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?

  • 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

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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.

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