San Diego's Gourmet Donuts Move to a Delicious New Location

San Diego's Gourmet Donuts Move to a Delicious New Location

Since making its debut in North Park in 2014, Nomad Donuts has grown to become one of San Diego’s most innovative eateries, conspired of unique donut flavors that have captured the attention of locals.

While the established shop cultivated success, the buzzed about eatery outgrew its prior location, resulting in a second and substantially larger Nomad Donuts Bakery Café opening on the corner of Illinois and University Avenue. The revamped location includes an espresso bar, a chef’s counter and ample seating space for customers. While new, the location feels like home to Nomad Donuts co-founder Brad Keiller.

“North Park is my home, I live two blocks from the shop,” says Keiller. “In fact a lot of our staff lives here or in the surrounding neighborhoods.  We live, eat, play and work here.  It’s also our demographic.”

Despite donut shops existing throughout the county, Nomad Donuts has created a name for itself by offering a different approach to the renowned sweet treat.  A principle the shop stands by is straying from the norm, for being different has set this bakery café apart from the rest.

With a glance of the menu, it is conspicuous that traditional donut flavors were just a blueprint to what would become a Nomad specialty. Kristianna Zabala, Nomad’s resident pastry chef and co-owner, embraces creativity to devise a gourmet take on donuts, something that can appeal to the likes of Gordon Ramsey or Anthony Bourdain.

“The theme of Nomad is to bring flavors from our travels and experience with other cultures and introduce them to the humble donut,” says Keiller. “Kristianna embraced it and took it to the next level.  She’s now doing it with our bagel sandwiches and pastries.”

At first glance, Zabala’s flavor combos can seem unusual. Unique flavors range from the Chorizo Scotch Egg (a soft to medium boiled egg wrapped in chorizo, layered in a corn cheddar jalapeño cake and coated with a cilantro glaze) to a Honey Sesame Ginger Kimchi Candied Bacon donut that embraces Korean barbecue flavors. While not traditional donuts like glaze or chocolate, the unique flavors have customers wanting more.

“We wanted to offer something different, donuts we wanted to eat,” explains Zabala of her specialty donuts. Keiller adds, “There are plenty of regular donut shops out there and I wanted to differentiate.”

Whether dining with friends, listening to customer requests or noticing trending foods, inspiration exists everywhere for Zabala, who creates a menu that changes daily. Although she has created a variety of donuts, Zabala pinpoints the Ube Taro Coconut, Mexican Hot Chocolate, S’more, PB&J, the Churro Con Chocolate and the Haupia Coconut Coffee donuts as customer favorites.

“Sometimes it’s transforming flavor combinations from savory dishes into a donut, other times it’s complementing flavors such as sweet, tart, spicy, bitter, etc., to create a harmonious donut,” Zabala says of the creative process behind her unique flavors.

The bakery café also offers breakfast sandwiches, Montreal-style bagels and a surplus of vegan friendly donuts. Each menu item is created with ingredients from local farmers and community retailers.

“We started out making our donuts from scratch, without preservatives and using real fruits and vegetables for quality and flavor reasons.  It’s just what we thought would taste best,” says Keiller. She adds, “Our vegan donuts are a response to what customers were asking for and it was something that we could do without sacrificing quality, flavor and texture.”

Zabala explains that apart from supporting locals, they strive to deliver donuts created from the freshest ingredients, “We want to support local farms and businesses, but it’s also about quality and freshness.

Further supporting their city, Keiller and Zabala collaborate with over 50 breweries and local restaurants that include: Carnitas Snack Shack, Grand Ole BBQ Asado, Mastiff, Tiger Tiger, Uptown Tavern, Cueva Bar and Alice Birney Elementary School.

Exclusive Nomad flavors can be found at select breweries and have even inspired limited edition craft beers.   

“We collaborate with other small businesses that are doing things we like and who want to have fun with it,” says Keiller. “We’re pretty lucky in that if we would like to collaborate with anyone they usually say yes.”

Humbled by the positive response from local communities, Keiller finds joy in seeing customer satisfaction and hopes their shop can keep customers wanting more.

“I hope they have a flavor experience they’ve never had before. A lot of thought and consideration goes into the flavor combinations and it’s really cool to watch someone experience it for the first time. Very gratifying.”

With a larger location and a former one under renovations, Keiller would love to extend the Nomad branch to other locations, but not quite yet. They may have gained quality success, but to Keiller their drive is what keeps them going,  “I really think we are just getting started in many ways.”