Friday, May 22, 2009

A Trip to Wooster for Lerch's Donuts

If you happen to find yourself near Wooster, Ohio, you might want to take a moment to find one of it's hidden treasures. A friend of mine alerted me to the presence of Lerch's Donuts (Twitter feed here) and suggested that I give them a try. Unfortunately, I had a problem. The website only lists their permanent location as "Portage Square Plaza". Both Google and Yahoo had a hard time putting an exact address to that search term. Fortunately, another Wooster-related site that allows users to comment on local businesses had an entry on Lerch's along with their location information. Specifically they are at 2312 Akron Road, Wooster, OH 44691. Akron Road also happens to be Rt. 585, the same one that connects Barberton to Wooster.

Unable to verify when their hours were (having a website is nice, but leaving off things like a street address and business hours seems a little pointless, no?), I decided to throw caution to the wind and drive down anyway as it was a lovely day. After weaving around left and right turns on Rt. 585, I finally came to the intersection of Akron and Portage Roads and immediately saw what I was looking for, a tiny little fair-style cart sitting in front of what used to be Hawkins Market (which has huge lettering by the way, hard to miss) on the right hand side of the road.

I pulled off and found a place to park and walked up to this:

The menu is simple: donuts, French waffles, and freshly squeezed lemonade. And even the donuts were simple: plain, sugared, or cinnamon sugared. While this one location I was at is permanent, there are two other carts that travel local fairs and festivals. Clearly the menu is short and sweet because they know what they are good at and this is exactly the food product they are trying to provide. No artifice at all.

Looking over the prices, I decided to get the "6 donuts for $3" deal. Two of each please. I walked away with this:

I normally try to avoid getting parts of my hand in the shot, but it was an extremely windy day today and had I let the bag go, it would have either a) fallen over or b) been moving so much that I wouldn't have gotten a good photograph. I decided that I'd better do the taste test while sitting inside my car.

Having worked so well for my Swensons post, I decided to do the food-on-the-knee photography again. These are smaller donuts (much like The Fractured Prune) so there is no need to feel guilty about eating a couple at a time. Here are the three kinds:

At the top is the plain, at 4 o'clock is the cinnamon sugared and at 8 o'clock is the sugared. They are all made from the same basic cake donut batter, but then finished in different ways (again like The Fractured Prune). Here is a shot of the interior of the plain donut:

I was quite surprised when I went to lift the donuts up off the napkin to finally eat them. I found no grease spots whatsoever. This lack of greasiness definitely translated to a wonderful light-tasting experience when eating them.

In doing my research on Lerch's before making the decision to go, on more than one occasion I came across comments from both websites and people who said that these made-to-order donuts were superior because you received them right out of the fryer. Now this may very well be true if you hit them up first thing in the morning or when they are close to running low on inventory, but when I got there and ordered my six, the woman simply walked over to a set of trays, slid one out and filled my bag. I didn't have the presence of mind to ask when the donuts had been fried, but it had been long enough that they were the same temperature as the outside air.

When I finally had a chance to try them, I decided to start with the simplest of the three, the plain donut. It had an interesting "crunch" to the outside. More of a resistance than a crunch really. I liked it. The donut itself was nice and fresh on the inside and what really surprised me a lot was the controlled level of sweetness. It wasn't cloyingly sweet like a Krispy Kreme is. I also found that even with the cinnamon sugared and sugared donuts, they were equally as restrained on the sweetness factor. I found that I rather enjoyed them.

I ate three of them sitting in my car and then brought the other three home with me. I tried them again several hours later and found that while the flavor was still the same as it had been earlier, that elusive "crunch" was now missing; effects of the room's humidity no doubt. I'm going to go out on a limb and propose that they are probably at their peak when right out of the fryer and dredged in the cinnamon and/or sugar coatings.

Would I purposely drive the forty-five minutes it took me to get there again just for these donuts? Probably not. If I was within fifteen minutes of their location, would I change course for some of these donuts? Absolutely. And if one of the two extra Lerch's carts happened to be at a fair or festival I was attending? Perfect.

And before I forget to mention it, I asked the woman working behind the counter what their hours of operation are. Hours of operation are from 6:30 am - 6:30 pm, although the closer you get to 6:30 pm, the less inventory they may have available to sell.

While these donuts probably wouldn't appeal to the extreme sweet tooth readers out there, for everyone else they are a nice treat and I definitely recommend them.

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