Downtown’s newest sensation reveals expansion plans
Anna Frost | Downtown News
Donut Bar is moving fast. Though the Downtown artisan donut shop opened a mere four months ago, it has already expanded both its physical and culinary realms by adding seating and new menu items.
After extensive redecoration, co-owners Santiago Campa and Wendy Bartels are welcoming customers to relax and indulge in an upstairs seating area. Previously, fans of Donut Bar’s unique creations had to take to the streets once purchasing their morning treat. With the new seating, however, one climbs the stairs to donut heaven.
They planned to use the upstairs space from the beginning, but it needed a lot of work before it was ready for the public. The white walls and harsh fluorescent lighting felt too “commissary” for the atmosphere that they wanted their shop to project, Campa explained. Starting with a blank canvas, Campa and Bartels poured the same creative energy and love that make the donuts fantastic into the seating area.
“Vanilla donuts sell good, but a vanilla dining room does not. So I got to pull upon my artistic abilities and say ‘what do we do up here to make this place cool?’” Campa said.
The new color scheme of bright robin-egg blue and warm brown, paired with comfortable furniture, provides a space to meet, eat, and breathe before going off to the daily grind. A blend of new and old music wafts through the room and a wide-angle window offers a view of bustling B Street below. Soon Campa will be replacing the sealed bay-style window with one that opens out to the street, for a more open vibe.
Guests can draw, write favorite quotes, and even suggest new donut flavors on three large chalkboards that occupy the walls. Your flavor suggestions just might end up for sale downstairs – the staff pulls flavors ideas from the chalkboards at least once a week, according to Campa. Just don’t get too out there.
“There’s this one guy [who] keeps on requesting … a cucumber-lime donut … it’s like an ongoing joke, hashtag cucumber-lime donut. We’ll never do it, we can’t be too weird,” Campa said, laughing.
Something different, and scrumptious, has found its way on to Donut Bar’s menu however – the waffle. Though Campa does not want waffles to overshadow Donut Bar’s original concept, he has created a menu of five different waffles topped with fruit, Nutella, and even bacon, for customers craving an alternative to donuts.
The waffles are rapidly growing in popularity, the most notable item being a hybrid of donut and waffle – the D-Waffle. Made by pressing their Saigon cinnamon and sugar raised donut into the Belgian waffle iron, Donut Bar takes breakfast to the next level, yet again.
“The outside is super crunchy but the inside is still doughy, and you get the caramelized sugar and the cinnamon all mixed in,” Campa explained. “It’s like the best French toast you’ve ever had in your life.”
The waffles can be ordered to-go downstairs and are also served upstairs from a quaint wooden counter, with the menu printed on a small chalkboard that hangs from the ceiling.
Arrive earlier rather than later if you desire a crisp Belgian or a decadent D-Waffle – the waffle iron turns off at noon sharp. If things go their way though, Donut Bar won’t be the only place waffle fans can get these creations. Despite the pair’s already full plate at Donut Bar, Campa and Bartels are scouting out a spot in the Gaslamp Quarter for another shop that will feature their waffles exclusively.
While the happy co-owners keep busy with the new additions, social media and planning the next genius donut flavor, their hard work is paying off.
Though Donut Bar was an overnight sensation – doing the unthinkable by turning a profit after just one month – their success is still rising at an exponential rate. San Diego Magazine not only named Donut Bar the number one spot to visit Downtown in their July issue, they went on to dub them the “Best Non-Surfing Reason to Get Up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday” in their Best of San Diego 2013.
Last, but certainly not least, the two newfound local celebrities are currently in negotiations for a reality television show, though Campa is not able to disclose the network at this time.
Now that’s just the icing on the donut.
Anna Frost, a full-time journalism student at BIOLA University, is a summer intern for San Diego Downtown News.