Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Britt's Donuts: Well worth the drive

The Raleigh News & Observer begins its summer "Open Road" series with a look at a CB institution: Britt's Donuts.

Traveling 129 miles from Raleigh to the beach to try an 80-cent doughnut is to put faith in those who have come before, to trust in their ability to judge grease and glaze.

Because even with rhapsodic testimonials posted across the Internet, driving that far to eat Britt's Donuts is a gamble because there are no choices. If you prefer chocolate, and your buddy eats jelly-filled, that's fine, but you can't have either. Britt's sells only fried glazed doughnuts.

There is a simple reason for this, insists owner Bobby Nivens.

"When we get busy," he says of his airy, hand-cut delicacies, "we don't have time for other doughnuts."

After the first one, you might not either. ...

The doughnut has devoted fans, but Nivens isn't the sort of cook who shares his techniques with friends. Only he and his wife, Maxine, know the exact recipe. One of them has to mix the dough so the employees can make the doughnuts. Even their daughter isn't privy to the doughnut's innards, although she knows where the recipe is written down in case anything happens to the secret-keepers.

Nivens dreamed years ago of expanding his deep-fried empire to include shops in other cities, but he eventually decided against the plan. Money, he says, isn't everything. Plus he and Maxine enjoy their time off, which is pretty much October through March.

The shop opens at 8:30 a.m. every day during the summer. It closes each night when business slows, and Nivens never shuts the garage doors if there are people in line.

"I don't want to get killed," he says, laughing.

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