To enjoy a creation from Better Maid Donut in Pittsburgh, you're going to have to set your alarm early. Very early.
This popular donut spot in Crafton Heights is known for its limited production and die-hard fans who will wait a half-hour or more for their devious creations. Put these two together and you'll quickly understand why this one often sells out within an hour of their 6 am opening on weekdays and 7 am opening on weekends (hours as published on Google and may not be accurate).
As someone who is averse to getting up early in almost all cases, I've been trying (and failing) to visit Better Maid Donut for the better part of the last two years- through no one's fault but my own.
It wasn't until a late-spring morning, where the sunrise woke me up well before 6 am, that I realized the stars were aligning to make my visit to Better Maid Donut happen.
A Serious Following at Better Maid Donut
I'll be honest in saying that despite my early wake-up on this fateful day, I almost forgot about Better Maid Donut for a minute. Normally when we wake up early we are not in the capacity to think of driving across town for a donut, and by the time we realize it we are too late to do anything about it.
So while I woke up before six, my tale starts closer to 7:30 when I had that aha moment and rushed out the door almost without even telling Angie (who was still sleeping) goodbye.
I arrived at Better Maid Donut a few minutes later and knew I was at the right place as soon as I pulled up.
The small white house looks like it is in disrepair. There is no sign anywhere indicating it is a donut shop. The only two things you see when you get there is the neon Open sign in the window, and a line of twenty or so patrons that wraps around the outside of the building.
Had I not known better I would not have a clue about what was going on, but it is in these cases that you don't ask questions and stop.
Clearly everyone knows what is going on.
Limited Production at Its Finest
As I had about a half-hour wait ahead of me, I started talking to people who were in line with me, asking about the donuts, their favorite flavors, and more.
I came to find out that Better Maid Donut fries their cake donuts a bit longer than most places, giving a thicker and snappier outer crust while still retaining a fluffy interior. Something that definitely isn't for everyone, but is the reason this one has such a devoted following.
The limited production was also critical, as the business clearly knows how many of their $0.50 (regular) and $1.00 (cream/jelly filled) creations they need to sell to be profitable.
We were told the owner will tell you his favorite donut is the last one, and while I was waiting in line he was counting down until happy hour- something which by my guess would come about an hour after opening every single day.
Yes, they could make more. They could expand. But they don't have to, either, and are perfectly fine doing it this way. I can respect that.
I made my way to the counter, ordered three regular donuts, three filled donuts, and a half-dozen or so donut holes, and walked away with a box of some of the best donuts you'll ever have for a grand total of $5. Yes, you read that right, five dollars.
My new friends in line were quite correct in their description of the donut, as the extra fried rings result in a crispness like you wouldn't expect from most standard donut shops. The filled donuts were a bit lighter on the exterior and allowed for the flavors of the Bavarian cream, jelly, and chocolate to come out just as much as the donut itself.
But if you are in the mood for the lightest, fluffiest donut you may ever have, you'll have to go for the donut holes. These had a slight crust around the outside, and a very light glaze, meaning the flavor you get the most of is the donut itself- as it should be.
Now we have something to get up early for.
Better Maid Donut is located at 1178 Steuben Street in Crafton Heights. Although their hours are published online, there are a few things to note. The hours listed on Google may not be accurate and could change, they are often closed for full days at a time unexpectedly based on the owner's whim (we went at 6am once after this initial publication and no one was there at all- much to the disappointment to several people waiting outside), and when they're out for the day, they're out. Get there early!