By Dori Gray, Photo by Jesse Jarrold-Grapes
Wife-and-husband duo Shauna and Todd McCoy founded the original Donut Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2017. Later, in June 2022, Portsmouth became home to the business’ first franchise location, co-owned by Mike Scott and Nate Hinze.
After COVID-19 eliminated his previous business ownership, Scott was introduced to Donut Distillery through Hinze. Hinze told Scott about the ingenious enterprise owned by his family member, and the two teamed up to become franchisees.
“We decided to go down [to Nashville] one weekend and check it out and the atmosphere and just the draw,” Scott says. “The people loved it.”
With the city being rebuilt and remodeled, having the restaurant in their hometown felt right. In the past, downtown Portsmouth did not have many local restaurants, so Donut Distillery’s opening was welcomed.
Lisa Carver, executive director of the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, says there has been a lot of interest in remodeling the older buildings downtown, and there has been a surge of new businesses. Over the past 10 years, local ownership of buildings has surpassed out-of-town ownership.
Carver attributes part of the city’s growth to Portsmouth being a small town with a big-town feel.
“Our people are one of our biggest assets,” she says.
For Scott, the most exciting part of the new business is providing something good for his community.
“We have a wide variety of people come here, from kids to middle-aged to older, and everybody loves our products,” Scott says. “We do a lot of fundraisers, which helps a lot of schools and kids and stuff.”
Carver emphasizes the positive impact Donut Distillery’s fundraising partnerships and outreach have brought to the area.
“They’re a great community partner,” Carver says. “Donut Distillery has been a great addition to the downtown.”
On a typical, relaxed Sunday at the restaurant, a classic rock playlist keeps the energy upbeat. Neighborly staff moves about behind the glossy, turquoise-and-black-tiled counter that serves as the centerpiece of the restaurant.
Groovy, ’70s-inspired rainbow stripes dance along the rightmost wall, while a room to the left houses ruddy, exposed brick and games such as darts and Uno.
Though families are strolling in and out of the establishment at their leisure, it is typically quite busy. Elishaa McKinley, a cashier and donut maker, says that between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. the day before, Donut Distillery sold 300 mini donuts.
“I like it, though,” McKinley says. “I like the rush.”
The restaurant offers 12 signature donut flavors, available in customizable packs of three, six, 12 and 25. Carefully decorated miniature donuts rest in a food basket, with flavors such as classic cinnamon sugar and “The Homer D’ohnut,” a pink-frosted donut topped with rainbow sprinkles. Whiskey Glaze is the restaurant’s original flavor, made with genuine Tennessee whiskey.
Donut Shots are also available, inspired by the restaurant’s core donut flavors. Served in shot glasses topped with the flavor’s corresponding mini donut, customers are given the best of both worlds with a dessert shot and donut chaser.
Scott and Hinze made the switch from serving solely sweet treats and inventive drinks to operating as a full restaurant in December 2022. Now, the menu ranges from Donut Distillery’s signature mini donuts to chicken wings and coffee cocktails.
“Everything’s hand-battered, everything’s fresh, so we don’t just buy a frozen chicken wing or tender and put it in the fryer,” Scott says.
Though the donuts are always a fan-favorite, he believes either the chicken tenders or sliders are the most popular menu items.
Portsmouth residents Don and Doris Simon are frequent patrons, and Doris was in attendance on opening day.
“I was curious, because liquor and donuts didn’t sound like a thing to me,” Doris says. The Dreamsicle Shot and handmade boneless wings won her over.
The restaurant is often filled with a medley of customers seated and savoring the menu of assorted goods. On Friday or Saturday nights, folks can enjoy dinner and a show while the restaurant hosts live music performances.
“I wish I had a better word to describe it, but it’s unique,” Carver says. “They have a great menu lineup, and now they’re even offering entertainment.”
Donut Distillery is by Portsmouth, for Portsmouth and beyond. Business is going well, and it has resulted in meaningful fellowship.
“We’re thankful for all the help from our family and the city and all of our friends that’s helped us get through all this and basically help us get open,” Scott says. “So, just live one day at a time and stay blessed, right?”
- Whiskey Glaze: This Donut Distillery original flavor uses genuine Tennessee whiskey, and the alcohol inclusion gives the donut a little kick. It is a nice twist on a well-known flavor.
- The Homer D’ohnut: With rainbow sprinkles and strawberry frosting, it has a quintessential taste, and the frosting is delicious.
- Boston Cream: This little donut is piled high with Bavarian Cream, and the overall taste is chocolaty and decadent.
- S’mores: While the s’mores-themed toppings overpowered the moistness of the donut, they meld well together.
- Sweet Swine: Maple and bacon join forces for a sweet and savory treat.
- Strawberry Lemonade: This drink-themed donut has hints of salt and lemon.
- Cinnamon Sugar: The Cinnamon Sugar donut is evenly coated and exactly what one would expect: an uber-sweet classic.
- Blake’s Hard Cider Triple Jam: This lightweight, peach-colored hard cider is delicious and slightly fruity — great for anyone who typically dislikes beer.
- Deschutes Black Butte Porter: The dark beer is sweet, smooth, and easy to sip on, with just enough twang to prompt additional sips.
- Berry Scary Spiked Shake: This yummy, spiked milkshake is deceptively sweet, as vodka is expertly hidden amongst blended strawberry lemonade donuts and ice cream.
(Served topped with their coordinating donuts)
- S’mores: The liquor has a cinnamon edge, and the graham cracker-coated rim is a significant bonus.
- Sweet Swine: The shot couples great with the maple.
- Whiskey Glaze: Even if one is not a fan of whiskey, the clever pairing makes this a must-try.
- Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard: The hand-battered chicken tenders have an overall awesome quality and taste, and tangy honey mustard sauce clinches the deal.
- Medium Traditional Wings: With a decent amount of heat, the traditional wings are cooked and sauced to perfection.
GOOD TO KNOW
The restaurant has a $1 bottled beer special on Thursdays, and the “Boozie Menu” is unavailable on Sundays.
416 Chillicothe Street
Portsmouth, OH, 45662
Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday- Saturday: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.