervous to try. I have tasted rose sweets before, but they tasted more like rose soap than anything I want to eat. The rose doughnut on the other hand, is simply divine. It has a small hint of grapefruit that is dominated by the abundance of rose. This doughnut is a rare breed of deliciousness.
The Big O Doughnuts is a new-in-town must-have delight. The location on Broadway makes it easy to access, as well as a part of an exciting part of the city. The flavors of the doughnuts and ambiance of the shop make The Big O a welcome addition to the palette of Salt Lake City.