Before the recent grand reopening of Donut Savant in the Allendale, the DS website posted a tantalizing video teaser. For several weeks you could click on donutsavant.com to find moving footage of batter frying in baskets of hot oil. The approach was subtle and enticing. Instead of a large declarative font announcing an exact opening date, virtual visitors enjoyed a visual and auditory preview of what was to come. I checked the site at least once a week to substitute an ASMR experience for my actual donut cravings.
After the doors opened in November, the site removed the frying video. Now the lead image is a horizontal row of donuts featuring the tagline, “We’re redefining donuts in Oakland California.” Animated logos from a variety of food publications back up the claim of their wide-ranging appeal. Owner Laurel Davis’ genuinely novel idea—which at first seems counterintuitive—was to make each donut smaller.
Davis explained the origin story behind her approach. “The thing that always bothered me as a kid was going back into a box of donuts, maybe in the afternoon, and you look inside and all those beautiful pastries now just look like a mess,” she says. One donut winds up on top of another one. For her, it wasn’t appetizing to the eye. “Not only do I love the way food tastes,” she says, “I also love the way it looks.”
In 2012, she opened Donut Savant in downtown Oakland on a month-to-month lease. “I just wanted to elevate the product and the experience of the shop,” she says, adding that, “In a lot of people’s minds it’s kind of lowbrow.” Everything is made from scratch. “We use the best quality ingredients that we can and we make small batches in-house throughout the day so that everything is very fresh.”
Her second sensible reason for downsizing was this—apple fritters and maple bars are huge. Yes, you could eat one of them by yourself, but after that a sense of gluttony can easily set in. The serving sizes at Donut Savant aren’t disappointing. They’re bigger than petit fours. Yet they do share similar qualities. For donuts, they’re dainty and pretty, but just as satisfying as the ones at other shops that are the size of fists. “We’re making them a little bit smaller so that you can have two or three different things,” Davis says. “You can have five apple fritters if that’s what you wanted to do.”
Ms. Davis knows exactly what I want to do.
Donut Savant, 3000 38th Ave., Oakland. 510.9.SAVANT. donutsavant.com.