Sugar Rush from Sweet ColoraDough
Sweet ColoraDough feeds our craving for honest baked goods—and community connection
Step into Sweet ColoraDough in Glenwood Springs and the scent of fried dough and toasted sugar is positively intoxicating. Front-and-center in the bright, cozy café, a giant glass case flaunts a kaleidoscope of fresh doughnuts—up to 130 varieties daily, many decorated with colorful frostings and injected with luscious creams, custards and fruit preserves.
Faced with this dazzling cornucopia, it’s hard to believe that owners Aaron and Anne Badolato had much more in mind than doughnuts when they opened a bakery in their newly adopted hometown.
Seeking a mellow atmosphere in which to raise their toddler daughter, Aaron and Anne traded the bustle of big city Denver for the lull of the Roaring Fork Valley in 2012. Once here, though, Aaron struggled to locate a one-stop shop for a great sandwich. He found himself hopscotching among the area’s chain grocers for mediocre deli meats and hauling off to far-flung bakeries for wholesome breads. Desserts like those found at the famed Donut House in Aurora, Colorado? None in sight.
“Lunches with my dad and grandpa were five different meats, five different cheeses, breads, pickles, mustard, chips, a bunch of goodies,” Badolato explains of his Italian childhood. “You’d make your own food. It seems like that’s been lost with fast food and fast casual [restaurants]. For me, food was always an experience. I’m trying to get back to that.”
In May 2014, the Badolatos and Aaron’s brother Brian channeled their frustration and opened Sweet ColoraDough in a funky old A-frame on South Glen Avenue, just east of downtown Glenwood Springs. Decades ago the building was home to a pair of popular family restaurants. It’s hosted a string of failed ventures since, and sat vacant for years before the Badolatos moved in.
“Driving by here, it seemed like something was pulling me toward it,” says Badolato, whose family had moved into a house around the corner. Soon after Sweet ColoraDough opened, he recalls, “A woman came in and said her father built this building, and its first year in business it was actually a doughnut shop. I have yet to find any records of that, but something about it called out to me.”
Painted glossy Colorado-flag blue and bedecked with a banner proclaiming, “DOUGHNUTS,” Sweet ColoraDough has become a downvalley hub. At mid-morning on a typical weekday every table inside is occupied. Some customers tackle monster egg sandwiches on thick bacon bread and sip steaming Rock Canyon, Bonfire or Kona coffees. Others peruse homespun wall art hung above the cushy blue couch.
But most patrons—googly-eyed youngsters included—exhibit the kind of satisfied glaze that comes only from savoring pillowy, fried dough drenched in sugar. As a steady stream of customers snaps up doughnuts, the saccharine rainbow in the display case is fading fast.
“When we opened, just making enough doughnuts to meet demand became an animal unto itself,” Badolato marvels. “We gave away doughnuts for the first 30 days—22,000 doughnuts!”
Glenwood, it seems, had been sugar-starved since Daylight Donuts shuttered some 15 years ago. Now, Sweet ColoraDough cranks out between 2,000 and 10,000 yeast, cake and pastry-inspired doughnuts per day—not to mention other delicacies like bear claws, muffins, scones and Danishes. There are also nine types of bread—jalapeño-cheddar, super 6-grain and sausage included—for a menu of 20 signature lunch sandwiches stacked with combinations of six sliced meats and eight cheeses. (Deli meats may soon be available to take away.) On the rare days that this vast supply exceeds demand, Badolato delivers leftovers to one of 70 lucky businesses throughout the valley.
Incredibly, everything is made from scratch, with as many Roaring Fork Valley ingredients as possible. (The couple has sourced wheat from a Paonia farmer, but more as an experiment than for everyday, high-volume production.) Badolato maintains that balancing a dedication to local sourcing and craftsmanship with price and accessibility remains a constant challenge.
“You can make a doughnut that’s exactly what people want on paper in terms of perfect ingredients—non-GMO wheat, organic sugars,” Badolato says, “but is it affordable enough to buy and tasty enough to eat again? People just want something sweet and great, they don’t want to pay $5 a doughnut.”
The Sweet ColoraDough staff rotates through a 20-hour baking cycle that is wholly hands-on, mixing, cutting, proofing and folding dough in measured steps. There are no cutting machines, conveyor belts or glaze waterfalls, just good old-fashioned time and elbow grease. It’s a challenging feat for a cramped kitchen with a crew of eight full-time bakers, mostly professional cooks who lacked previous baking experience.
“We do not automate anything,” Badolato declares. “We don’t even own a freezer. The traditional, high-quality doughnut shop has been lost with the Voodoo Doughnuts of the world, the shops that are trying to make it this ultra-creative process.”
That’s not to say Sweet ColoraDough lacks imagination: Witness its “11-hour Croughnut” and the “Baby Daddy,” a raised doughnut with fried egg and sugar-cured bacon. But producing light, airy confections from quality ingredients by hand takes time—sometimes upwards of eight hours for a single tray of 24.
“It’s not 2,000 doughnuts, boom,” Badolato explains. “It requires a lot of management of schedules, people, personalities and passion for product.”
While Badolato retains that passion for doughnuts, he still wants Sweet ColoraDough to become known for its wide-ranging menu.
“With all the doughnuts we do, sometimes we get pigeonholed,” says Badolato, who admits that the signature item is for him an occasional personal pleasure. “It seems like every shop from the ’50s to the ’90s was just doughnuts. It was never, ‘I can eat here every day.’”
Taking a cue from Northside Coffee and Kitchen in Avon, the Badolatos are working to make Sweet ColoraDough an everyday eatery for Valley residents. Upstairs from the dining room, a renovated second floor with eclectic, thrifted furniture boasts 30 additional seats for private events and a bar that stocks four beers and a selection of craft spirits, all from Colorado. On weekends, the café slings boozy brunch beverages, fried chicken all day long and a supper menu of other comfort foods such as prime rib and lasagna. In the spring, visitors can play pool on an outdoor deck with stunning views of Mount Sopris, catch live music and sample homemade gelato.
“Our bar scene offers something very unique in Glenwood,” Badolato says. “Can I create an experience where you can take a kid to a bar?”
By planning a line of hops- and alcohol-infused doughnuts in partnership with Aspen Brewing Company and Woody Creek Distillers and a DIY doughnut station for kids, he hopes to do just that. And, since Sweet ColoraDough’s tiny kitchen limits its capacity for gluten-free production, his team is actively hunting for a larger production facility. Judging by the steady stream of faithful locals and wide-eyed visitors who frequent the restaurant, they’ll need it. The doughnuts are so good that even some dentists endorse them, sugar content notwithstanding.
“He has the most amazing doughnuts injected with Bavarian cream, which remind me of the doughnuts I had growing up in Brooklyn,” enthuses Dirk Fleischman, 59, a family dentist from Carbondale. Fleischman sampled Sweet ColoraDough goods at a Fourth of July party last summer and was hooked instantly. “I always stop in to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut that I can take on the road to Denver every Monday,” says the University of Colorado visiting professor, who sometimes doles out doughnuts to his dental students.
“They’re always thrilled, and I tell them, ‘You have to come to Glenwood! I’m addicted!’”
Less than a year into the business, the Badolatos are already known for their generous spirit. Consider: 7,000 doughnuts plus sandwiches donated to the Winter X Games, 5,000 doughnuts per week given to the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and a slew to at least 40 other events and festivals like Jazz Aspen Snowmass. As of January, Badolato estimates he’s gifted more than 300,000 doughnuts total.
“The goal in the future would be [to give away] a million doughnuts a year,” he says with a grin. “It’s cool to give somebody a doughnut that they think is gonna be crappy just because it’s free. Then they take a bite, and it’s potentially the best doughnut they’ve ever had. I like to see people smile.”
In May, to celebrate Sweet ColoraDough’s first anniversary—as well as his and Anne’s 35th birthdays, Brian’s 34th birthday, Lilli’s third birthday and the arrival of a second baby—the shop will pass out free doughnuts again for the entire month.
“The original reason for coming here was to slow life down with our daughter,” Badolato says, chuckling at the irony that he now clocks 120 work hours per week. “It wasn’t ‘Let’s open a restaurant and fill this demand.’ I just wanted these things in my life. We strive to create an experience that will take your taste buds to the next level. A passion for great food is what it’s about.”
GO FIND IT!
2430 S. Glen Ave.,