Smile Politely

Rolling in dough: An interview with Pandamonium Doughnuts

On a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I finally got the chance to check out Pandamonium Doughnuts‘ new store on Windsor and Prospect. If you’ve been living in Champaign-Urbana for even a little while, you know about the bright pink doughnut truck that is a staple around town. The new shop is the perfect addition to this growing buisness that wants to focus on craft treats made with high quality ingredients. After trying several doughnuts that were all delicious in their own way, I got to thinking: What is the person who makes these doughnuts like? Luckily, I had the chance to ask the owner, James Kyung, a few questions. Keep reading for his take on his unique journey.

I visited Pandamonium’s shop late on a Sunday morning and they still had most of their doughnuts left. I split four doughnuts with a friend so we could try several flavors, and we still had leftovers! First was the Cookies n’ Cream, which is a yeast doughnut filled with chocolate and topped with vanilla icing and cookie crumbles. This doughnut was surprisingly light and fluffy even though it was filled. I also had one of their seasonal doughnuts, Cherry Hearts, which had perfect flavors for Valentine’s day. It was a massive yeast doughnut with cherry frosting and cocoa nibs. I love going back to try their seasonal doughnuts because I can always tell that they are made with high quality ingredients and they won’t be around for long. Next I tried the Cereal Killer, which was topped with Fruity Pebbles and gave a nice crunch which was a good texture contrast. Then finally, my favorite that we tried was the Spiced Chai cake doughnut. It’s one of their vegan options and has a great spiced flavor. The icing was perfectly balanced — not too sweet or overpowering.

Smile Politely: How does owning a brick-and-mortar store differ from a food truck?

James Kyung: After a few months of having the new brick-and-mortar open, there have been a lot of new challenges we’ve come across — some expected and some not expected. Aside from the obvious, like higher overhead, we now have a larger staff with 14 team members total, our own commercial kitchen, new equipment, and a full coffee menu to name a few. The most challenging aspect in the beginning was developing our new full coffee menu and providing an equal high-quality beverage to match the quality of our doughnuts. We were very happy and excited to partner up with Counter Culture Coffee and Rishi Tea to provide some yummy drinks. Plus, all our coffee syrups are made in house too! 

Another new aspect has been having set hours at the store. With the food truck, if we sold out, we were done for the day. With the store our normal business hours are open until 2 p.m. We don’t use anything the next day and make a fresh batch every morning. So, if we happen to still have doughnuts at the store, we will still stay open until we sell out. Regardless, our coffee is always available. It has been a challenge to predict how the day will go or when we will sell out, which is why we always recommend coming in early for the best selection. Every day presents a new challenge and story!

SP: What is your all-time favorite doughnut you’ve offered at the shop?

Kyung: Oh man, this is the toughest question so far. Honestly, my favorite changes constantly, but I do have a few “go-to flavors.” Some top ones up there are definitely our PB&J and Original Glazed, but also can’t go wrong with the Cookies N’ Cream or Strawberry Rhubarb. The PB&J is a homage to my childhood of grape jelly and creamy peanut butter sandwiches my mom used to make. Another favorite of mine is the Spiced Chai, which is my favorite cake-style doughnut we do (and it’s vegan!).

SP: Are there any flavors you want to try but haven’t had the chance to make yet?

Kyung: We are experimenting all the time and coming up with new flavor ideas constantly.  It’s really one of the best parts about the job as I get to just experiment and eat food all the time! I definitely want to do something with apricot or coffee, and more vegan flavors.  We do offer a vegan option daily, but want to expand our vegan line-up.

I’m also obsessed with Snickers candy right now, so maybe something with that? We are also working on some spring and summer seasonal flavors in not only our doughnuts, but also our coffee. The possibilities are endless, but if we do come up with anything, we’ll definitely be posting about it! As with everything in our business, we recommend following us on social media to get the latest updates, news, store hours, and locations. We update daily on flavor menus and when we sell out for the day, so keep checking back for those.

SP: A Snickers doughnut sounds amazing. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Pandamonium Doughnuts
1105 Windsor Rd
W-Sa 7 a.m, to 2 p.m. or sold out
Su 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or sold out

Food Truck
Near Krannert Center for Performing Arts
Goodwin & Oregon
W-F 7:30 a.m. to noon or sold out

Additional information Twitter and Instagram

Photos by Katie Simpson

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