Sweet: Resolve to eat more (Tupelo) doughnuts

Renee Casteel Cook

On a particularly chilly Chicago morning, Kimberly Payne stood in a line wrapped halfway around a city block and thought to herself, “These must be some darn good doughnuts.” That's when a fellow patron told her that the Doughnut Vault, a Windy City cult favorite, didn't even open for another 45 minutes.

A serial entrepreneur, Payne couldn't resist the business proposition of bringing the doughnut craze to Columbus. That's when she and her husband, Michael, began building a plan for a mini empire. Named Tupelo Doughnuts after the trees and honey of the Forgotten Coast in Florida (a favorite vacation spot of the Paynes), the couple's first two doughnut trucks, “Tilly” and “Tup,” rolled onto the streets this fall. In 2018, the Paynes are looking to expand Tupelo's fleet to three trucks, and a Clintonville brick and mortar shop is in the works at 4330 N. High St.

Payne borrowed what she felt was a perfectly simple proposition focused on a small menu of artisan doughnuts and a good cup of coffee (enlisting Brioso Coffee for its namesake Tupelo blend). Rather than serving up greasy spoon sugar bombs, Tupelo offers higher-end versions of classics like a PB&J doughnut, featuring local Krema peanut butter, and the instant crowd favorite, crème brûlée. For the more adventurous, there's the oversized rose water and roasted almond doughnut and a seasonal mulled cider doughnut.

New additions are always in development by Tupelo's small but mighty team, which includes lead pastry chef Brian Wildroudt and two Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams alums, Jacob Freisthler and Kylen Franz. The team focuses on “The 6 Cs of Tupelo,” which include culinary excellence, commitment to community, customer service, consistency in product and services, cost consciousness and a cohesive team. Fulfilling its commitment to community, Tupelo plans to offer a special doughnut each month with a portion of the proceeds being donated to a local organization such as Nationwide Children's Hospital or Ohio State's Bucks for Charity.

Until Tupelo opens its permanent shop, customers can locate its trucks via social media or pick up orders at its commercial kitchen (2672 Billingsley Road) Tuesday through Saturday from 7 to 10 a.m. You can also have them delivered via Skip the Dishes or GrubHub.