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REVIEW: The Name Says It All at The Best Donuts In Town

By Kyle Young

The Best Donuts In Town is a small doughnut, pastry and cake shop in Paradise Plaza on Oddie Boulevard and El Rancho Drive in Sparks. The owner, Juan Aguilar, bakes an exceptional ham, cheese and jalapeño croissant and sells it at a great price. Aguilar’s baking roots in the area run deep. He gained more than a decade of experience at Josef’s Vienna Bakery & Cafe before opening his own shop.

Location, Location, Location

Aguilar shared that after leaving Josef’s to start his own bakery, he ended up in the space on Mill St. now occupied by Chavelita’s Cocina Mexicana. He did good business in that location. Things changed when he was faced with an expiring lease. We didn’t discuss the finer details, but the short of the story is that he ended up moving his business to his current location on Oddie and El Rancho.

Delicious custard in the chocolate Bavarian cream doughnut. Image: Kyle Young.

I spent my early years growing up in the Oddie and El Rancho area of Sparks. I remember playing at Teglia’s Paradise Park across the street from the shopping center that Aguilar’s doughnut shop lives in. I have this distinct memory of a giant, purple T-Rex on a piece of playground equipment at that park. The dinosaur sits atop a large spring. My friend David was riding big T one-handed, cowboy-style when I decided it would be hilarious to pull the snout of the beast down to buck David off. Instead of bucking David off, a headbutt of Jurassic plastic smashed him in the nose unleashing a deluge of blood. That one’s on me, David.

During those early childhood days, a different doughnut shop occupied the space that The Best Donuts In Town now occupies. My mom took me to that shop regularly, and it’s where I first fell in love with doughnuts. At that time, K-Mart, Payless Shoes, Jelly Donut, Pizza Plus, and the El Rancho Public Market (flee market) / Drive-In created a pretty hustling and bustling center for shopping and food.

I bounced around rentals in Reno during my adolescent, college and post-college years. I returned to the Oddie and El Rancho area of Sparks about four and half years ago.

Now that I’m about to turn 30 years old, my former stomping grounds have changed quite a bit. I’m saddened to see so many closed doors in Paradise Plaza, but the shopping center and surrounding area haven’t thrown in the towel just yet. If Reno and Sparks can rejuvenate the Midtown area, I’m confident we can do the same for other dilapidated areas around town.

Día de los Reyes Magos at The Best Donuts In Town

My wife and I popped into Aguilar’s shop on Sunday, January 6th. Unbeknownst to us, January 6th is Día de los Reyes Magos, aka Three Kings Day, aka the Epiphany, aka The Three Wise Men Day. Latin cultures around the world, including Spain and Mexico, take January 6th to celebrate the the three wise men who gave gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus.

Rosa de Reyes cake.

Rosca de Reyes cake. Image: Kyle Young.

Families that celebrate this holiday encourage their children to write letters to the Wise Men or to their favorite wise man: Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar. In the letters, the children explain what gifts they want. In Mexico, children will tie their letters to helium-filled balloons trusting the open air to carry their wishes to the Reyes Magos.

On January 5th, children will also leave their shoes out alongside treats for the Reyes Magos and hay for their camels.

When the children wake up, they’re delighted to see nibbles of the treats and hay eaten. The “Reyes Magos” place gifts for the children by their shoes to be opened on the morning of January 6th.

Families also enjoy a ring-shaped cake called Roscón de Reyes or Rosca de Reyes on January 6th. The cake is typically decorated with fruit pieces to symbolize the jewels that adorned the clothing of the Reyes Magos. Bakers typically place a baby Jesus figurine inside the cake. The finder of the figurine must then take it to the nearest church on February 2nd to celebrate Día de la Candelaria.

In the Mexican tradition, the person that finds the figurine must host a party on February 2nd. The party often includes tamales, atole and pozole.

Citizens of New Orleans eat a similar cake during Mardi Gras / Carnival.

Aguilar said he received about 50 orders for Rosca de Reyes cakes. Order yours next year for only $22.50. It looked as though it would feed a whole family.

Please Pass the Pastries

Aguilar bakes and fries all sorts of cookies, breads, cakes, doughnuts and pastries. His ham and cheese croissant is divine and a bargain at $3.50.

Inside the multitude of flaky layers, Aguilar baked in thin sliced ham, what seemed to be Swiss cheese and long slices of pickled jalapeño. The ratio of all the ingredients was spot on. The heat and tang from the jalapeño, the salty ham and the funky cheese were wonderful together.

In addition to two croissants, my wife and I purchased a dozen mixed doughnuts for $10.90 and two medium coffees at $1.99 each. There wasn’t anything special about the coffee, but Aguilar made it fresh for us and we enjoyed drinking it black.

Aguilar graciously allowed us to select a wide variety of offerings besides doughnuts in the “mixed dozen” box.

We opted for the concha (yeasty roll topped with sugar), pastisetas (butter cookies), round glazed, apple fritter, maple bar, crumb, maple with chocolate sprinkles, round cake with maple, chocolate Bavarian cream, sugar twist and cinnamon roll.

The bake and fry for every offering was outstanding. Some diners may be put off by a very subtle taste of oil on the fried goods. The end products were not greasy or oily, but the oil imparted just a touch of flavor that I enjoyed.

The doughnuts lean toward bready as opposed to cakey. The glazes and icings were all great.

I especially enjoyed the sugar twist, the concha, the chocolate Bavarian cream and the apple fritter.

Aguilar made the sugar twist with a dough that had just the right amount of gluten. The pull of the bread and the feeling beneath my teeth were great.

The concha is a sweet, yeasty roll topped with butter, sugar and flour shaped into a shell. Some conchas around town are really stiff. At The Best Donuts In Town, the conchas are delicate. The white, pink and yellow varieties are all the same flavor. I could eat one with a coffee daily.

The custard in the chocolate Bavarian cream doughnut was thick, rich and generous.

The apple fritter was crunchy and soft in all the right places. I appreciated that the doughnut was pressed somewhat flat prior to frying. This really allowed the inside to become well cooked and the outside to become crunchy. Some shops around town leave their fritters too tall while frying and the result is a barely cooked inside. The apple pieces and seasoning were also excellent.

The next time your family is craving a great pastry, consider The Best Donuts in Town. You and your kids can burn through some of that sugar at Teglia’s Paradise Park. Just watch out for that purple T-Rex!

Visit The Best Donuts In Town at 2245 Oddie Blvd. in Sparks. They are open daily. Yelp says they’re open 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, but the hours on the door said 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call Juan at (775) 329-1300 to confirm his seasonal hours of operation.

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