CLIFTON PARK — Fancy doughnuts have had their 15 minutes of fame — and they’re still going.
I don’t mean the variety box of Entenmann’s, the orchard cider doughnut or even the excellent bakery ones available at Schuyler in Watervliet or either Bella Napoli location. And, you know, Dunkin’.
I thought I knew all there was to know about doughnuts until boutique doughnut shops began appearing in our area with their maple bacons and key limes and créme brûlées.
Flash in the pan, I thought. Then I went to a wedding, and instead of cake, the happy couple opted for — you guessed it — doughnuts.
Times change and now I’m the dinosaur. Fancy doughnuts are here to stay. With that in mind, I asked Sheryl, who likes fancy doughnuts very much, to come with me to 518 Donuts in Clifton Park. It opened at the end of 2021.
They’ve added another, in downtown Troy in August of this year, which has outside seating. When it’s open it’s quite busy, but staffing has been a problem. Hopefully they’ve got that straightened out.
So, it’s doughnuts and fried chicken. I don’t think you’re supposed to eat them together, like chicken and waffles, but you can get them in a sandwich box.
They’ve got breakfast sandwiches too. An egg and cheese sandwich is $4; add a bit more for bacon and sausage. And you can get it on a gluten-free bun.
Their online menu for the Clifton Park store lists five kinds of fried chicken sandwich boxes, including the Federal ($17), with pickles, spicy 518 sauce and American cheese. Boxes include the sandwich, fries and a plain doughnut.
Menus for both locations list 13 popular doughnut flavors, available all the time, though some cycle in and out seasonally. They range from the pedestrian chocolate-frosted to the more unusual French toast and strawberry cheesecake. Prices are $2.50 for one, $12 for six and $22 for a dozen.
There are gluten-free doughnuts for just a little more.
There were more than 13 kinds of doughnuts, which, by the way, are all the cake-y kind, in the case at the Clifton Park store when we visited. They were presented beautifully on white china plates and under LED lights, a display that would not be out of place in a high-end department store — except these were doughnuts, not jewelry.
The store is bright and cheery, with a plate-glass window facing the parking lot. The walls are tiled and everything looks spotless.
The fried chicken is gluten-free, too, and they have a dedicated gluten-free fryer. The regular doughnuts are completely made by the doughnut robot in the front of the store, so the kitchen in the back is completely gluten-free.
So we went to taste doughnuts and fried chicken. A sandwich board showed specials, including $3 off a nine-piece nugget combo. That’s what I ordered; 518 has specials on other weekdays as well.
But wait: They only serve breakfast until 11 a.m., and you can’t get chicken until after 11 a.m. We happened to show up just before 11, and got both.
Sheryl started with a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a hard roll ($5) before 11 a.m. I got a rainbow-sprinkle frosted vanilla doughnut.
We each took a stool at a counter along the wall, across from where all the business is handled. Help yourself to napkins and accoutrements at the station in the front.
I cut the doughnut into pieces and picked at bits that came off in the process. The vanilla icing glued rainbow sprinkles together, very sweet but pleasant. I could taste the sprinkles, which have a mild flavor I enjoy.
Sheryl passed over a wedge of sandwich, the part with the bacon hanging out, because she is a good friend. I liked how the egg was partly scrambled, and the bacon was cooked just right, but not as salty or smoky as I’d like. The hard roll, topped with cornmeal, belied its name by being soft, even the crusty part. I could taste black pepper, which I liked.
Your standard egg sandwich, then. Sheryl enjoyed it, and it was freshly made. You can get a gluten-free roll for a bit more.
After 11 a.m. we each ordered a nugget special ($14), mine with barbecue sauce and Sheryl’s with hot sauce. We cracked open our compostable brown boxes and admired the golden fries and nubby nuggets.
The nuggets were addicting, with good flavor and lots of super-duper crunchy coating. The chicken was real white meat, juicy and tender.
“They’re delicious,” said Sheryl.
The hot sauce tasted like a mix of mayonnaise and Frank’s hot sauce, Sheryl said. I had the barbecue; there’s also ranch and spicy 518 sauce.
We both liked the nuggets a lot, though I thought the coating was a bit too crunchy. Sheryl disagreed.
“There is a lot of coating but it’s nice and crunchy all the way through, not mushy inside,” she explained. I think the amount of coating would be better suited to a sandwich-sized piece of chicken, offering a better crust-to-meat ratio.
The coating is gluten-free and I couldn’t tell you what it’s made of, but it is seasoned and tasted good. Online I found recipes for fried chicken using gluten-free all-purpose flour, so perhaps that’s what this is.
The helpful person at the counter told us the chicken comes in frozen, and asked how we liked it. I presented the very crunchy argument, Sheryl the other side. The steadfast employee thoughtfully answered that she’d play around with the cooking times to achieve optimum crunch.
The place makes a big deal about its chicken and doughnuts, but it should be talking up the fries, as they are amazing.
They are called dipper fries and are thin slices of skin-on Russet potato, deep fried and seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. Some are so thin they are chips; all of them are delicious. The shape helps folks scoop up the sauces.
We took home most of the food. Frank sided with Sheryl: He really liked the crunch. And he very much liked the strawberry cheesecake doughnut she brought him.
Eric had only the part of the vanilla sprinkle doughnut I didn’t finish because I forgot to bring him one. Whoops.
The total for our breakfast/lunch came to $24.61 including a cold-brew coffee for Sheryl, which she said was very good.
A fancy doughnut authority, she gave a thumbs-up to 518 Donuts. We both enjoyed the chicken and fries. The employees were friendly and helpful.
The locally owned and operated 518 Donut supports the local baseball team, and on Oct. 28 will offer free coffee and a doughnut to first responders.
So next time you are craving a fancy doughnut and some chicken, give them a try.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected].
WHERE: 7 Southside Drive, Clifton Park; (518) 933-6688; 518donuts.com.
WHEN: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday; closed Monday
HOW MUCH: $24.61, including a coffee
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Also Apple Pay and Google Pay. Parking in lot. ADA compliant.