Great meals and dining experiences capture our senses, leaving landmarks in our memory.
The sensational smell simmering on the stove top. The taste of a perfectly seasoned sauce melding with its protein. The feeling of juices sliding onto your fingers as you squeeze your favorite burger. These are the moments we live for, the highlights that keep us coming back to the fading recipes passed down from generations and classic haunts with familiar servers.
My grandfather died a few months ago and as I spent time in my hometown, I drifted to reminders of the great life he lived. I found myself around a table one evening, outnumbered by a group of powerful women from my family, including my grandmother and her twin sister. The evening consisted of great stories about my grandfather and memories of special moments shared with my grandmother, her sister and husband, and their children.
And of course, some of that conversation organically led to discussion of food– in some cases, tales of horrid encounters of culinary disgrace, often at the hand of my grandmother and her sister. Many laughs were had and we ended up on a discussion of Krispy Kreme Donuts and other breakfast delights. As a faithful lover of breakfast pastries, I mentioned my recent rediscovery of one of my favorite donut shops in San Antonio, The Original Donut Shop.
Throughout my childhood, The Original Donut Shop was our first destination every Sunday morning. On our way to church, we drove through the drive thru to pick up glazed donuts for the parents’ Sunday School class. My brother and I were allowed one donut each, and I always chose the éclair for the brilliant combination of chocolate on top AND the special bonus of custard in the middle. My parents were always happy to oblige, perhaps because once at church, teachers were the ones who would be stuck dealing with my sugar rush.
In the early Fall of 2017, I went with my uncle to the Donut Shop and ordered an apple fritter thanks to a recommendation from a friend. He and I shared one of the most massive and delectable apple fritters I’ve ever experienced.
I mentioned my taste buds’ spiritual awakening via fritter and my grandmother’s twin mentioned her absolute love of that bakery essential. My grandmother, not to be outdone by her twin, confirmed that she also loved apple fritters and she knew the shop well. Even before my parents started their weekly sojourn to The Original Donut Shop, my grandparents picked up donuts for their church group every Sunday. Our reminiscing decided it. I would take the group of ladies the next morning for a donut run.
The Original Donut Shop does have a major challenge.
Its name sells itself short. Yes, they sell a great variety of donuts, but there are two counters at the restaurant: one for donuts, the other for tacos. The donuts are always good, and the fritter is epic, but the breakfast tacos are a revelation. While my companions drifted toward the donuts, I opted for the San Antonio tradition of breakfast tacos.
Behind the counter, a woman rolled out flour dough in preparation for the griddle. Never settle for less. The freshness of the tortillas perfectly complimented the bacon and egg filling. I also opted for chorizo and bean tacos, which is the hardest combo to pull off in breakfast tacodom.
Chorizo is often too greasy or dry or unseasoned and bland. Refried beans suffer the same pitfalls, so the duo is often an unsatisfactory mix, making you wish you chose something else.
The Original Donut Shop has pulled off some sort of voodoo magic. The chorizo is perfectly cooked, with just enough grease to meld it with fresh refried beans that are not overworked. The result is nothing short of a taco miracle.
I took the cashier’s suggestion to heart and had my taco griddled, creating a nice crispness on the outside of the taco. It just furthered the ideal wedding inside.
While I was experiencing taco nirvana, my grandmother and her twin were loving their fritter. I promised it would be almost the size of their head and they were not disappointed. They savored the moment, sharing the fritter and then decided to take one to go. Alas, the fritters were sold out. Nevertheless, everyone left full and happy.
If you ever want to experience The Original Donut Shop, make sure to bring cash. They do not accept plastic and you’ll probably get a funny look if you try to use that archaic mode of payment called a check.
I’ve only been there on weekdays recently and they’ve been steadily busy, so I would imagine weekend mornings can get pretty busy. Those Sunday morning drive thru lines were always long . . . but perhaps my view was a bit skewed. I was in the back seat, eagerly anticipating my first bite of éclair. Over thirty years later and that memory is etched in my brain. And now, I have a beautiful memory to add: my grandmother and her best friend sharing a colossal apple fritter, all smiles.