When walking to Dottie’s Donuts on the corner of 46th and Springfield Streets, veer off the main block of Baltimore into an array of houses, past a mechanic’s shop where the garage door cranks open by hand with an old rusty chain, and stumble onto the doorstep of a local vegan donut shop. From the Quad, the walk is about 15 minutes, enough to feel you have escaped campus for a bit, but close enough to be able to get a donut on a whim.
Immediately as the door opens, a sweet, warm aroma encompasses you and the air fills with cinnamon, sugar, and maple scents. Behind the counter hangs a chalkboard with a hand–edited menu completing the pink and black '80s roller derby color scheme of the place. With “Dirty Jokes” by The Slow Death, a low–profile punk rock band with hints of The Smiths, playing in the background, this donut establishment fits a West Philadelphia persona. Ahead of us in line is a trendy young couple, both coated in tattoos and fitted in skater–chic outfits. At 5 p.m. on a Friday, Steve the barista tells us that most of their hit doughnuts have sold out, but he still helps us put together a nice selection of vegan doughnuts to taste.
We try seven of their available donuts: Lemon Poppy, Raspberry Vanilla, Vanilla Glaze, Chocolate Glaze, Pumpkin Ginger Cookie, Cinnamon Sugar, and Raspberry Matcha Sugar. Each donut had the same heavy density, halfway between a donut and a cake, allowing you to truly get a full two dollars’ worth.
Between the two classic donuts, “Vanilla Glaze” and “Chocolate Glaze,” we were more impressed with the vanilla; however, we appreciated the nuanced hazelnut influences in the chocolate glaze. These donuts got the job done in terms of enjoyment, but Dottie’s Donuts had yet to differentiate itself from other ordinary donuts in the market.
Next, we tried the seasonal special donut: "Pumpkin Ginger Cookie." There is amazing creativity with this flavor that demonstrates a willingness to take risk. The strong ginger provided a sharp flavor that paired nicely with the pumpkin undertones. Be warned, however, as this donut is divisive. It split our group in half in terms of who liked it and who didn’t. Like cilantro, I think you need to be born with a certain gene to enjoy this donut.
Out of all the donuts, “Lemon Poppy” ended up being the group's favorite. It was very sweet, with a strong citrus tang that evened out the donut. The “Raspberry Vanilla,” looking quintessential with its white and pink glaze, was also extremely sweet, but with a more artificial maple syrup flavor.
Finally, we tried two non–glazed, sugar–coated donuts: “Cinnamon Sugar” and “Raspberry Matcha Sugar.” These donuts tasted quite similar and were a bit dry without the glaze. Neither was out–of–this–world, but still are reliable and standard donuts.
After working at Dottie’s Donuts for a year, barista Steve said his favorite donut is the everyday “Boston Cream,” the special “Chocolate Oreo,” and anything with mocha cream filling. Earlier that Friday, Steve noted that the "Pumpkin Glaze Mocha Butter Cream" donut sold out immediately, but they usually have two different flavors of filled doughnuts everyday. When asked if there was anything Steve would want potential customers to know, he said, “A lot of people hear about vegan donuts and expect, at best, okay donuts that aren’t as good as non–vegan donuts,” but Steve full–heartedly believes that “these are great donuts and as good as any non–vegan donut.”
On the wall next to the bar hangs an assembly of local adverts, including “Brian Flynn’s Massages,” “Vegfest,” and “Groovy Gabe’s Guitar Lessons.” Dottie’s Donuts does a fantastic job of retaining an authentic Philly atmosphere in their niche donut shop by promoting and interacting with the community. Dottie’s has been able to integrate itself into the community and provide not just a vegan–alternative, but a vegan first choice range of donuts for its community. In my humble opinion, these donuts may not be something to write home about, but they are consistent and reliable so if you’re in the neighborhood, definitely stop by to pick up a "Lemon Poppy" or a classic "Vanilla Glaze."