By Tim Kelly
Carl Wanek’s 2018 Tour de Donut was such a big hit, there had to be a sequel. And as sequels go, this one was pretty good.
Last year over the July 4 holiday, Wanek, 45, a carpenter who lives in Ocean City, decided to take a bike ride with friends to each and every “mom and pop donut shop in town”, to do so in a two hour time limit and to sample and rate the wares of each.
Somehow he accomplished his goal, walking into his house literally as the clock struck on his deadline.
With experience, this year’s tour should have been easier, Wanek figured.
Logistically he was right. The rating the donuts part may have been even more difficult this time around.
“We had nine people riding this year, which is triple the participation,” Wanek said proudly. “More people means more donuts, more fun and more laughs.”
In addition to the original three riders Wanek and buddies Joe Schneider and Frank Rubba, Carl’s sister Christine Fassman, neighbor and friend Mike DeVlieger and his son Flynn, 16-year-old Carl Wanek IV, mom Tiffany and daughter Phoebe Prettyman joined the party.
Wanek said he “cleaned up the directional part, last year we did more back-tracking than we should’ve. I wasn’t worried about finishing in under two hours. I was more worried about the ride in the hot muggy weather and the increased caloric intake.”
The silver lining? It’s crystal clear that Ocean City certainly has a wealth of great donut shops. For the regular customer it’s as easy as finding one of the stops below and picking out the frosted, glazed or sprinkled deep-fried treat of your dreams.
Here’s the re-cap, with comments from the judging panel:
Stage 1, Dot’s Pastry, 32nd and Asbury Ave
The strategy was basically the same as last year’s Tour, but slightly adjusted to save even more time. The idea was to pedal from the north end starting point to Dot’s and work their way back home. Last year the group arrived 10 minutes after the 7 a.m. opening of the iconic donut palace and wound up with que ticket number 78.
This time they set out earlier with the intention to arrive before 7 and beat the line. The first part of the goal was accomplished. However upon coasting onto the premises, the group found there was already a 10 minute line just to get in.
Stage 2, Fractured Prune, 3339 West Ave: “Super nice and friendly service and a darn good donut,” the judges proclaimed.
Stage 3, Nauti, between 21st and 22nd on Asbury Ave. “Very nice ambience, a very hip atmosphere with a wide array of gourmet-type donuts you won’t wind anywhere else. They received our award for the best specialty donut, the “Salty Dog” featuring pork roll, maple syrup, salt and caramel. It was a very tasty donut.”
Stage 4, Mallon’s 14th and Bay Ave: Mallon’s is known all over the island for their sticky buns. Great service, and a competitive donut, but not the winner against some stiff competition.”
Stage 5, Cathy’s, 14th and Asbury Ave: “Hands down the best crème donut,” the judges said. They also had great service, and great enthusiasm. A must stop for the discriminating donut fan. Cathy’s also received very high marks from the panel last year.”
Stage 6, Bob’s Oceanfront Restaurant, 14th and the Boardwalk: “A very good donut, quick and friendly service, and they very much wanted to score well in our ratings. They did! Bob’s served up a fresh and tasty donut, they also deliver an outstanding value at only $1.”
Stage 7, Drip & Scoop, 10th and Asbury Ave: “Their donuts are a bit pricier, but huge, and very good. They also have a very wide variety to choose from. The lemon poppy donut was very popular with our judges.”
Stage 8, Dunkin, 962 West Ave: Dunkin is the new addition for the Tour, since the closing of one of last year’s competitors. “As you might expect, they had an outstanding product. Donuts used to be in their name. They offer a lot more than donuts these days, but they clearly have not forgotten their roots. Bonus points for being a great community partner and a sponsor of the Ocean City Junior Raiders football program.”
Stage 9, Ward’s Pastry, 730 Asbury Avenue: For local fans of pastries of all kinds, Ward’s is an Ocean City institution. Despite the usual crowd of customers, service was fast and friendly and the Boston crème donut was certainly representative of the Ward’s brand. In the Tour de Donut, things sometimes pop up which are unforeseen. “We had to come up with a separate award for the cutest customer,” the judges said upon seeing 20-month old Kacy N. with chocolate from a donut decorating her visage.
Stage 10, Bashful Banana: 944 Boardwalk: For healthy eaters looking for gluten-free, naturally sweetened, non-fried “donuts,” Bashful is the place for you. “They are a very good, very tasty treat, but definitely a different experience than a traditional donut.”
Stage 11 Oves Beach Grill, Boardwalk at 4th Street: This Baordwalk staple serves everything from traditional breakfast fare to lobster during the dinner hour. Oves showed it takes a backseat to nobody when it comes to donuts. “Oves makes a fresh, hot delicious old-fashioned donut,” the panel enthused. “For 90 cents, it is also the best value we saw. You know what? It also won our top honors for best old fashioned donut.”
Stage 12, Brown’s Famous Donuts, 110 Boardwalk: Just like last year, a long line at Brown’s threatened our group’s two-hour time limit. Unlike last year, the cyclists made an advance arrangement. “The line was even longer than last year’s, and for good reason,” Wanek said. “We called ahead and they had three donut waiting for us.” Last year’s overall winner for best donut was slightly edged this time by Oves. “It was the hardest decision of the Tour,” one of the judges said. Oves barely edged Brown’s this time, and I mean edged them. The decision was unanimous, though.”
So there you have it: Nauti wins best specialty donut, Cathy’s best crème, Oves best old-fashioned.
Wanek said he’s already looking forward to next year’s tour and said there will be a larger Tour later this summer for the benefit of the Junior Raiders.
Did he create a monster? Will he forever be known as a donut expert?
“Well, I would say yes,” he said. “Since last year’s tour I have received all kinds of questions from people and information about donuts. I would say I’m a donut expert and a donut connoisseur.”