The Donut Friar

I love The Donut Friar. Most everyone who knows me knows my fascination with the historic donut shop located in The Village shopping area just past traffic light #6 in Gatlinburg, TN. Unfortunately, the shop’s original, 50-year old sign was stolen this past week and that got me thinking about my love for this shop and their donuts.

The Donut Friar is a great example of how my appreciation for a particular place can be based on a variety of factors other than the principle issue for which the place is known. In this case, my love for The Donut Friar goes way, way beyond just the taste of their donuts. (Another example would be my love for The Beast roller coaster at King’s Island. It is certainly not the greatest roller coaster in the world, but a host of factors beyond just the coaster elements themselves make it my favorite coaster).

To be certain, The Donut Friar has great donuts. They are homemade every morning right there in the shop. But other things make this place unbeatable.

One of those things is the nostalgia factor. The Donut Friar still looks and feels like the Gatlinburg I cherished as a kid in the early 80’s. The Village shopping area is a European-themed area that carries its own kind of charm, and The Donut Friar is nestled in the corner toward the back of The Village. The interior decoration and atmosphere of the little shop takes me back to those amazing family trips where the joy of buying a donut made my eyes sparkle. The Donut Friar still only accepts cash – no credit cards! And if you don’t have cash, an ATM machine is conveniently located right inside the shop. There is a fee to use the ATM, but don’t worry – if you have to use it, they will give you a free soft drink to go along with your donut.

Most visitors to The Donut Friar miss this, but they actually have an upstairs seating area. It appears that the stairs at the side of the shop might be just for employee use only, but for the folks who know better, there are three or four tables up those stairs that look over the donuts and the visitors below. I always feel like I am experiencing something only a few people know about every time I climb those stairs, almost like I am getting a behind the scenes peek into the magic of The Donut Friar.

My childhood friend, James Aaron, and I have a little tradition concerning The Donut Friar. If he is there without me, he will snap a photo and text me. And vice versa. It’s just a little way we remind each other that we are thinking of one another and that this shop on the corner holds a lot of special memories for us. (He gets there way more than I do because he lives in East TN).

Sometimes Gatlinburg visitors who are friends of mine will visit The Donut Friar for the first time and tell me later, “I don’t understand why you love that place. The donuts are just so-so and the place is kind of run down.” Yeah, I know. But if you don’t have the history with it that I do, then it won’t make sense. Simply put, The Donut Friar is one of the greatest places on earth.

I’m kind of glad I wasn’t in Gatlinburg when the sign was stolen – I might have been a suspect in their investigation! But in all seriousness, I hope the sign is returned. For me, is a part of my history – a part that I am very thankful for.

So, if you have never been to The Donut Friar, make sure you stop in the next time you visit Gatlinburg. Tell them Philip sent you. They won’t know who that is, but tell them anyway. Be sure to give the friar a pat on the head for me, and let him know that I will be seeing him soon…certainly for the donuts, but mostly for the memories.

A Donut Friar Mug Given To Me By A Dear Church Member