Donut shops were once readily found in towns and cities across America. They are all but gone these days, but a husband and wife team are hoping Hamiltonians are hungering for the handmade sweet treats they once preferred to bagels.
Donuts Time, on Route 33 in Hamilton Square, is a labor of love for baker Rebecca Solayman and her husband Amro, who opened the new shop last month. Rebecca said working for herself and her family is something she always wanted to do.
“For a long time, I was working for other people. My husband was like, ‘You work so hard for other people, why not work hard for us?’” she said. “Having your own business is hard too, but you have more options than you might otherwise have.”
Rebecca grew up in Philadelphia, where she entered a Careers in Culinary Arts program in high school. Through the program, she won a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Maryland, graduating in 1998.
Since then she’s worked various jobs in the food service industry. Most recently, she was kitchen manager of Small World Coffee on Nassau Street in Princeton. Before that, she was first cook at Princeton Windrows, in Plainsboro, and prior to that she worked at Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, as a baker.
When it came time to open up her own shop, she settled on donuts — with a little help from her daughter. (The Solaymans have two children.)
“My daughter loves donuts, she’s always asking to go to Dunkin Donuts,” Rebecca said. “So I thought, why don’t we do something that’s made a little bit better, and it tastes better.”
Deciding to start a donut shop was one thing. When the spot next to Kenji Fusion—most recently 911 Hero’s Sub Shop—opened up, the Solaymans saw an opportunity and leased the space. But the work was only beginning.
Coming up with the perfect recipes was another matter. Rebecca had years of experience in the kitchen, but she knew a donut shop couldn’t afford to make donuts that were anything less than excellent. She said she worked for six months, researching and experimenting in an effort to perfect her recipes.
“I wanted to offer something different from Dunkin, because everyone’s been to Dunkin in New Jersey,” she said.
Some basic donuts, like sprinkle-topped and glazed, are almost universal. But Rebecca explored bakeries and donut shops throughout New York and New Jersey, looking for flavors she liked, or ones that she didn’t see that she thought were interesting.
The mocha donut, with chocolate and coffee-flavored frosting, is one recipe she came up with that says sets Donuts Time apart from the ubiquitous chain. Another is salted caramel, a trendy flavor that customers will find on the Solaymans’ menu. Maple bacon donuts, another novelty item that has become popular in bakeries across the land, are also served.
“I like [maple bacon donuts], but also, we have egg sandwiches. I have bacon. So why not put the bacon on the donut?” she said.
Other flavors include lemon poppy, black raspberry jam powdered and Boston Cream. Most single donuts are $1.19; some are $1.39. Donuts Time serves sandwiches for breakfast and lunch in addition to the donuts.
“Not everybody wants a donut every day, but people want lunch or breakfast every day,” she said. “They can sit, we have free wi-fi. If they want a donut, great. If they want lunch or breakfast, whatever it is, I can make it.”
Lunch selections include grilled cheese ($4.50) and a turkey Florentine panini ($5.50). They also sell a variety of coffees and teas.
Rebecca and Amro have lived in Hamilton for four years. They moved to Hamilton from Ewing four years ago. They haven’t changed much in the shop since taking over, repainting and changing out the deli case for a donut case. She said that she’s been happy with the reception the shop has received since opening, although she hopes more people will realize that they have opened.
“We like Hamilton,” she said. “The idea was to do something close to where we live so it’s easy for our family. We just wanted someplace that seemed friendly. This plaza seems friendly, and we like Route 33. We eat here and shop here.”
Donuts Time is located at 1280 Route 33. Phone: (609) 838-7976. They open at 6 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closing time is always 3 p.m. On the Web: search for Donuts Time on Facebook.