In honor of National Donut Day (yep, that’s a thing), here’s a look at one of North Dakota’s best kept secrets — Welch’s Bakery in Park River, North Dakota.
My sister Brynn and her family have been raving about the donuts at Welch’s for months, so when I visited them a few weeks ago, I knew a pilgrimage was in order. My brother-in-law isn’t crazy about desserts, so anything sweet that earns his endorsement must be something special.
So my sister and I piled our four squealing kids in her minivan on a cool, drizzly late spring day and headed off to Park River on a donut quest.
We cruised past some lovingly restored historic homes and found Welch’s on Briggs Avenue, in the heart of the city’s charming downtown business district.
Welch’s Bakery is a small town treasure, owned and operated by Toby and Cheryl Welch for over 25 years.
It’s a no fuss, no frills little shop with a counter to pull up a seat and grab a cup of coffee and a steady stream of locals shuffling in and out for an armful of cookies, pies, donuts, breads and buns from the simple bakery cases.
Even though the baked goods are homemade, you won’t find any artisanal pricing here. A loaf of unsliced bread will set you back $2. Spring for the sliced bread and you’ll spend $2.15. There’s a good selection of buns and dessert breads as well.
That’s all well and good, but we came for the sugar.
Brynn headed to the counter, baby on one hip, and ordered our dozen — an assortment of frosted, fried and cake donuts — with a veteran’s poise.
These cookie sandwiches caught my eye, so of course I had to try one. I’m so glad I did. It was delicious, packed with yummy buttercream frosting and just rich enough that I had to split it with my sister.
We took our donuts to go, since we (okay, I) got distracted by a store window at Butler’s Thriftique, a cool little shop I’ll tell you about later this month. When we finally dug in back at Brynn’s dining room table, I understood what all the fuss was about.
I should take a moment to say I’m not really a donut person. I’m fanatical about a few varieties at Sandy’s Donuts in West Fargo (you can see my love letter to my favorites here) but donuts from most other places get too heavy and rich and cloyingly sweet for me.
I know this is ironic coming from someone who has eaten buttercream frosting with a spoon, but sometimes I think the fried dough gets to be just too much when combined with frosting.
That’s not the case at Welch’s Bakery. The dough reminds me of a Chinese or Thai sweet bun, so the resulting fried donuts are light and not overly sweet. And the cake donuts are simple, airy perfection. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to be found at Welch’s Bakery, but that suits me — and their dedicated clientele — just fine.
And at just $.80 and $.65 cents respectively, you can try one of each and see for yourself.
402 Briggs Avenue South
Park River, North Dakota
Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.