HERO Doughnuts’ first store opened in 2017 in Homewood, Alabama, at the corner of Central Avenue and Oxmoor Road. Founder Wil Drake had been creating delicious, brioche doughnuts with inventive toppings and fillings and selling them at “pop-ups” around town. Wil and Pihakis Restaurant Group founder Nick Pihakis started scheming what a full service “HERO” location could look like, and since then, the brand has grown from that original, tiny shop to nine locations in four states. Here, Anige Mosier, Creative Director for Pihakis Restaurant Group, details the HERO recipe for success.

HERO Doughnuts has become a staple in the Homewood community. What specific menu items best represent the “HERO” brand?

The OG Glazed Doughnut is a light, handmade brioche dough that is mixed, proofed, punched and proofed again in a two-day process before being fried and glazed with housemade vanilla glaze. It’s the classic that started it all. The HERO Burger, which is a griddled patty sprinkled with salt, is another staple. It has a delicious, thin crust on the beef, paired with griddled onions, cheese and Wil’s special, “cracked sauce” (a savory black pepper sauce), and it is a top-seller.

From HERO’s first brick and mortar to its most recent opening, what has remained consistent across the board as far as branding, menu items and team camaraderie is concerned?

When we first opened, we were just “Hero Doughnuts,” but that limited us because folks don’t realize that we have full breakfast plates, specialty coffee drinks, burgers, chicken–both grilled and fried, incredible salads and of course, doughnuts. We recently shifted the name to be simply, “HERO,” because we are an all day, every day modern stop for breakfast, lunch, coffee and brunch.

With so many similar businesses in the area, what about HERO makes this business stand out?

We create food that evokes a sense of nostalgia, while giving a fresh approach to a breakfast counter or diner. We create happy environments that welcome all ages and hope to help friends and families establish fun patterns of gathering around a table without the pressure of formality. We have always wanted to be the place where the future adults say, “Remember when we went to HERO every Saturday?”

What is HERO’s recipe for success?

We have adopted a phrase within Pihakis Restaurant Group that is “Pihakis–Food With People” because everything we do has to do with people. Keeping that in mind is the definition of success to us.

What is your favorite menu item and why?

According to Wil, his go-to meal at HERO would be the SuperCrunch. It was one of the first sandwiches he worked on for HERO, so he’s got a special place in his heart for it. From that crust, the savory cracked sauce matched with the sweet and spicy pepper jam, homemade pickles and the soft brioche bun, it is a match made in Heaven.

HERO Doughnuts and Buns is located at 3027 Central Avenue, and it is open every day from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Follow the business on Instagram @herodoughnuts to stay up to date on the newest menu items and locations.