913

Sweeter by the dozen: Visit Johnson County’s independent doughnut shops

Updated: 2014-01-12T05:14:31Z

By JONATHAN BENDER

Special to The Star

If you want to start an argument in Johnson County, just tell someone you’ve found the best doughnut shop in the county.

Those born in Joco will likely claim the doughnut of their childhood can’t be topped. Those who eat doughnuts regularly will press you for details on whether you’re talking about a cake doughnut, a long john or a fritter. Eventually, you will find yourself with glazed-covered hands, a cup of coffee and an understanding that you simply must agree to disagree.

The independent doughnut shops of Johnson County are as mercurial as the very argument about which is the best.

And that, in many cases, is why they are beloved. They run out of flavors. They don’t have websites. You better bring cash because credit card machines crush the margins on an 80-cent doughnut. They make you work for something you want.

The sugar slingers are anchors to the past. The vinyl stools and the hand-lettered signs are echoes of a day when we didn’t post food photos on Instagram or use a hashtag to put the cap on a great meal. As a result, our connection to them — and the owners — is somehow more personal. So when a doughnut shop closes, the loss is felt more deeply. Some doughnut holes can’t be filled.

In a year when Dunkin’ Donuts returned to colonize Johnson County, several independent doughnut shops disappeared. Doughnut Factory (9408 Johnson Drive, Merriam) closed its shop in 2012. The store had far-reaching roots, stretching back to Nick Mitchell Sr.’s launch of the Flavor-Made brand in 1955. Hillwah Donuts & More (12126 W. 87th Street Parkway, Lenexa), the only area doughnut store to offer doughnut kabobs (doughnut holes on a skewer), closed in December of the same year. Hillwah’s was the last of a revolving door of would-be glazers: Paradise Donuts, Steve’s Donut’s and Lamar’s all tried to make a go of it in the same space.

Still, doughnuts aren’t a fad. They are not a $4 bite of luxury like cupcakes. They’re an inexpensive, year-round reminder of why we love the fried foods of a county fair and the cider doughnuts that accompany an annual apple-picking trip. It will be a sad day in the Midwest if it turns out we have passed the point of peak frying oil.

With so much tied to our memories and family connections to doughnut shops, 913 didn’t set out to discover the best doughnut shop in Johnson County.

Instead, we decided to stop by each of the six independent area doughnut makers and find out exactly what it is that keeps us going in — for — circles.

Mr. D’s Donuts

11222 W. 75th St., Shawnee

913-631-1282

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily

Doughnuts of note: Honey dip, cinnamon roll

A pair of army veterans sits at the far ends of two rectangular tables pushed together in the center of Mr. D’s Donuts. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, they compare their relative health in between sips of coffee and small bites of honey dip doughnuts. Chi-Fen Chang smiles at them from behind the register, while her husband — the Mr. D. in Mr D.’s Donuts — talks on the phone in the kitchen at the back of the shop.

The men pause their conversation as the door opens at nearly 10 a.m. A pair of brothers, their wives, a sister and a half-dozen children come barreling into the shop. They ignore the wire racks filled with deodorant, baby powder and off-brand Barbies at dollar store prices. The children press their face and fingers against the glass case beneath the register. The family orders 20 doughnuts that are stacked like a carb-laden pyramid on the plastic tray.

“Where’s my doughnut boy?” says Mr. D. (who declined to give his full name or an interview).

A boy with hair spiked from his winter hat steps forward to give him a hug. Mr. D sits with the family at the U-shaped counter, the boy of about 8 perched on his lap. When he asks about the family’s patriarch, the sister explains that her father is out of the hospital and back on his feet.

“Your doughnuts were the first thing we brought him,” says the woman.

The children plow through blueberry cake doughnuts and cinnamon rolls. Mr. D gives them a brief tour of his kitchen before they are once again swaddled in hats and scarves. The family promises to return soon, and Chang waves good-bye from the register.

The old men watch them go. They sip their coffee and continue to work at their doughnuts — a pair of seated sentries waiting to welcome the next group that comes through the door.


Oz’s Maq Donut House

3615 W. 95th St., Overland Park

913-381-0425

Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Doughnuts of note: Pineapple fritter

Mohammad Aslam Qadir waves through the window in the half-wall that separates the kitchen from the retail counter at Oz’s Maq Donut House. Qadir, who is known as “Ozzie” to his friends, is busy kneading dough for pineapple and apple fritters. He only makes a dozen of each at a time.

“Try one,” says Qadir, his hands flecked with flour and dough as he hands over a small brown paper bag. “You’ll be addicted.”

Qadir has been in the doughnut business for more than 30 years, having started with Winchell’s in the same space before opening Oz’s in 1986. So it makes sense that he marks his customers with time.

“First time?” is a likely greeting for those new to the shop, while regulars are either chided or celebrated with a “long time,” depending on his intonation. While Qadir once owned five doughnut shops — it’s how he’s managed to send five children to The Barstow School — he’s now down to the single location in the Ranch Mart Shopping Center.

“I have my regulars,” says Qadir. “And I just sell what’s in my case.”

If you want a fritter, get there before 10 a.m. because the rest likely will have gone to those regulars.


John’s Space Age Donuts

8124 Floyd St., Overland Park

913-381-0980

Hours: 6 a.m. until sell-out Tuesday through Sunday

Doughnuts of note: Apple fritter, caramel cinnamon roll

Without a working flux capacitor, time travel has always been outside of humankind’s grasp. That is except for at 8124 Floyd St. Because here, at John’s Space Age Donuts, the world is still as it was in 1967 when the shop first opened.

The stools around the U-shaped countertop are vinyl. A man in a white shirt and pants — the ubiquitous outfit of the soda jerks that once were stationed behind drugstore counters — serves up your doughnuts. And elderly men sip coffee while children let their feet dangle and sip noisily from straws inside milk cartons. Norman Rockwell would have loved it here.

The doughnut shop owned by John and Brenda Taylor, who bought it from John’s dad in 1975, is a touchstone for generations of families that live in the area near the Matt Ross Community Center. The apple fritter is where most orders start and end. The moist pastry is the size of a quarter-pounder and has a hint of cinnamon inside the flaky outer crust. Park in the lot behind the shop and, if you’re early enough, you can catch a glimpse of doughnuts being made in the kitchen as you walk alongside the building to the front.


Yos Donuts

7170 Renner Road, Shawnee

913-631-7023

yosdonuts.com

Hours: 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

Doughnuts of note: Maple, breakfast burrito with bacon

Yos Donuts celebrated its 10th anniversary last May. Matt and Sokha Yos are the mom and pop behind this shop, where the most popular item might not even be a doughnut.

Yos serves a breakfast burrito chock full of eggs, sausage and cheese that comes on a white paper plate with a smattering of their own red salsa with a peppery kick. If you can scrape together two dimes, you can add bacon. Bring the 20 cents — the second meat is worth it.

The maple doughnuts are the first to leave the case, the sweet balance for those who have just finished a savory burrito. Both are often out of stock before 9:30 a.m. Yos features yeast-raised doughnuts, where sweetened dough is fermented with yeast as opposed to a cake doughnut made with baking powder. The doughnuts are therefore as close to light as any of their species can be.


KC Donut Company

2014 E. Santa Fe Road, Olathe

913-768-4911

Hours: 6 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday

Doughnuts of note: Vanilla, knots (braided glazed and chocolate glazed)

When we called to ask about the hours for the KC Donut Company, the woman answering the phone demonstrated that she was clearly a morning person.

“We were here at 5:30 a.m. You should have been here,” she said laughing.

Vanilla is often the first flavor to sell out, but chocophiles can sink their teeth into the “double sweet,” a sledgehammer of chocolate that comes either iced or glazed. The doughnut company, now in its second decade, isn’t afraid to go non-traditional with green doughnuts on St. Patrick’s Day and oversized birthday doughnuts the general size and heft of a discus.

KC Donut Company sits not far from Interstate 35, wedged between a dance studio and a Great Clips. The strip mall shopping center also is home to laser tag and go kart racing. KC Donut’s tagline is “heaven by the dozen,” but this shopping strip is clearly where pre-teen boys go to heaven.


Fluffy Fresh

5729 Johnson Drive, Mission

913-831-1609

Hours: 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday and Sunday, 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday.

Doughnuts of note: Glazed, Bavarian creme-filled Bismark

Nobody has yet set up a tent outside of Fluffy Fresh in Mission, but the morning line can be as long as those outside of an electronics store on Black Friday. Theoretically Jim Hollinger’s shop is open until noon, but its doors are never open that late because they close when the case sells out. (There is a second independently owned Fluffy Fresh at 10123 State Line Road on the Missouri side — you’ll know it by the aptly named signed next to Office Max that simply proclaims “Donuts.”)

A trip to Mission can often be an exercise in gustatory compromise. You’ve got your heart set on a chocolate iced cake doughnut with crushed peanuts, but you’re going to be just as happy when you find there are only rows of shiny glazed awaiting you. Your motto should be the same as any preschool classroom: “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

Like at Oklahoma Joe’s, the smart money calls ahead. You can leave a voicemail the afternoon or night before with your order. Just bring cash the next day and be sure to ask if anything is hot so you have something to eat in your car on the way back to the office.

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