Blognut is back from Virginia, two Donuts and lots of ice cream heavier. But before we get into food, I would first like to apologize to my svelte and bleach-stained friend Reverend Dick, who played the heartiest of roles in my nuptials – meaning my real hitching, not my Donut ceremony – in September of 05, and who should have definitely been made privy to the existence of this blog. Sorry RD. And thanks for not choosing the title of Druid or Warlock when cyber-ordaining yourself, thus avoiding way too many unanswerable questions from grandma J. But now, the Donuts.
Last April I ran a piece on my favorite of all Donut shops, Spudnuts in Charlottesville, VA. The resulting online chatter eventually led to something called the Grillswith, a marvelous triad of grilled Donuts, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, popular in C’ville for decades. Having spent four years of my life in said town, I’m ashamed to admit I had not heard of the Grillswith at the time, and would like to thank all those who enlightened me on the matter. But those days of being young and uniformed have since passed, for I have now ingested the famous dessert and understand what all the fuss over this decadent Central-Virginia phenomenon is about.
Now the concept of mashing together Donuts, ice cream and chocolate sauce might not be specific to Charlottesville. In fact, I remember having the same combination years ago at the 3rd Street Diner in Richmond, VA. But as far as I can tell, the name Grillswith was born in C’ville, at the long-since closed University Diner. When the diner shut its doors - probably in response to one too many boozed-up frat guys dropping roofies into sorority sodas and regurgitating Donut on the walls – the considerably more boho Blue Moon Diner picked up the tradition (check their MySpace page here). As did a few other local dives, like the greasy and satisfying Mel’s Diner, and the White Spot, infamous for fattening up undergrads with their cholesterol-heavy “Gus Burger,” a hamburger topped with a fried egg.
I think it was two years ago when the Blue Moon Diner decided to close up shop and devote itself exclusively to catering. Charlottesville sighed with disappointment. But while giving up some of the grungy eclecticism that patrons so adored (ie, breast feeding women at the counter, unleashed Golden Retrievers scrounging for crumbs), the BMD recently reopened as a slightly sleeker, more disinfected diner. But don’t get Blognut wrong, the place is still brimming with character – from the window sill lined with records for spinning on the house turntable, to the portrait of a 70’s era Elvis hanging above the bar – and managed to maintain their local cred by bringing back the Grillswith.
So finally back in C’ville after so many months, Blognut shows up at the Blue Moon with a voracious appetite, primed on Christmas ham, sugar cookies and, oddly enough, corn salsa. I’m accompanied by Mrs. Blognut and my old friend Slim, neither of whom share my enthusiasm for the heavy, creamy and fried dessert we’re about to face. We order a round of pilsners and a single Grillswith.
The Blue Moon’s Grillswith consists of two plain-glazed, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts nestled beside a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. The Doughnuts are grilled until the sugary glaze caramelizes into a gooey and crunchy coating. Thanks to the grilling process, the interior of each Doughnut loses the light and airy physique of a typical glazed, and instead has the consistency of a dense, chewy bagel, making its eater work for his/her reward. But trust me, it tastes great. The ice cream is provided by another Charlottesville staple, Chap’s Homemade Ice Cream, and the sauce by Hershey’s. With nary a bite of help from either of my dining companions, I end up finishing the entire thing myself, vowing to start jogging again after New Year’s.
On the way out we spot a customer calling it quits for the night and creating a makeshift headlight by attaching a large metal flashlight to his bicycle handlebars. His method of attachment - packing tape. So here’s to the Blue Moon Diner for helping preserve the quirky, friendly and, at times, beautifully tacky lore of American diner culture, and for grilling up one of the finest desserts in the Piedmont.
Blue Moon Diner
512 West Main St.
Blognut has chosen to classify the Grillswith as a dessert rather than a Donut, and will therefore not be assigning it a Donut Score.