I went to The Salty Donut two weeks after their opening day with a group of friends to analyze their menu (if you check out their website’s About page, you’ll learn that the now-married couple, Amanda and Andy Rodriguez, put school on hold and ended up opening the first THE SALTY with a mission to provide unbelievable doughnuts & coffee and to cultivate an environment that fosters community. Now they have three Florida and two Texas locations, and are branching into Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA!). Upon first glance, the selection was innovative and exciting–after all, the streets of Charlotte don’t just casually house pretty doughnuts like “White Chocolate + Chai” or “Chocolate + Pistachio Cannoli” (can I almost smell Europe?).
But then we took a bite… and not many of the flavors–nor textures–blew minds.
- Brown Butter + Salt: cake doughnut, very buttery, not sure if I tasted the “salt” or the “brown”-edness. Rating: 2/10
- Strawberry Shortcake: yeast doughnut, fresh & the strawberry flavor was prominent (had real strawberries on top with a strawberry glaze). Rating: 8/10
- Milk + Cookies: yeast doughnut, essentially a traditional glazed with additional dark chocolate glaze and some crumbled cake dough on top (? Couldn’t really tell what crumble it was). The flavor profile did not scream “milk and cookies” to me but “I’m a chocolate glazed doughnut trying to be special.” Rating: 2/10
- Cookies + Cream: cake doughnut, I’ll give them credit in that I could see Oreo crumbs in the batter… however this was probably the worst-tasting doughnut. You couldn’t taste the Oreo at all and there was a rancid oil taste that overrode anything else. Rating: 0/10
- White Chocolate + Chai: yeast doughnut, the marshmallow/meringue on top was delicious in texture and the flavor of the chai shone through. This doughnut’s character lived up to its name! Rating: 8/10
- Boston Cream: yeast doughnut, the Bavarian cream was done well and not overly sweet (some of my friends felt it was too eggy though). The chocolate icing on top was also a classic. I would recommend this in your order if you want THE SALTY’s take on a classic. Rating: 7/10
- Sticky Toffee GF: cake doughnut, for a gluten free doughnut, it did better than we anticipated. The dough is very moist and very very cake-like, you forget you’re supposed to be eating a doughnut. Rating: 6/10
- Chocolate + Pistachio Cannoli: yeast doughnut, THE SALTY’s only Long John doughnut this season. The chopped pistachios on top only add to the doughnut visually–you can’t taste the pistachios at all. While the chocolate glaze is the same as the one on the Boston Cream (which feels like the kind you get at any doughnut shop), the cannoli filling was done well and carried the team! Rating: 5/10
- Traditional Glazed: yeast doughnut, a solid option to go with your coffee or to enjoy on its own. Honestly, it’s probably the only doughnut you could eat the entirety of without feeling sugared-out or super heavy afterwards. Rating: 8/10
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- The flavors of each of their doughnuts are not distinct enough, you don’t just taste Milk + Cookies and know “ah that’s Milk + Cookies.”
- The yeast dough is very bready, dense, and has an almost-stale dryness to it (versus light and airy)–you end up feeling like you’re eating a cinnamon roll/dinner roll versus a doughnut. (If you prefer light and airy, I’d suggest checking out Hole Doughnuts in Asheville, NC, it will change your life!)
- Most of the doughnuts are very sweet and some have too strong of a “fried oil” taste, you probably can’t stomach more than one in a sitting (i.e. 1 THE SALTY doughnut = 2.5 Krispy Kremers) and they don’t leave you feeling too great afterwards.
All that said, if you’re looking for an experience with a friend on a special occasion, THE SALTY’s “gourmet” doughnuts and clean, modern interior fit the bill (although if they claim their mission is to cultivate connection, they could use a couple more tables inside so more people can stay longer to connect versus a pressure to leave to make room for new patrons). Otherwise, The Salty Donut is not worth the trek.