When George Carlton, owner of Daddy's Donuts (2051 Caton St., 504-283-3388) inquired about my favorite donut flavor, I was a little embarrassed to answer.
The shop sells some of the most creative and offbeat donuts in the city — including one filled with hot sausage and Swiss cheese — and my answer was sure to seem dull.
"I'd have to go with a basic rainbow sprinkle," I said sheepishly. "I guess I'm kind of a kid at heart about my donuts."
Carlton's eyes lit up. "That's great! I actually wanted to call the donut shop 'Sprinkle Donuts' because that's my favorite, too," Carlton said. "When we would come to the shop while it was being built out, though, my son would just always call it 'Daddy's Donuts' and the name stuck. People think it's about being a 'sugar daddy' or a 'big daddy,' but really it just came from my son."
Located in Gentilly underneath a peach and robin's egg blue sign painted with a sprinkle donut, Carlton opened Daddy's Donuts four years ago after being diagnosed with ALS, the progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord — the same disease former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason is fighting.
The recent ALS ice bucket challenge campaign, in which people pour ice cold water on their heads and/or donate to ALS research, is heartening for Carlton.
"Here in New Orleans, Steve Gleason has already raised awareness a good deal, but this has just really brought public awareness to a whole new level. It's amazing. I'm so happy about it."
Before his diagnosis, Carlton worked in construction, but was looking for something more fun to do. "Working in construction, especially here in New Orleans after [Hurricane] Katrina, was really bad. Everyone was always really mad at everyone else. My dad was into donuts, and I used to help him deliver them, so I wanted to give that a shot. With donuts, there's never a bad day. People come in and are always excited to talk and get their donuts."
Customers filed in and out, grabbed sweet treats and chatted with Carlton like old friends. Carlton talked about ideas for upcoming exotic donuts — cheesecake flavored, ice cream flavored — and ribbed a few people for just buying cold drinks.
"Making donuts from scratch everyday means getting up in the middle of the night all the time, but Mardi Gras is when things get really crazy," Carlton said. "Zulu lines up at four in the morning, and they love glazed donuts. The tables are stacked halfway to the ceiling with boxes on boxes of glazed donuts for them."
Daddy's Donuts is open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.