Exactly one year today I (Editor E) was on a plane back from Portland, where I had spent a long weekend doing many things, including sampling PDX’s finest doughnuts. They’re really into doughnuts in Stumptown, and coffee too (see name), and during the trip I took a fascinating Third Wave Coffee Tour, which featured pairings of sweet circular treats and the city’s famous coffee.
Sitting down at the newly opened Hero Doughnuts in Homewood, I was struck by the similarities in the offerings here to what I experienced last year. And, judging by the looks of the lines out the door, Birmingham is more than ready for this brick and mortar destination
The new shop is located in the former Homewood Musical Instrument Co and across from Homewood Central Park. There’s plenty of parking, but they also get walk-in traffic from the surrounding neighborhoods.
Hero Doughnuts opened on Halloween. But they had already built up a huge fan base at pop ups like the one at Seasick, as well as Revelator Coffee, Pepper Place Market, and Big Bad Breakfast. (We wrote about them last year in this post, after a March 2016 popup at Seasick.)
The first thing you’ll notice walking up is that you can see the staff making treats through a large glass window. Co-owner Wil Drake (his business partner is Jason Wallis) has worked for more than a year to perfect their brioche style doughnuts. Heavy on eggs and butter, the dough is also used to make their breakfast sandwiches.
The actual dining space holds a few small tables and one long communal table.
Order from the counter, where doughnuts of the day are on display. If you’ve been following them on Instagram you will be alerted to when flavors sell out for the day. It happens. So if you see one you want, snag it quickly.
Among the dozen or so flavors during our recent visit: maple sea salt, pistachio, lemon cardamom, and cream filled. “Sidekicks,” aka doughnut holes, are served in plastic cup and seem to be a favorite among the kids.
Below are Pink Sprinkles and Pumpkin Brown Butter doughnuts. The Pink Sprinkles got thumbs up from a dining partner and Pumpkin Brown Butter met the seal approval from yours truly. (So. Much. Doughnut!)
As mentioned previously, Hero Doughuts also offers sandwiches. Made with Fatback sausage and bacon and McEwen & Sons Farm eggs, they are served with pepper jam and mayo based “crack sauce,” and a great option if you’re in the mood for a little more savory and a little less sweet. (Though the bun offers a perfect degree of sweetness to balance out the spiciness of the sauces.)
During our visits, we sat at the communal table, which provided for some prime people watching. On a recent Sunday morning we noted that SpongeBob was on the television (props from Foodie Jr.) and Slowdive was on the speakers, which is a good representation of the Hero Doughnuts vibe.
It’s sort of a sleepy dads wiping their kiddos’ fingers meets people in workout clothes kind of place. And one dude on a laptop. (Though it should be noted: we visited one day school was out of session and another time on a Sunday, so the weekday clientele might be different.)
The doughnuts are good — almost too big to finish yourself. Our suggestion is to get a few and split them. Throw in a cinnamon roll, as we did.
They are huge and good and we dare you not to leave with sugar in your hair, as Foodie Jr. did. “Those rolls … they are as big as my face,” he said. Um, salad for the rest of the day!
With locally roasted Domestique Coffee and Harvest Roots Kombucha, plus Topo Chico, the beverages are on point. We’ve yet to try Hero Doughnut’s fronut — their sugared doughnut filled with frozen custard.
But we’re sold on this place. And we’re not alone. Lines have been out the door during the weekends. Don’t let that discourage you — service is quick. And even if you can’t snag a seat inside, you can pop over to the park. It’s worth it: these are nice people using beautiful ingredients to make this slice of Birmingham a better place. They love what they do, and it’s evident in their enthusiasm and with each bite. So be patient if you have to wait a bit.
We’ve long said that Birmingham can handle more doughnut options, and we’re happy to see what the Hero team has done.
And who knows … maybe soon the Magic City, like Portland, will have doughnut tours of its own?
Hero Doughnuts is located at 3027 Central Avenue, Homewood. They are open 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.