a "donut highway" just outside pittsburgh

Originally published December 21st, 2017.

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Do you know where Route 8 is?

I know where Route 8 is because I grew up five minutes from it, but that obviously isn't the case for everyone.

Basically, Route 8 is a highway-ish road that runs directly north from Pittsburgh, starting in Etna. (Well, technically it starts in Wilkinsburg... but we don't need to get into that). As it weaves its way north of Pittsburgh, it's home to dozens of strip malls, superstores, fast food restaurants, ect....

... but also a ton of donut shops?

There multiple Dunkin Donuts... but there are also quite a few Ma and Pa, crafted-with-love-from-our-family-recipe, types of places. And what is even more bizarre is that they're all super busy. 

Don't get me wrong. I love a good donut as much as the next guy. I probably love a good donut more than the next guy. But I never thought enough people shared this opinion to support multiple donut shops in the middle of nowhere.

Yesterday, I stopped into two of these shops, just five miles from each other. There was a revolving door of people coming in after me. Before I get too philosophical about the enduring nature of the donut business model, I am going to describe this "donut highway" adventure. Other people need to mimic it. It's only 30 minutes north of the city... plus it's a very easy way to get out of town for a sweet treat. 

Your mission: Back to back donuts on Route 8

Donut Adventure Up Route 8

Directions: If you're coming from the city, go over the 62nd Street Bridge and continue onto Route 8 (north).

Drive for 30 minutes. Listen to a podcast. Chat with a friend. Play "Go Legend" by Big Sean on repeat (me). 

First stop:

Valencia Donut Co.


177 Pittsburgh Rd, Valencia, PA

Valencia Donut Co. has a retro sign that you'll immediately notice from the highway. Before you walk in, understand that there is a donut sudoku puzzle waiting for you inside.

Valencia custom makes all of their donuts, aka you make all the choices. Get ready to pick the type of donut (vanilla, chocolate, blueberry), filling (three options), icing (six options), and toppings (eight options).

If there is a long line behind you, it can be very intimidating to try to figure out what topping works best with maple icing. The staff is willing to coach you through it if need be.

This would be a fun place to go with kids, as they can pick the colors and see the donuts get made. 

Second stop:

Freedom Farms Donut Shop


663 Pittsburgh Rd, Butler, PA

Five miles up the road is Freedom Farms Donut Shop. Yes, this is part of the same Freedom Farms empire that has a reality TV show, sandwich shop, and is at every Pittsburgh Farmers Market.  

Turns out they also make delicious donuts.

The experience can be similarly overwhelming as Freedom Farms has so many options. They are all good, but my pick is the peanut butter cream. It will rock your world. 

Le fin.

Head home, compare donuts, pick favorites..... and appreciate how quickly Pittsburgh turns into Southwestern PA when you drive out of the city. 

And for the record, you will pass every type of superstore (Target, Walmart, Lowes, ect) on your way home. If you need to run errands.... do it when you have the sweet taste of fresh donuts cheering you up. 

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