If you ever meet someone who says she doesn’t like donuts, this person is a) lying or b) never had a truly good donut. And the latter explanation is the most likely one, for unfortunately, there are a lot of bad donuts out there. Houstonians, if your donut experience has consisted only of bland, dry, saccharine rings baked not-so-fresh from your local grocery store or lackluster local branches of national franchises, well, you’re in for a treat.

Multiple treats, in fact, for the recently opened River Oaks Donuts offers an assortment of glazed, flavored, and filled donuts in addition to apple fritters, cinnamon twists, and several varieties of kolaches. Having lived in Boston, Massachusetts (aka Dunkin’ Donuts mecca) for almost a decade, I was initially skeptical of claims that River Oaks Donuts made especially noteworthy donut holes. What can I say, I harbored an irrational brand loyalty to the creator of Munchkins, beloved weekend matutinal snack of my childhood.

Thank goodness, however, my preferences are pliable. Even in my older age, I am open to new favorites among which I count River Oaks Donuts. Their classic glazed, with an equal distribution of sugar syrup and a light interior, are excellent; even better, perhaps, are the “iced” donuts adorned with a top coat of frosting in a range of primary and pastel colors and dusted with cheery sprinkles or (my personal favorite) coconut shavings. Regular-size donuts also appear with standard vanilla fillings, which are good, but nothing to write home about. However, the diminutive donut holes are filled with more exciting stuff, like cappuccino cream and raspberry jelly.

And while River Oaks Donuts does not offer every flavor of donut you can possibly imagine (sorry, you’ll have to go to Dunkin’ for that pina colada donut), the limited selection actually makes the more creative flavors (such as a glazed red velvet cake) seems (and taste) more special. Another novelty item worth trying is the “Long John,” a larger rectangular donut filled with cream and frosted with chocolate.

Kolache aficionados have also been quick to note that River Oaks Donuts, unlike many, many other bakeries, use low-grade hot dogs in their confections. The owners rightfully brag about this fact, stating explicitly on their menu that they use only Praseks sausage, which, in case you don’t know (and I didn’t), is a purveyor of high-quality meats located in the Texas Hill Country. At some point, I would like to take a roadtrip to their shop, but for now I’m happy to be able to sample some of their wares via that delicious doughy vessel that is a kolache.

My last piece of advice for visiting River Oaks Donuts: Go early and often. If you’re seeking donuts for just yourself and are not terribly picky, it’s fine to pop in the shop, which is open every day of the week until mid-afternoon and staffed by friendly but not overzealous employees. If, however, you’re buying for the office crew or your family, arrive before 11 a.m. for the best selection. The word is out and the neighbors seem to can’t keep their hands off River Oaks Donuts, especially the old-fashioneds.

River Oaks Donuts
3601 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77027

Joanna O'Leary


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