Aurora follows trend and goes nuts for doughnuts

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AURORA | With its wealth of outdoor opportunities, Colorado has a well-earned reputation as one of the country’s healthier states.

But the state, and Aurora in particular, has shown an increasing fondness for a decidedly unhealthy treat — doughnuts.

In just the past two years, at least a half-dozen doughnut dealers have opened in Aurora or swapped owners, according to city records. The newbies include two locations for Mr. Donuts, which opened this year, a new Walton’s Donuts location near Southlands, and City Donuts at East Sixth Avenue and Peoria Street.

Another new shop, Glazed and Confused, is set to come to the Stanley Marketplace in northwest Aurora later this year.

And the doughnut craze is hardly limited to Aurora. Just a short drive west in Glendale is the Fractured Prune, and in Denver is Glazed and Confused’s original location on Leetsdale Drive.

Mark Rothermel, owner of the Fractured Prune in Glendale, said while doughnuts are especially popular these days, it’s not like the tasty treats ever experienced much of a downturn.

“Doughnuts have never had a down cycle, it’s a pretty proven breakfast food,” he said. “You’d see World War II pictures and people are eating doughnuts.”

And that’s especially true for metro Denver, he said.

Fractured Prune got its start on the East Coast 30 years ago and remains something of a staple in some markets along the eastern seaboard, but Rothermel said Colorado has long had a fondness for doughnuts as well.

“Colorado in general, and Denver specifically, has always been a very good market,” he said.

One reason is the climate, Rothermel said. The state has cold weather, which tends to lead to a spike in doughnut sales every year.

Beyond that, he said Colorado has a mix of the “foodie culture” that seeks out artisan treats like Fractured Prune’s Bacon Bomb, and a diverse wave of immigrants with varying tastes.

It helps that doughnuts aren’t something people see as exclusively a breakfast food anymore. Increasingly, Rothermel said customers come in the afternoon for a snack or to grab a doughnut for dessert after dinner.

While the company is known for their bacon-topped doughnuts or their key lime frosting, Rothermel said those sorts of unique toppings aren’t the most important detail a doughnut maker has to worry about.

Instead, he said, the most-important thing is the base doughnut. If the doughnut itself isn’t great, those toppings won’t matter.

“It’s a really well-made doughnut,” he said. “That’s where you get the staying power.”

At Mr. Donuts in Aurora, owner Jay Lee said it’s tough to say why doughnuts are experiencing something of a resurgence in Colorado. But, he said, the state’s move to legalize marijuana a few years ago could explain part of it.

“It might be,” he said with a laugh.

Like many of the local artisan doughnut makers, Mr. Donuts is known for its bacon-topped offerings. Lee said he isn’t sure what the calorie count on their maple bacon donut is, but he doesn’t care either way.

“I eat them every day,” he said.

It doesn’t take a nutritionist to recognize that a sugary doughnut topped with a fatty, slat-filled strip of bacon doesn’t qualify as “health food.” But just how bad for you is one of those bacon-topped treats?

Susan Labate, a clinical dietitian at Littleton Adventist Hospital, said they likely pack a significant amount of calories and saturated fats. But, as long as diners don’t make them a regular part of their diet, the occasional splurge on a high-calorie treat isn’t too worrisome.

“Indulgence on occasion is really part of a healthy lifestyle and a healthy way of eating,” she said. “But the big thing is, what do you consider ‘on occasion?’”