Carytown’s Dixie Donuts gets ready to rise

After spending several months on the market, a prime location in Carytown is getting ready to take doughnuts to a whole new level. How did the idea come about? Just how different will this doughnut shop be? And how do Korean fried chicken and Belgian frites fit in?

Dixie Donuts
  • Who: Betsy Thomas, founder of Betsy’s Coffee Shop and owner of Cafe Ole, and her partner J Frank
  • What: Dixie Donuts will create eccentric and eclectic doughnuts in a new take-out spot located in Carytown, plus serve Korean-style double-fried chicken and Belgian frites
  • When: Opens mid-May
  • Where: 2901 W. Cary, across from the Byrd Theatre
  • Doughnuts: In addition to traditional flavors, they will offer peach cobbler, maple coffee glaze, white chocolate pistachio, and coconut lime verbena. Plus various fried chicken and frite flavors

— ∮∮∮ —

It’s clocked at 500 doughnuts-per-hour. That’s 4,000 doughnuts each day. While its daily output won’t likely reach these numbers, the doughnut-making machine is a boon to anyone with a sweet tooth. Betsy Thomas’s machine will make its public debut later this month at the opening of Dixie Donuts, a take-out shop that aims to go light years beyond the simple fare of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

“It’s an experience,” says co-owner Betsy Thomas about the new business. “It’s going to be fun.”

Thomas has owned the two-decade-old Cafe Olé since 2008. Before taking over the Richmond staple, she owned and operated Betsy’s Coffee Shop (now Bin 22) before selling it. In November 2010, Thomas and her partner, J Frank, expanded Cafe Olé’s long-standing presence on 6th Street into Carytown. Unlike the downtown location, the Carytown spot was open for extended hours each day of the week. While maintaining that Cafe Olé is a great concept, Thomas said the expansion “didn’t translate well.” It wasn’t open for long. “It was a big learning experience,” said Thomas.

Dixie Donuts will take over the former Cafe Olé satellite location at the far east end of Carytown.

In February of this year, while Thomas courted other restaurant owners to take over the space, J Frank read an article in The New York Times that caught his attention. “A light just went off,” says Frank. “It just struck a note.” The article was about a doughnut shop in Philadelphia named Federal Donuts. He promptly shared it with Thomas. “The following weekend we were in Philly checking it out,” she says.

Federal Donuts was “completely open” in helping them learn about the nuances of the doughnut shop business. Thomas, however, remained skeptical. “I had reservations from the start.” Frank kept at her. “It’s comfort food. It’s what people can relate to,” says Frank. “Everyone likes a doughnut.” Soon enough, Thomas not only yielded but started to get excited about the prospective business. Richmond would get its own artisanal doughnut shop.

While Krispy Kreme offers only a basic assortment of doughnut flavors, Dixie Donuts will, as Frank puts it, “think outside the doughnut.” When customers walk in, they will find flavors as varied as a maple coffee glaze, coconut lime and peanut, white chocolate and pistachio, among others in their ever-changing selection. There are near enumerable “decorating and flavoring combinations,” says Frank. “It’s just endless.” They plan to open with about eighteen unique flavors, including one as a homage to Federal Donuts.

Dixie Donuts hours

  • Tuesday – Friday • 7am – 5pm
  • Saturday • 8am – 5pm
  • Sunday • 9am – 3pm

Unlike yeast-risen doughnuts (e.g. Krispy Kreme), Dixie Donuts will use a cake-based recipe. Cake-based doughnuts typically cook quicker in a fryer than their yeast counterparts, and as a result they retain less oil than yeast doughnuts. While the yeast variety are more traditional, cake doughnuts have steadily grown in popularity: Federal Donuts, Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts, and San Francisco’s Dynamo Donuts all sell cake doughnuts.

Not only will Dixie Donuts serve an eclectic selection of doughnuts, but the shop will also serve Korean-style fried chicken. After removing the fat, the chicken will be double fried, a technique that Frank says make the item “lighter and not as greasy” as typical fried chicken. He anticipates that customers will likely have a choice of three glazes, which may include a sweet chipotle or a sweet asian ginger garlic.

The shop will also serve the grandfather of the modern french fry—Belgian frites The Belgian frites will also have similar flavor options to the fried chicken. Unlike fast-food restaurants, Frank says that there will be no heat lamps in Dixie Donuts—all food will be cooked-to-order. “I know our product will be good,” he says. While current zoning issues prevent them offering sit-down dining, it is something that they would like to add in the future. They are embracing their location at the edge of one of the city’s most trafficked areas. “This is a perfect take-out [spot],” says Thomas.

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

28 comments on Carytown’s Dixie Donuts gets ready to rise

  1. Any word on the type of coffee I’ll get with my donuts?

  2. Ross Catrow on said:

    @Daniel They’re working with Blanchard’s Coffee to come up with a special Dixie Donut blend.

  3. Kimmy on said:

    This sounds yumtastic. Hoping one day they will consider a curry donut like this!
    http://www.tastedmenu.com/boston/restaurants/japonaise-bakery-cafe/curry-donut

  4. CSB on said:

    I hope they open early, because I’m gonna take so many donuts to work, y’all don’t even know.

  5. JP on said:

    Country Style rules! Williamsburg Road y’all! Dixie sounds good too, but seriously, Country Style is amazing.

  6. PapaZ on said:

    Seems like this business concept and menu could benefit from late hours as well.

  7. Geez, it’s like Carytown is conspiring against my eating habits and wallet. First Don’t Look Back’s great tacos, now doughnuts, all within walking distance from my house. And Bev’s basil ice cream. GOD IT’S ALL SO GOOD.

  8. Jo on said:

    if they made vegan options I would probably be ten pounds heavier in a matter of a week.

  9. Any word on how much they plan to charge for these “artisanal” doughnuts? I cautiously intrigued but don’t want to pay much more than I do for Country Style doughnuts.

  10. Heather T. on said:

    Gluten free should be made an option! I haven’t had a deep fried donut in over two years! I need one in my life!

  11. Oh yum. I’ve been watching this spot & wondering when the shop would open. Spicy donuts, too, perhaps! This is exciting “food” news.

  12. Jessie on said:

    I agree with PapaZ! Carytown needs some late night food options on the weekends at least. I’m thinking 3am on Saturdays and Sundays!

  13. Chris on said:

    I’d like to think there’s the possibility of some “spicy korean-style fried chicken doughnut”.

  14. Mattie H on said:

    I second the vegan donut option! We vegans love to eat!

  15. Abigail on said:

    Vegan donuts would sell so well! We like junk food too!

  16. Brittney on said:

    will they have any vegan donuts??

  17. Regarding the vegan requests, Thomas told me that they are seriously considering providing vegan donuts. They are also experimenting with a gluten-free version.

  18. So happy for you Betsy! I wish you every success and can’t wait to try it all.

  19. Melissa on said:

    I will definitely bring a whole box to work to celebrate the opening! Personally I would like to see both yeast and cake donuts similar to Voodoo Doughnuts, but I will gladly eat a maple coffee cake donut every weekend. Husband requests maple bacon and dogsitters request vegan. :-)

  20. So excited about this development for Carytown. I agree that Country Style is great – but Dixie Donuts is clearly going to have more intriguing, complex flavors. I hope the price is right and I am sure they will consider vegan and gluten-free (even if they are basic flavors) as the Richmond community has a lot of people who would buy them! I am not sure the owners would be jumping at expanded hours, as the article states they tried that with their previous satellite Cafe Olé and it did not work out. Lets support local businesses!

  21. Steve on said:

    I’ve missed Voodoo Doughnuts so much… if y’all wanna compete you gotta up the vegan production!

  22. Bobby Lee on said:

    Donuts ain’t supposed to be gluten free. They’re not health food, Y’all!

  23. Susie on said:

    Vegan Donuts Please!!!!!

  24. Really excited for this and I’m happy the owners of the former Carytown Cafe Ole were able to think of a new concept that would really work for the space and I’m sure they will succeed! My only wish is that they would close at 6 just to give me enough time to make it to Cartytown before close after work!

  25. raven on said:

    Vegan donuts x 1000. I will bring in a horde of mouths everyday.

  26. William on said:

    I too would like to see vegan options. Though we are not local, we are planning to visit central VA 2-3 times a year. With Vegan options available, I’m sure I can convince my wife to agree to stop by each time. :)

  27. they need to be 24/7 for real.
    Also, higher coffee to water ratio and easier to get in the door and out. there’s a lot of prep space and not a lot of room to serve customers.

  28. Vikki on said:

    Currently I visit Dixie Donuts on Saturday mornings and love eating these uniquely flavored, yummy moist cake donuts! So I am definitely excited about the upcoming menu!

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