For many people, locals and tourists alike, it’s hard to think about Destin and not think about the Donut Hole.
That’s because the restaurant has been a staple in Destin since 1978, long before the world’s luckiest fishing village became the one of the world’s busiest fishing villages.
Jane and Reg Moore, of Destin, first opened the restaurant 38 years ago. They sold the store to Bill and Marilyn Chandler in 1985. The Chandlers' son, Brent and his wife Dana took over the restaurant about 20 years ago. The restaurant has been family owned and operated for the entirety of its existence.
“It started out as a small restaurant with a little bakery that didn’t serve much,” said Dana Chandler.
But the few things it did serve, such as donuts, pastries and bread, made it so popular among locals that the restaurant eventually expanded to serve a full menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have since added two more locations as well, one in Santa Rosa Beach that opened in 1989 and one in Inlet Beach that opened in 2014.
But its decadent baked goods have remained the same throughout the years. Guests today can enjoy donuts in a variety of flavors including Dutch crumb, red velvet and chocolate peanut butter, as well as homemade cakes and breads.
Dana said people are sometimes so distracted by the baked goods, they forget that there are other menus as well.
“People are surprised to find out we have dinner,” she said with a laugh. “Our hamburgers are so good. We make our own buns, and the Mexican specials are just awesome.”
Aside from the food, many people enjoy the Donut Hole because it has changed so little in 38 years. Other than a remodeling project after Hurri-cane Ivan damaged the building in 2004, Dana said the restaurant has remained almost entirely the same over the past four decades, and that’s part of its charm.
“There are people who have memories of coming here when they were little, and we want it to feel like home to them,” she said.
Having been a part of the community for so long, the Donut Hole takes giving back to a new level. The restaurant actively works with and supports local schools and churches, as well as the charities Children in Crisis and Charity Water.
“We wouldn’t have such a wonderful restaurant if it wasn’t for (the community),” Chandler said. “We want to make our community good for our children and for everyone else’s children.”
Ruben Alvarz has been a server at the restaurant for 26 years. He said it’s the customers that come in year after year that make the Donut Hole a special place.
“It’s the customers, the community, the locals, the tourists that come here for 10 years and they stop in and have to eat at the Donut Hole,” Alvarz said. “We have good food, good staff and we keep it nice and clean. And good donuts, of course.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Bill and Marilyn Chandler were the original owners of the Donut Hole. Jane and Reg Moore were the original owners of the Donut Hole. We regret the error. A story about the Donut Hole before the Chandlers took it over can be found here.