The flavor in a donut comes from sugar and oil, but the magic comes from making fried food that tastes light.
The donuts at Laurel Tavern Donuts comes out soft and puffy, topped with the simplest cinnamon or frosting and easily the best part of a cold morning. Even the cake donuts are light. They have a sweet crust that supports the strawberry frosting, then gives way to airy cake inside.
If Laurel Tavern Donuts were owned by some 21-year-old college grads, it would have a marketing story about old-fashioned technique and artisan donuts. They'd hit up a local farm for some berries, and they'd push a tale of locally-grown produce to get some of the love that food writers have blindly lavished on cupcakes and lawyers who quit to make food.
But this is Laurel. The "tavern" sits on U.S.1, and its immigrant owners offer coffee and a dozen variations on fried dough. You should go for a donut worth the calories. Sweet, slightly oily, but still light enough to make Dunkin Donuts taste leaden and tired. Check out the donut holes as well.
The Laurel Tavern is in the former location of the Little Tavern chain. They also serve up breakfast sandwiches and mini-burgers along the lines of the Little Tavern speciality. I haven't tried those yet.
115 Washington Boulevard (U.S. 1)
Laurel, MD 20707
NEAR: The donut shop is on the south-bound side of U.S. 1 where it separates in downtown Laurel. It is a few stores south of the light at Main Street. Look for a converted Little Tavern -- and thus a tiny white building with green trim -- on the right side of the road.