Come early to Good Day Donuts for the sea-salt glazed doughnuts and buttermilk hunk. You'll also find a surprise: The shop makes some of the best sandwiches in White Center.
Last June, tired of the Seattle grind, Erik Jackson left his gig as executive chef of Madrona’s acclaimed restaurant Vendemmia to open a doughnut shop in White Center.
He didn’t even know how to make a jelly doughnut.
“It’s been a lot of trial and error and YouTube” how-to videos, he said, with a laugh.
Apparently, he’s a fast learner. Good Day Donuts, located near the main drag in White Center, has become a surprise hit, often selling out on weekends. The sea-salt glazed doughnut. The buttermilk hunk. The locals want them all.
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It’s not the expected career trajectory for someone who has cooked in several of Seattle’s most august kitchens — from Dahlia Lounge to Spur Gastropub.
But here he is, and here he has been since August.
Jackson’s reasons for leaving a promising restaurant career are similar to what other chefs who have had enough of Seattle cite: the labor shortage, the long hours, the saturation of the restaurant scene. Don’t get him started on the traffic.
So off to White Center he went.
“I can’t afford to open a restaurant, but I can afford a doughnut shop,” he said.
The hours are better. That’s for sure. Last Thursday afternoon, Jackson, scruffily dressed in a tie-dye T-shirt and looking as much like a Deadhead as a business owner, walked from behind the counter to lock the doors and put up the closed sign. Popping boiled peanuts into his mouth, he remarked how much more relaxed he felt. He “sleeps better, drinks less and lost” 10 pounds.
Gone are the 14-hour days, which often ended after 1 a.m. He and his family moved from Capitol Hill to South Park for the shorter commute, which ensures he can get the doughnuts out of the fryer in time for the morning rush. He’s done by 3 p.m. on weekdays and is home for dinner with his wife, Alison Odowski, and their 9-year-old daughter.
“Family time is the big reason why I wanted to step back,” he says.
The menu: Good Day makes between 20 to 28 different varieties of doughnuts daily, a rotating list of maple bars, fritters, crullers, holes and raised and cake doughnuts. On Saturday morning, the shop showcases about 30 varieties, including some with experimental toppings. Good Day also sells ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery. Lunch options include egg sandwiches, French bread pizza and three other rotating sandwich offerings (examples include red chili beef, meatballs, hot ham-and-cheese and an Italian sub). He’s still a chef! He plans to host dinner out of the shop, at least once a month.
What to get: Two must-have doughnuts are the buttermilk hunk, a doughnut-pound-cake hybrid with a crumbly texture still moist enough that it melts in your mouth; and the sea-salt glazed doughnut, which adds a briny tweak to the sugarcoated standby. The airy cruller will still taste good the next morning, when the sweet glaze has soaked up the choux pastry. Sandwiches are substantial and cheap. The tangy and spicy meatball sub comes with gooey mozzarella and is sprinkled with battered jalapeño peppers that have been deep-fried. Curried chicken is served as a sandwich instead of in a rice bowl, and is the better for it — a thick ginger mayo is cut with pickled daikon and peppers and bulked up with lettuce.
What to skip: French bread pizza felt like a dorm snack out of a toaster oven — crunchy bread topped with tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni.
Prices: Doughnuts $1.20-$2.50; ice cream $2.50-$5; French bread pizza $3.50-$4.50; egg sandwiches $5 and subs $8.
Good Day Donuts, 9823 15th Ave. S.W. (White Center), Seattle; 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday; 206-503-2898, gooddaydonuts.com