The reigning champions of Eugene donutry have already been crowned: Kristen votes for Lee's; VooDoo is practically (hey!) a religion; and Holy Donuts wins the vegan crowd, known in Eugene as "everyone else." There are, however, trusty, traditional, mediocre donuts available in Eugene outside of a Safeway: They can be found, all day long, at Dizzy Dean's.
This place is everything that doughnut shops have always been. It smells like sweet dough, too much glaze, fry grease, and the smoke of a 1970s diner. Did anyone ever smoke here? I have no idea, but they should have. The place makes me want to smoke.
It is, in a word, unpretentious. Donuts are $.80 to $1.35, depending on their degree of dress. Dizzy Dean's has been (the times I've visited) staffed by a single person who's frantically trying to do eight things at once: make the donuts, sell the donuts, pour the coffee, answer the questions. It is stuffed into the space leftover when Staples took a spot on West 11th, and it has mis-matched dining chairs set up against tables that would have been comfortable in a 1980s McDonald's. There's six kinds of coffee being served from big, heat-retaining carafes, but you know without trying they're all going to be strong, dark, and kind of bad.
Dizzy Dean's serves Hot! donuts at different times of the day. You can tell whether there are any available because they actually light up a neon sign outside, saying "HOT DONUTS!" The donuts are kept in a warmer, next to the other donuts, the oldies that didn't make the cut.
Here, in the oldies case, there's at least substantial variety. All of the traditional favorites -- bars in maple and chocolate; plain glazed and cake donuts; chocolate-frosted cake donuts; twists in plain and cinnamon -- are here, but they're joined by their desperately over-done friends. Damn you, VooDoo Doughnuts, for this: Dizzy Dean's now has a Bacon Maple Bar, and a purple-frosted donut with a piece of taffy stuck in the middle that resembles the Grape Ape. It has donuts with crushed Oreos and donuts with Butterfinger candy on top. The chocolate donuts sometimes have sprinkles, nuts, and stripes. Those donuts have their place -- and it's in the stunt bakery downtown.
What you could come to Dizzy Dean's for, instead of the eye-candy (sure to disappoint once you take it home; aw, isn't that always the way?), are two things: the filled donuts and the crullers. In the filled donuts, I applaud the lean toward variety, because these all seem like natural extensions. Raspberry, hurrah! Lemon, sure! Marionberry? Why not. Bavarian cream? Fine by me. There's also chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, and those are all welcome varieties that seem exactly in line with the mission of a small-time doughnut place.
The crullers, too, are something. They have an eggy, almost custard-tasting dough inside, hidden under the shelter of glaze so crisp and enthusiastic that it calls to mind the mechanical glee of Krispy Kreme. They come with a variety of flavored toppings, but why, oh why, would you put maple on this? Why raspberry? Why anything?
Dizzy Dean's is clearly a store that wants to catch up to its big, famous, beloved rivals. The path to that, though, is focus on the fundamentals. I think that's within the store's grasp, but right now, it's too busy having its head spun -- and trying to spin those of its customers -- to settle down and excel at the everyday.
Location: 2380 W. 11th
Hours: 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.