So, when I got an invitation to be a judge in a doughnut competition at The 1st Annual Carolina Donut Festival from Robert “Bob” Masiello of Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts in Marion, North Carolina, I did not say “No.” I was ON IT. Ready to eat some fucking doughnuts and pass judgement on them ALLLL!!!
My doughnut mania is real.
So, you can imagine my disappointment when I got a note from Mr. Bob a few days before the event telling me that he couldn’t get ANY other doughnut shops to come compete with him at his festival in Marion, so while the fest was still on, the competition was off, and my judging services were no longer required. Bummer. Since I wasn’t a judge, I opted to skip the event all together… I have to confess, I kinda figured it was probably gonna be a bust anyways… since Mr. Bob was going to be the only doughnut vendor there… not likely to get a good turn-out.
When I finally met Mr. Bob a few weeks after the festival, he told me that 8,000 people showed-up, and he served 5,300 doughnuts until he sold out! And then people were upset that he didn’t have more!
I happen to know that Mr. Bob had reached out to most, if not all of the doughnut makers here in Asheville, but did not hear back from any of them about his inaugural Donut Festival in Marion. 🙁 I felt bad about that, so I decided to do some doughnut diplomacy! I invited Mr. Bob to bring me a sample of his doughnuts, and offered to take him on a doughnut tour of Asheville. I knew that if he saw the doughnut shops here, and met some of the nice people face to face, that he’d be able to begin building the doughnut community that he was hoping for. Of course, being the selfish bastard that I am, this was really all about ensuring that I get to be a dang judge in an actual doughnut competition at NEXT YEAR’S doughnut festival! So, c’mon, People! Get doughnutty wit me and Mr. Bob already.
One hot day — I think it was officially FUUUHHHCCCK degrees outside — Bob and his son Rob rolled up to Maison d’Foofan here in Asheville, and I the first thing I did was eat some doughnuts, with the help of my nephew, who I invited along for the fun. He’s 16, built like an Adonis, and is as healthy as can be. I thought he needed more doughnuts in his life.
Bob’s doughnuts are super-traditional, yeast-style doughnuts that are very much like the yeast doughnuts I remember from when I was a kid. They were perfect in that regard, in fact. They exactly fit the bill for what a doughnut should be, in my mind, and I think in the minds of most people like me, who have a lifetime of experience with eating a lot of doughnuts.
Apparently, out there in Marion, Mr. Bob and his doughnuts are wildly popular, and his “Apple Ugly” was voted Best in the Country by Food Network Magazine. When I posted pics of our Asheville adventures on Facebook, it got a lot of likes, and reach, and comments.
“This is amazing, a friend and I drove from Brevard today just to get Mr Bob’s Do-Nuts. I noticed he wasn’t there or out front. Our pre-order of apple uglies was ready and waiting. Of course we added to that. Worth the ride!” – Mary Jo W., food fan, doughnut fan, Mr. Bob fan.
I want to tell you this straight up: Ain’t nuthin’ healthy about Mr. Bob’s doughnuts. These doughnuts are not made with hand-ground, organic, heritage grains, or stuffed with artisanal goat cheese, and micro-greens. These are fucking doughnuts, Yo. In fact, more precisely, they’re Do-Nuts. And they’re full of sugar, and fat, and sugar, and processed flour, and more sugar, and they’re fuckin’ good, and I want one right now!
My nephew and I split two of Mr. Bob’s doughnuts — my fave was the “Cream Cheese” filled — and then we all hit the road to visit the first of four local Asheville doughnutteries: HOLE!
Hole – Hot Doughnuts and Fresh Coffee is just over the river in West Asheville, on the “Sweet Street” section of Haywood Road, and it is probably one of the most unique doughnut shops in America. Owner Caroline wasn’t there, but doughnut maker Lindsey was very friendly and welcoming, talked to Bob and Rob about doughnuts, and made us all some freshies like only Hole can do. If you haven’t been to Hole, here’s the deal: They make very small batches of donuts, to order, and serve them hot. They have four “flavors” each day, that can be very creative, and are always delicious. You can watch your doughnut being made right before your very eyes, and then eat it HOT while sitting in the cutest little structure on Haywood. It’s a very simple operation — like if the pilgrims had a doughnut shop — and the doughnuts ain’t like any other kind of doughnut you’re likely to eat that day, or ever.
Bob and Rob both acknowledged that a Hole doughnut is a whole different animal than a Mr. Bob’s doughnut. Next stop: Vortex Doughnuts!
We managed to catch Eli from Vortex right when he was super busy, but he totally took time to talk with Bob and Rob and then he cut them loose to chat with the doughnut makers in the kitchen for about 20 mins, while my nephew and I ate some doughnuts in the front. Vortex doughnuts are more like a Mr. Bob’s doughnut than Hole doughnuts are, but they are still a lot different. In terms of quality of ingredients, and toppings… and price… Vortex is on the high-end of things for a doughnut shop. At both Hole and Vortex, you’re definitely gonna be paying over a dollar per doughnut, more like $2.50 – $3.00 apiece, and to me they are worth it. At Mr. Bob’s the doughnuts are .99¢ each, and that’s the perfect price for a Mr. Bob’s doughnut. I’ll take one of each, please! My doughnut tastes run the gamut.
Our next stop after saying goodbye to the nice folks at Vortex was Geraldine’s Bakery up on Merrimon Ave. I figured that Fred’s operation up there would feel familiar to Mr. Bob, because it feels familiar to me, and just about everyone who walks in their door. If you haven’t been to Geraldine’s yet, you’ve gotta go. It’s exactly what a family owned bakery should be, according to my own memory banks. The sights, the aroma, the customer service, the set-up itself, is all precisely what I think of when I think of “small bake shop.” Fred’s even got red and white striped butchers’ string hanging from the ceiling to wrap-up the to-go boxes with. Also, Geraldine’s doughnuts are .99¢ each, and more in keeping with Bob’s traditional style doughnuts.
Unfortch, Fred was taking a well-deserved day-off, AND they were all out of doughnuts (they sell all kinds of baked goods, and when the doughnuts are gone they are gone), but Tasha was very nice to us, and Bob left his card for Fred. If anyone is going to be a good Asheville connection for Mr. Bob, I feel like Geraldine’s has a lot of potential.
Final stop, Asheville Biscuitry. Chef Brian at Asheville Biscuitry is simply one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Even though we totally interrupted his day, he took time to put on the Ritz, and gave Bob and Rob the grand tour of his kitchen and doughnut frying station. Lindsey (a different Lindsey) styled us out with a couple of Brian’s famously square doughnuts, and they were effing good, Yo! I hadn’t been to the Biscuitry in a long while, and daaang, Brian, those doughnuts were the bomb. And, also .99¢ each.
At the end of our adventure, Bob got back into his Mr. Bob mobile, and we said goodbye! It was a really fun day, and I was happy to be able to play my small part in strengthening doughnut relations across county lines here in WNC.
Bob is 100% stoked to do another Carolina DoNut Festival next year, so…
PS – I fed my nephew some organic kale afterwards, because I felt kinda bad about loading him up with doughnuts. True story.
MR. BOB’S DO-NUTS
60 S Main St, Marion, NC
HOLE HOT DOUGHNUTS AND FRESH COFFEE
168 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC
32 Banks Ave, Ste 106, Asheville, NC
840 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC
372 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.
I have driven all the way to Marion for Mr. Bob’s donuts, and they are marvelous. Total carbohydrate heaven. I go to Hole from time to time since it’s in the neighborhood. Vortex is too cool for school. I don’t care for their attitude (Are you cool enough to eat our stuff?) or their doughtnuts. What’s this about the Plant restaurant owners buying a Charleston donut enterprise?? I am not surprised that the Asheville artisan doughnut shops didn’t want to go all the way to Marion for a competition. How rude, however, not to respond to someone like Mr. Bob. Rudeness seems to rule Generation X, Y, and all that follow. I encounter it everywhere in Asheville.
donuts! yes! glad we have great choices here in asheville! hole is great for a hot and fresh one. geraldine’s is fantastic, especially the fritzer! I’m eating one right now, no lie. vortex is amazing, I’m not even vegan and I always get a vegan donut, so much flavor! The plain glazed at Biscuitry is solid!