At some point in life, you have to take a leap of faith. Jump off the ledge and dive into the great unknown. Sometimes it’s a tiny tumble. Other times, it’s a 50-mile plunge.
Bougie’s Donuts is the result of one man’s drop into uncharted waters. With fresh flavor, outstanding coffee, and a heart for the surrounding community, one of the newest players in Austin’s dessert scene is a stand-out winner.
Diving in Head First
Owner Ryan Brown didn’t start off as a pastry chef. In fact, before Bougie’s, his only cooking experience was making dishes for his family and using food as a creative outlet. But when a series of life events caused him to leave the world of sales, he found himself at a crossroads.
“What pushed me out of the nest and really launched this idea was I was laid off in September of 2015,” shared Brown. “As I was thinking through what I wanted to be when I grew up, I came home from work and saw a Food Network show about donut robots on TV. Why the light bulb went off, I can’t tell you. But I started doing research on what it would mean to open a donut shop in Austin.”
Undeterred by his lack of experience, Brown did the research, drew up a business plan, and went to work. Fast forward a year, and Brown had found a location, taken a crash course in the art of donut-making a week before opening, and hit the ground sprinting. A month later, he brought on head chef Brenna Marshall to do the bulk of the culinary wizardry, and Bougie’s Donuts was officially full steam ahead.
The name “Bougie’s” is a clever nod to upscale, pinkies-up eateries and Ryan’s boxer. Luckily, the food is neither snooty or deserving of being tossed in a dog dish. The overarching donut theme is freshness and balance. Every flavor combo, from the simple glazed donut to the bakery’s many wild and woolly creations, feels in harmony. No one flavor ever overpowers another.
While the shop features everyday varieties like glazed and blueberry, I went for the fun stuff. No donut is safe at Bougie’s. Aside from the standards, every donut can be axed for a new menu item. My first stop was the delicious maple bacon. The tap dance between salty, savory bacon and sweet maple frosting reminded me of homemade pancakes. The bacon adds a hit of welcome, chewy texture, giving the donut an extremely satisfying mouth feel.
Next up was the Homer, a Simpsons-inspired donut coated in multi-colored sprinkles. Between the chocolate and strawberry options, I chose the latter and was greeted with a burst of fresh, sweet fruit. Like the bacon on the previous donut, the sprinkles add an endearing old school texture. Visually appealing, it was the first donut my one-year-old went to grab.
Next up was my favorite of the morning, the lemon lavender. Bright and fragrant, this donut pops with bright citrusy notes against a bedrock of semi-sweet frosting. It tastes like a brisk summer day: clean, floral, and bursting with flavor. Follow it up with the best apple fritter I’ve had in Austin, and you have a donut for every taste bud.
Not satisfied with being a complement, coffee is an essential part of the Bougie’s experience. Whenever possible, the shop sources its coffee from local growers. The local geniuses at Cuvee Coffee partnered with Bougie’s to become its everyday, always available house roast. The shop also features Praxis Coffee, a newer, small batch coffee roaster based here in Austin.
Like its donuts, Bougie’s coffee selection rotates constantly and is carefully curated. Based on availability and season, up to 10 different roasts may be circulating throughout the store at any given time. Coffee geeks will always find something new to try.
And the brew magicians at Bougie’s conjure crazy concoctions. From signature items like a dirty horchata popped with an espresso shot, to the Ladybird Lavender Latte, to a coffee spritzer, the coffee program pushes the envelope.
My favorite off the charts option is the Mellow Yellow, a non-caffeinated combination of ginger, cinnamon, honey, and turmeric, with cracked pepper on top, mixed with almond milk. Smooth, silky, and soaring with fresh, elegant flavors.
Job Well Done at Bougie’s Donuts
Amongst the coffee and sugar, frosting and fun, it all comes back to Brown’s core vision: creating a place where people connect.
“Ultimately, we feel the donuts and coffee we’re serving stimulate conversation,” said Brown. “We intentionally don’t have TVs on the walls; we play music at a comfortable volume, so you can have a conversation and not worry about someone overhearing. We’re very intentional in making sure this is not the average donut shop. We want people to feel like family.”
Comfortable and unpretentious is exactly how I would describe the Bougie’s vibe. As Brown and I chatted, the small space buzzed with activity. Families came in from morning shopping; friends greeted each other with smiles and hugs. Nobody was staring at a laptop screen or lost in the world of their cell phone. Just the spirited hum of quiet conversation and happy taste buds.
When Ryan Brown first closed his eyes and leapt off the ledge into the culinary unknown, he could have crashed and burned. Instead, through hard work and dogged determination, he realized his dream of providing tasty, creative food in a laid-back, cozy atmosphere. Not only is Bougie’s a wonderful spot to cure your caffeine fix and satisfy your sweet tooth, but it’s a reminder of exactly what can happen when we dare to dream just a little bit bigger.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What’s your favorite donut shop in Austin?
Donut tasting was provided by Bougie’s Donuts free of charge. All opinions are my own.