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Frederick Kalil reviews

When your mother admonished that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, she couldn’t have foreseen the dawning of the donut benedict. Admittedly, uncertain times call for innovative solutions, yet the prospect of a pizza donut at any hour may be enough to trigger existential dilemma in all but the stoutest of constitutions. Judging by the number of cheery faces at Donut Villa, I’m inclined to surmise that the kids are all right, and likely it’s the cranky food writer who needs a changing. 

My visit to Donut Villa Diner occurred in its opening week at dinner hour, my intent being to explore the entrée selection. The homemade crab cake I had set my mind on wasn’t available, but the Ahi tuna sandwich represented a suitable stand-in. The hunk of fish was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, treated to a toasted brioche bun and anointed with a characterful chipotle mayo. Fries accompanying all sandwiches are of the crispy-coated type and externally sourced, as are the decent sweet potato fries. My dill spear delivered a good amount of flavor.

Buffalo mac and cheese suggested itself as a gauge of standard diner fare. Sensibly free of surprises, the basic approach sported knobs of crunchy chicken cutlet bobbing in a crowd of bright orange elbows, savory and with the spice level set to youngster-friendly. The no-nonsense plating presentation was appropriate to its contents (“like a kid’s lunch plate; kids hate vegetables”). 

Mozzarella sticks in-house

We were told by owner Erin Bashllari that the mozzarella sticks are made in-house, and a walk-by sighting of them being enjoyed at another table admittedly attracted my attention. Enjoy, kids. 

Another classic staple, the turkey club sandwich — halved diagonally — rose to meet expectations. Extra napkin reinforcements were called in to contain the generously applied mayo. I made note of the above-average bacon (center cut, I was informed). “It’s diner food, and there’s a lot of it” was an indisputable appraisal voiced at the table. A stack of napkins later, we were told that there was no more maple donut bread pudding. To mask our dejection, we pivoted to the doughnut case for sweet solace, landing on two varieties to pull apart and share. 

Go inside Donut Villa Diner via ACMi:

The sole remaining lemon meringue specimen commanded our attention by virtue of its imposing heft and queenly accoutrements. Afficionados will know that doughnut respect is earned by more than looks alone, and this attractive number’s inner beauty scored favorably with our tasters. The raised dough within was soft, tender and not overly sweet. Executive doughnut chef Josh Flores revealed that he enriches the lemon filling with Bavarian cream, a distinguishing touch. And that thin layer underlying the meringue swirl? Shards of graham cracker, an inspired addition contributing welcome surface bite.

The red velvet choice may be even finer. Nicely crisp on the outside and meaty within with an admirably textured crumb, it too displayed the additional virtue of restraint in the sweetness department. My encounter with a chocolate honey dip the next day proved less satisfying; perhaps the glaze was applied before cooling, with the result a compromised topside.

The breakfast test

Any diner must pass the breakfast test, and several key components make a difference here. A doughnut in good standing should not suffer the insult of substandard coffee; therefore, gratitude goes to the New England Coffee properly brewed. Any self-respecting New Englander also will appreciate pure maple syrup at an establishment that serves flapjacks and waffles. Dinner-plate-sized Boston cream buttermilk pancakes came layered with swoonworthy Bavarian cream and a blanket of homemade chocolate sauce. Even so, I dipped into the maple syrup. The villa made me do it.

Vegan selections occupy an entire large page of the voluminous menu. As Donut Villa’s concept appears to ride the line between familiar and food dare, I hazarded a foray into uncharted territory by trying the vegan chicken and waffles. As it turned out, the fried tenders seasoned with mustard and spices may be amenable as a cocktail snack but matched with the syrup weren’t to my taste.

In a world where a queasy tummy is just a newscast away, any-time-of-day breakfast plus cocktails should be a recipe for success. I understand that the drink menu is being updated for a March rollout.

Originating in Malden, Donut Villa also has expanded to locations in Cambridge and Newtonville. Given the increased space in Arlington, doughnut production is now centralized here. Doors open at 8 a.m. if you’re inclined to find a place in line.

Donut Villa Diner, 319 Broadway Plaza, Arlington

Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday, Saturday, 8 a.m. to midnight
Sunday, 8 a.m. To 10 p.m.

Website >> 

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This restaurant review by YourArlington freelancer Frederick Kalil was published Wednesday, March 1, 2023.

Note: Associated Press style, which YourArlington follows in most cases, spells "doughnut" differently than the business name. Items on Donut Villa's menu follow the spelling there.

A resident of Arlington, Kalil has been eating food since birth. Starting from a home where family cuisine ranged from kibbeh to cretons, he has sought high standards and a world of flavor at his own table and when dining out. After years of writing about dining options for the neighboring Tufts community, he now explores local kitchens for his fellow Arlingtonians.