The road map for your sweet tooth

Photo: Bill’s Donuts regularly has a long line, sometimes out the door

By Brennan Burks

A little over a year ago, I heard rumors about a trail of debauchery that seemed akin to Adult Candy Land: The Butler County Donut trail. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I assumed it was just a ploy by the visitor’s bureau and county higher-ups to get people travelling around and spending money in an area of the country comprised mostly of subdivisions, single stoplight towns, fairgrounds, and family farms. 9 shops, over 3000 calories and generous portions of pleasure and shame later, I realized it was a creative excuse to discover and enjoy some of the best tasting sweet treats I didn’t know were just a short drive away.

Naturally, I started wondering about the kinds of doughy creations that were being made right under my nose and just around the corner. What I’ve come to learn is that the Dayton area, among other monikers, should be called a donut capital. We have some shops that are nationally recognized, some that are old enough to have served your grandparents (with probably the same delicious recipes), some that are experimenting with new techniques, and all that offer great tastes. The diversity of this region’s donut creators is as endless as their glazed trademarks.

The classics

If there is one place that people not from here already know about, one place that when someone tells you to try, you try it, no questions asked, one place synonymous with donuts in Dayton, it’s Bill’s Donuts. A Dayton institution since 1960, Bill’s has been ranked as one of the top donut shops in the country by the likes of Saveur Magazine, USA Today, and the Huffington Post. Why all the hype? Chances are it’s rare that you will find a place that makes donuts as consistently good for generations upon generations (upon generations) as they make them at Bill’s Donuts.

Consistency is key. Not only are the ingredients nearly the same, but you get the feeling sitting in the old booths surrounded by wood-paneled walls with bags of flour and sugar stacked floor-to-ceiling just visible through the bustling kitchen, that the atmosphere is about the same too—and that kind of permanence brings comfort.

As for the donuts, it is hard to go wrong here. The fan favorites include their standard glazed, Devil’s food, Blueberry Cake, Apple Spice, and Caramel-iced among others. However, if pushed, I would recommend starting with a bag of their Donut Holes—if you have always assumed these were part of the kids’ menu, it’s time to grow up.

If the name doesn’t tell you enough, the two words that adorn the front of the building of the next stop will; American Classic.

Coffee. Donuts. Classic diner atmosphere. Classic selection. Classic taste. An interesting side note of history on the building: it has been a birthplace for donuts since the ‘70s when a Krispy Kreme was housed here; American Classic broke away from the franchise in the ‘80s and has been locally owned ever since.

Like other classic shops in town, you will find your glazed, sprinkled, sour cream, and cream filled. The simple glaze is a little sweater than most, but I recommend you give it a try for the sake of All-American taste. If you want something a little off the beaten path, a local favorite is the Peanut Butter filled. It’s thick and dense and sweet enough to split in half, but muster your courage and down the entire thing.

Donut Palace is no exception to being a classic. It seems that the overriding theme of donut shops around Dayton is to offer your go-to favorites and a stool or both to shoot the breeze on a fairly regular basis and Donut Palace does just that. Baking twists, apple fritters, and a variety of glazed classics for decades, this northern Dayton staple (now with three locations) is a sure fix for your Saturday morning or work night sweet cravings.

While you can’t go wrong with any of the standards, for blueberry cake and sour cream-glazed lovers in particular (the latter is my Achilles heel), the dense rounds—the weight of each thickly-sugared donut alone will surprise you—made here are hard to beat.

New to town

As the new kid on the block, District 6 Donuts brings a modern approach to the donut shop scene. On the corner of Oakwood and Irving, just a few late-night steps away from UD, you can order your treats exactly the way you like them.

Opened earlier this summer by a former police officer, District 6 turns out hot and fresh dough all day long—can you imagine working within smelling distance? Their trademark, however, is choice. Capitalizing on the customization vogue, you choose from icings, toppings, and drizzles and concoct your own dozen. And while the menu might look sparse compared to some of the other places here, 7 icings, 10 toppings, and 3 drizzles to choose from leaves your imagination wondering. Perhaps a maple iced, loaded with bacon, coconut, and M&M’s, drizzled—no, smothered—with Peanut Butter sauce? Any takers?

If potential diabetic-inducement isn’t your thing, I recommend the simplicity of the Cinnamon Sugar. Warm and crispy—that’s a hard combo to beat.

Another newbie, Bear Creek Donuts only celebrated their first anniversary back in April. This little shop nestled into the reviving downtown of Miamisburg feels like it’s always been there. In the handful of times of stopped in or driven by, a small crowd always seems to be gathered. This could be due in part to the clean, modern interior and quaint, small town charm. Or, as is more likely the case, it could be due to the delicious, warm smells and array of classic and new age donuts.

You will find your glazed and your sour cream, your blueberry and your cake batter. However, where Bear Creek pushes the palate is in their over-the-top creations: Fruity Pebbles, Andes Mints, Reses Pieces, and, my personal recommendation, Oreo (with the chocolate donut and white frosting, it’s the donut version of your favorite cookie you always unconsciously wanted).

Crazy concoctions 

At Jim’s Donut Shop, with a checkered red and white floor, fluorescent red swivel bar stools, and wrap-around counter, you step through a time warp at the next point on the map. You are back sometime in the 1960s, in the land of the American dream where small parlor shops were the heart of communities that you gathered in after the Friday football game. But don’t assume it’s only stuck in the past, as it offers an array of donuts that add to the flavor of this donut trail.

One way Jim’s has stayed relevant all the way up in Vandalia and is beckoning you to come try it, is the sheer size of some of the donuts on the menu. Take the apple fritters. It’s fair to say that at 6-foot-5-inches, I am taller than the average individual. And with fritters as large as my hand—not just my palm, but from outstretched thumb to pinky—it’s fair to say that these are bigger than average too. Skimping neither on the apples nor the sweet glaze, these larger-than-life fritters are a treat you should plan on enjoying.

Stan the Donut Man offers as much of a quaint diner feel as any joint in the Dayton area. To accompany the strong cups of black coffee and friendly conversation with regulars, you will find quality donuts and pastries ranging from simple chocolate with sprinkles, to maple bacon, and a delicious pecan pastry. Where they stand out, however, is in their large selection of cake batter offerings (with no glaze, they won’t fall apart when dunked) as well as boasting a specialty treat that packs a sweet punch: the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup donut.

As if the peanut butter icing and chocolate drizzle wasn’t enough for the hedonist within, perched in the center, like a crown jewel, waits an entire Reese’s Cup. I suggest pairing this with a full glass of cold milk. I also suggest setting aside time for a digestive nap, as a sugar coma will soon set it.

Hidden treasures

The first donut shop I visited when I moved to Ohio a little more than five years ago was Milton’s Donuts. Then, as now, this treasure is located next to a pay-day loan center, a mediocre pizza chain, a Chinese takeout joint, a boot repair store, and a vacant front in a worn down side of a town that’s seen better days. As much as Middletown is the epitome of rustbelt America—a once thriving working-class, industrial town now suffering from high unemployment and increasing drug addiction and overdose rates—Milton’s is the definition of the persevering small-town business—for generations, regardless of economic circumstances, they have strived to be “The Connissour in Donuts” and pressed on as a beacon of hope and sweet comfort in the community.  Even as it changed owners for the first time in its 57-year history just 3 years ago (longtime owner Dan Milton sold it to Jay and Amy Bryne), the famed recipes haven’t changed.

The Cherry Cheesecake Donut is iconic, but Milton’s offers such great tasting quality that, unlike other places I’ve been to more than once on this list, I try to mix it up and see what first catches my eye each time I’m there. I encourage you to try this tactic as well. I’d put hard cash down that you won’t be disappointed.

Hidden in Downtown Dayton, Donut & More doesn’t seem to have much to it. They offer a few pastries, some breakfast and lunch sandwiches and sides, and gas station quality coffee (this is not an insult, mind you, because sometimes you need a cup o’ joe that’s simple and straightforward, without hints of berries or butterscotch or pumpkin).

The selection of donuts is, like the coffee, no-nonsense: the éclairs, some even topped with nuts, are the most extravagant, but I recommend the standard glazed or coffee donut, which are not overly sweet and generally fit the atmosphere best. So if you have a court date, an appointment with the Social Security office, or are simply doing some business with the Bail Bonds service next door, stop in to this mom and pop. But bring cash, because they don’t take anything else.

The Donut Haus, conveniently located across the street from the Springboro Police Department, has been turning out tastes for decades. Although recently remodeled, the place has the feel of a daily meeting place for regulars, probably because I saw the same group of older men with steaming cups of coffee sitting at the same booth both times I visited.

Praised for their apple fritters, you won’t go wrong with any of their cream-filleds or glazed, but if put on the spot, I’d suggest the maple iced with nuts as a great fall flavor for your first go around.

Another shop on this list that doesn’t boast its product through fanfare and large advertising is Daniel’s Donuts. This Fairborn gem, as the front of the story indicates, has built a loyal, community following by offering simple fare: coffee and donuts.

With largely only these types to choose from, you’ll find comfort in the plain, the cream-filled, the custard-filled and the jelly-filled. It must be closer to their nature, but my choice at this joint will always be the simple, cinnamon flavor of their plain donut. It’s a classic American favorite for a reason, and perhaps that’s why I’m confident there will always be a place for the Daniel’s Donuts of this world.

After spending time with some of Dayton’s donut masterpieces, perhaps more donut trails will spring up or something more officially organized and with a logo (like a donut bike race or a donut 5k) will come to life. Whatever the future holds for the Dayton region, donuts are sure to be part of it.

A note from DCP Creative Director Paul Noah:

Before we speak doughnut, or more commonly, donut, it’s important to mention the natural expectation for good tasting coffee in a donut shop. How else would the grocery store coffee flavor “Donut Shop” have become so popular? Though Dunkin’ Donuts is an obvious national chain we won’t again mention in this article (or any national chains for that matter), their acclaimed coffee demands mentioning. And though bakeries also create donuts, our nod here is to the myriad of local mom & pop businesses that dare to include the D-word in their moniker.

However, sugar has been credited for the worldwide diabetes health epidemic no longer to be ignored. Where four in ten US middle-aged adults are now obese, where diabetes has skyrocketed to over 300 million worldwide, and where children and teens are forty times more obese than forty years ago, it would be irresponsible not to urge everyone to please strongly consider reading the Center for Disease Controls recent “prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth” report and watch the alarming Canadian documentary “Sugar Coated” by visiting As with any, all things in moderation and consume at your own risk.  

– Paul Noah, Creative Director Dayton City Paper

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Reach DCP freelance writer Brennan Burks at

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