Paula’s is a three-branch chain of donut friers in the Buffalo/Niagara area. Its calling card is the peanut stick, a cake donut bar completely coated in crushed, roasted peanuts. It’s a must for peanut lovers, or, more generally, for all fans of things that are very crunchy and crumbly. One can imagine that a regular consumer of the peanut stick has a very messy car. The donut is a tad try by itself, almost scone-like, but when it gets dunked in coffee, it springs to life.
Paula’s more inventive donuts are made with good ingredients that bring each creation to life. One of our favorite little twists is the use of “angel cream.” Rather than the typical chemical donut custard, Paula’s fills many of its selections with a milky white, light, fresh whipped cream. The best use for this is the special strawberry shortcake donut. This takes a strawberry filled donut and adds angel cream. It’s complicated, but we can’t deny that it’s incredibly delicious.
Other favorites include a “soft” apple fritter that uses a different layering of dough to produce a fritter with an entirely new, more tender texture. The outside still has a nice crust, so the donut ends up tasting almost pie-like, which is dandy.
The most disappointing donut of one morning’s visit is the humble honeydip, Paula’s version of a raised glazed. It is a decent interpretation, but does not match the quality of the filled yeast donuts.
Paula’s stands out for being an unusually bright, cheery, clean and large donut shop — something like a donut superstore. The selection hovers around 30 varieties, which is about the most donut shops can handle before staleness becomes an issue. There are signs everywhere advertising the Wednesday special, a mascarpone filled “cannoli donut.” It looks so tempting that we look into room rates to stay an extra five nights for it.
On a final note, we’re always trying to find a place that makes excellent, non-fancy donuts, and that also serves excellent, non-fancy coffee. It is a rarity, but we’re happy to report that Paula’s is close to the ideal. The coffee isn’t terribly watery or bitter, and it certainly isn’t fancy.