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Old Fashioned Donuts Keeps 'Em Smiling in Roseland

By Mark Konkol | February 12, 2014 7:28am
 Old Fashioned Donuts, 11248 S. Michigan Ave.
Old Fashioned Donuts
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ROSELAND — When I visited my pal the big-time national magazine editor in New York City, he talked fondly about the good ol' days in Chicago when his beautiful wife would trek from their Lincoln Park apartment to work in Roseland and come home with a special treat.

"I always knew when she went to work at Fenger High School because she'd bring me an apple fritter from Old Fashioned Donuts," he said, longingly, in his cozy Brooklyn Heights apartment.
"That place is the greatest."

It really is the greatest, and in that moment I knew that when I got back home it wouldn't be long before I'd have to make a visit.

Maybe you think we're exaggerating — that there's no way a doughnut made in Roseland trumps any of the the newfangled $4 doughnuts praised by the national foodie movement — the kind stuffed with bacon, soaked in bourbon or wrapped around a burger.

But that could only be the case if you've never tasted the glorious goodness of Buritt Bulloch's deep-fried, sticky-sweet creations that he makes fresh six days a week in the front window at 11248 S. Michigan Ave.

The 75-year-old doughnut maker opened his shop in 1972 back when South Michigan Avenue was still a vibrant shopping destination and home to Sears, Gately's People Store and JCPenney — which are all long gone.

Bulloch's glazed doughnuts, long johns, "doughnut balls," famous apple fritters and "Texas" doughnuts have helped his place survive 41 years despite the economic realities in poverty-stricken Roseland.

"People said I wouldn't make it because Gatley's had a bakery, but when I started making doughnuts, this doughnut it just took off, basically from word of mouth," he said.

On Tuesday, I found Bulloch at his usual spot in the front window.

From the moment he arrived at 6 a.m., the guy was in a state of perpetual motion — rolling the dough and carving out doughnuts with a variety of cutting tools, including a custom-made tool he fashioned from an old ketchup can that he uses to make his giant "Texas" doughnuts.

And after letting the doughnuts rise, he fries them in 375-degree oil until they're perfectly golden brown and coats them with a special homemade glaze while they're still hot.

That's why he calls his doughnuts "old-fashioned," he says.

"When it comes to quality [and] taste, people seem to love it."

On an average day, Bulloch cooks up about 150 pounds of doughnuts, which he figures adds up to a "couple million" over more than four decades.

These days, Bulloch's best customers are exactly the locals you might expect — cops, firefighters and postal workers.

"Firefighters probably get the most. They have more time. They get 'em by the dozen," he said. "They … keep me going. I got a built-in salary, know what I mean?"

And six days a week, folks from faraway suburbs call in special doughnut orders to make sure their favorite varieties aren't sold out.

Other doughnut lovers are willing to wait as long as it takes to get an Old Fashioned that's piping hot. On Tuesday, one woman waited the better part of an hour for just a couple apple fritters fresh out of the fryer.

For Bulloch, that's the good stuff.

"It's a lot of work, lot of hours," he said. "It keeps people coming back, keeps people smiling."

Bulloch says he'll keep making doughnuts for as long as he can.

"Retire? I'm thinking maybe when I'm 80," he says. "Five years. Yeah, that sounds right. I could make a lot of doughnuts in five years."

I had planned to order up a few tasty apple fritters to overnight to my pal in New York, but thought better of it.

If he wants another taste of Bulloch's fritters, he'll have to do it the old-fashioned way — stand in line like everyone else.