A meal at The Donut + Dog, which opened in The Village at Meridian on July 31, really must be seen to be believed.
“You eat with your senses,” says owner Will Primavera, flashing a megawatt smile while the crowd walks around in a glazed daze. “They always say your taste buds are last, right?”
The Donut + Dog caters to all of the senses – one’s sense of wonder most of all.
Technicolor doughnuts — filled with cherries, topped with goat cheese, speared with tiny pipets of liquor — tower over diners while they wait in line.
Hot dogs, punched into a slab of buttery brioche that is somehow both lobster roll and Texas toast, parade past you, wrapped in spirals of bacon and flamboyantly drizzled in mustard and mayo.
When you’ve gotten used to seeing doughnuts and hot dogs in the same place, the real novelties reveal themselves.
At the table in the corner, someone pulls a mug of coffee out of a portable smoker. At the counter, the steam from another cup of coffee dissolves the cloud of cotton candy suspended above it.
Right below the mural of Homer Simpson, a doughnut grilled cheese hangs from a wooden contraption above a cup of tomato soup.
And then there’s the crescendo of this sweet and savory fever dream: the doughnut burger. There are four. The Hangover ($13) stacks two meaty patties, bacon, American cheese and a fried egg between two maple doughnuts. A single bite will make one’s flavor-blasted brain stutter to a halt.
For owners Nicole and Will Primavera, this zany concept originated from a passion for hospitality. After years of working in the food and beverage business in Las Vegas, Will was eager to branch out.
“I talked to Nicole one day and said, ‘Hey, listen, what do you think about starting a hospitality group?’” says Will. “We weren’t married at the time so I was kind of concerned she would leave me.”
They moved to Nashville, bought an old hot dog restaurant and remodeled it into The Donut + Dog. “Fortunately enough, it kicked ass,” says Will.
The Donut + Dog differentiates itself by serving brioche doughnuts, which are lighter and less sweet than a traditional one, without the greasy, melt-in-your-mouth texture people might expect. The toppings, however, are all sorts of sweet.
The Dirty Churro is coated in cinnamon sugar, dusted with Oreo crumble, and drizzled with toasty espresso. The South Beach gets covered in a raspberry mint glaze, topped with dehydrated raspberries and a wheel of lime, and stabbed with a pipet of Flor de Cana rum — which you can shower over or inject into your doughnut.
The hot dogs might be even bolder. The Elote Loco ($7.75) slathers a spicy chorizo sausage in corn, cheese, chipotle powder and lime. The Flying Hawaiian ($7.25) showcases grilled pineapple and bacon.
The beverages are also fun. You can enjoy nitro cold brew on tap and espresso made with “the ferrari of espresso machines.” There are four Belching Beaver brews on tap, and champagne flights are available.
The Primaveras worked hard to prefect the details, from constructing the sculptures of hands that hold the lights to commissioning local artists in the Sector Seventeen collective to paint striking graffiti murals.
Customers also can look longingly into the “Dough Vault” — the windowed room where the doughnuts are made. “We wanted this to be as much full disclosure as possible,” says Will.
The Primaveras moved to the Treasure Valley alongside their restaurant, and they’re eager to embed themselves in the community, even though they expect to open a third location in downtown Nashville next year. The Primaveras also have other restaurant concepts, but for now it’s all about doughnuts and hot dogs.
“We’re trying to create food that is Americana but also spans boundaries,” says Will, “and have a hell of a lot of fun with it.”
The Donut + Dog
Address: 3525 E Longwing Lane, Village at Meridian
Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday (hot dogs start at 11 a.m.)
Menu prices: Donuts $2.75 - $5; Hot Dogs $7-$7.75; beer $5-6; coffee, etc. $5-8