HomeBusinessThe Honest Eater: Scratch Donuts come to Hopkinton

The Honest Eater: Scratch Donuts come to Hopkinton

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Key Takeaways

  • The Donut Stand Cafe opened in Hopkinton on March 1, and business is booming
  • All menu items are made in-house from scratch with locally-sourced ingredients
  • In addition to craft donuts, the restaurant offers a selection of sandwiches, salads and soups.

We confess, when we first passed by the Price Chopper plaza last month and saw the sign announcing The Donut Stand Cafe, we asked ourselves does Hopkinton really need another place to get donuts and coffee?

After meeting the owner, sampling the menu, and witnessing the line of customers out the door, the answer is an emphatic Yes.

Where else in Metrowest will you find farm-to-table donuts, made from scratch, every day? 

Since he was a youngster, Mike Lombardi had always wanted to be a chef. He dreamed of opening a fine dining establishment, and after graduating high school he enrolled in culinary school. While a student, Lombardi worked part-time at a bakery, learning as much as he could about dough and bread making. “I was always very interested and fascinated with the process, experimenting with different yeasts and fermentation techniques, and just figuring out how it works,” he said. 

Mike’s father, Rick, owns the Vin Bin, with locations in Marlborough, Southborough and Hopkinton. In 2012, Mike opened a cafe inside the Marlborough location and served sandwiches. On Sunday’s he added donuts as a special item, and they were an instant hit. “From then on, I just wanted to figure out how to make better donuts and how to make the business grow,” said Mike.

On March 1, The Donut Stand Cafe officially opened its doors at 22 South Street in Hopkinton. Mike’s wife, Hannah, took over the responsibility of the Marlborough store while Mike focused on opening the new location.

While some bakers are content to purchase pre-made mixes, Mike’s culinary training kept him from following that path. He knew how to make the product from scratch, and felt strongly that putting in the long hours to do so would pay off in the end. It was also important that all of his ingredients were locally-sourced – local milk, eggs, butter, and flour. “The product is much fresher when the ingredients come from miles away, not states. You can taste it,” he said. 

The Donut Stand’s not-so-secret weapon is their brioche bread. A traditional donut is relatively simple to make; flour, yeast, sugar, milk, eggs and butter. Mix it all together, fry it up, and you’ve got a standard donut. But brioche bread adds an extra dimension. The French pastry is known for its rich flavor and texture, and it has a much lighter feel by comparison. Brioche also holds moisture better than other types of dough, making donuts that are less likely to dry out. But the tradeoff is that takes a lot more time to mix, rise, ferment and prove. “We make dough on Monday that we won’t touch until Thursday,” said Mike, “but the result is a more airy, lighter dough.”

Mike takes viewers through the process of making brioche bread

In keeping with the theme, the Donut Stand is a scratch kitchen. Even the jam used in filling is made by hand. In spite of the extraordinary amount of time and energy it takes to prepare all of these ingredients in advance (Mike’s day starts at 3:00 AM, doors open at 8:00 AM), it’s worth it to him. “I like to think our customers can tell the difference between food that is made fresh onsite versus in a commissary,” he said.

The Donut Stand also features a lighter fair menu, complete with sandwiches, salads and soups, which has proven to be incredibly popular with the business parks on South Street and passing tradesmen. One of the hottest items is their take on the Reuben sandwich, which features Midwest sourced beef that Mike trims and corns himself. “It’s a 7-14 day process before we even cook and serve it,” he said. Mike spent five years perfecting the recipe before he was truly comfortable with it. Also popular with customers is the South Street Turkey, a loaded turkey sandwich with bacon, pepper-jack cheese, tomato and romaine on sourdough bread. The Donut Shop has vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options as well.

While we were talking a man came in to the restaurant, and Mike had to turn him away. “Sorry, we’re not open on Tuesday’s,” Mike said. “Where will I get lunch?,” the man asked with a smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said. 

Indeed, the shop is only open Wednesday through Sunday, hours Mike plans to expand as he is hires more staff. “We’re turning people away every Tuesday right now and it’s tough for me,” he said. “It’s our job to feed people.” 

The Donut Shop features a rotating menu that is printed each week, allowing Mike and his team to experiment with new recipes. Recently, in a nod to his Greek heritage, they served a deconstructed baklava donut, complete with toasted filo dough, a honey glaze, cinnamon, sugar and walnuts. “I grew up with baklava, but I always thought it was too sweet, so I tried to make a donut that was a bit more approachable.”

And not for the faint of heart, this is Mike’s take on a cinnamon roll.

The local response to The Donut Shop has been humbling, said Mike. “We’ve been overwhelmed by how positive it has been. We’re selling out of donuts like crazy so we’re doubling our inventory. There is a line out the door pretty much every day. And though we’re proud of it, we know we can’t take it for granted. We’ve got to make sure we stay on top of everything.” 

The Honest Review

We asked Head Baker Amanda to select six of their best creations for us to sample. We also added 4 gluten free donuts and a 12 oz coffee, which brought the total to $49.40. The shop is clean and orderly and the service was quick.

We cut in to the Classic first. The brioche is very light and stands up well, and the while the donut is sweet, it’s not annoyingly so. This would become a theme in our taste test.

The raspberry/blackberry jelly elicited the first “Oh my God, that’s so good” from our taster. Copious amounts of jelly oozed out of the roll when split, and we could tell it was homemade. It had a perfect balance of sweet and tart.

The chocolate black & white with Belgian ganache was next. This is a traditional cake donut, so it’s thicker than the brioche, and it definitely felt heavier. It was like eating dessert for breakfast. The chocolate was sweet with a hint of bitter, and overall it was good, but not our favorite of the bunch.

The maple glaze old fashioned is another classic cake dough, and it was very light. Like the others, it wasn’t overly sweet, which is a surprise considering the maple syrup.

The brioche blueberry glaze with toasted hazelnut was a triumph. The crunch was great and we loved the creative presentation.

“I liked the gluten free donut because it felt like I was eating something naughty,” said our GF taster. “Normally gluten free desserts you eat the whole thing and it’s like meh.”

Finally, as we’re partial to cinnamon rolls, we saved it for last, and it was great. The frosting is the star of the show; it’s creamy and has a hint of lemon, but again, it’s not overly sweet. The dough is light, not claggy, and the roll has just a hint of cinnamon. It is crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle, even when served at room temperature. Our taster said that if they were blindfolded they would not necessarily think it was a cinnamon roll because there are no raisins and the cinnamon is so light, but still rated it highly.

While we were at the shop, we ran into a customer named Dan who works for Dell EMC. “I’ve been here 3 or 4 times now,” he said. He learned about The Donut Stand from one of his colleagues, who follows them on Instagram (@_donutstand). Dan was on his way to work and picking up treats for his coworkers.

“I like it because when you come here, you don’t know what you’re going to get. They change up the menu every week, so there’s always a nice variety. In addition, you can tell a lot of the food is made with love,” he said.

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