In my opinion, there are few things more intoxicating than walking into a donut shop early in the morning. The sights and smells leave such comforting impressions on the mind that it seems nearly impossible for your day to go wrong after such an experience. Mark’s Donuts, in North Little Rock, has been frying up hunks of dough since 1978. That’s more than 30 years of day-in-day-out kneading, frying, glazing, and stuffing sweet treats for the hungry and grateful patrons that frequent this neighborhood gem. Mark’s humble establishment may not seem like much from the outside, indeed the less-than-attentive driver would likely pass by it many times over without even noticing its existence, but what lay inside those weathered walls are some of the finest donuts I’ve ever eaten…anywhere.
Walking through the doors of Mark’s you are immediately overwhelmed with the sweet perfume of sweetened, fried dough. The racks behind the counter are stuffed full with enough variety to give the most indecisive of patrons heart palpitations, but luckily, these delights are cheap enough to drag home a dozen or two in order to sample the smattering of donut delectables Mark’s has to offer.
The standard by which any decent donut shop should be judged is their plain glazed, and Mark’s definitely rises to the occasion. These are denser and plumper than your average glazed donut, yet they retain a soft, pillow-like texture that pulls apart easily when bitten into. It’s a completely ethereal experience sinking your incisors into a hot, golden glazed donut from Mark’s. While many have touted the wonders of a certain donut chain offering “hot doughnuts now” pulled off a conveyer belt, I believe Mark’s has got them beat (to a bloody pulp) in nearly every aspect. In my opinion, the difference in quality is night and day.
With the plain donut providing a firm foundation, Mark’s other donut varieties continue to impress the palate of picky donuteers. The coconut-coated finds the thickly glazed donut rolled in shredded, sweetened coconut that gives the donut a slightly crispy chew on the exterior, beautifully countered by the soft inside. The fruit-filled varieties, which come in strawberry, blueberry, and lemon, are perfectly balanced blends of fruit, jam and dough. A personal favorite is the cream-filled, which finds white, airy cream piped in the center of a golden dough ball. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet, as this variety often is, but a harmonious interplay of dough and creamed sugar.
Mark’s in not the latest hotshot to hit the blossoming donut scene, but it certainly knows its way around the kitchen. While I vow to continue my search for the greatest donuts in central Arkansas, I am beginning to think I may have already found them. Once you try Mark’s for yourself, I bet you’ll come around to my way of thinking.
(Mark’s is open Mon-Sat from 5:30-11AM. Cash or check only)
4015 Camp Robinson Rd.
North Little Rock