LAST BITE: HAND-CRAFTED DOUGHNUTS, SOMETIMES THOUSANDS A DAY
Brown’s, a beloved Jersey Shore ritual
Schoolteachers Marjorie and Harmen Brown wanted a little business to run during the summer, and decided to open a doughnut shop in their favorite New Jersey shore town, Ocean City.
Today, 41 years later, Brown’s is in its second generation. Now run by the owners’ son Jim and his wife, Melissa, Brown’s has become a destination for seemingly every visitor to Ocean City. “We make the doughnuts from 7am to 11:30 or 12, depending on when the line stops. If someone’s in line, we’ll never turn them away,” says owner Melissa Brown. “On our busiest days, we’ll make a few thousand.”
When the doughnut spot first opened, Jim Brown and his four siblings worked there; years later, Jim and Melissa’s four kids work there, plus nieces and nephews. “My kids grew up in car seats in the back,” Brown jokes. “A few of the kids’ friends work here, too. If you’re family or a friend and we need some help, you’re fair game.”
Simplicity is key. For years, the doughnuts have come in only six flavors: powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, vanilla, plain and honey. This year brings a new flavor, a combination of vanilla topped with cinnamon sugar. “It’s not on the menu, but word has spread about it,” Brown says. “Personally, my favorite is the honey doughnut, but the cinnamon sugar is our best-seller.”
On summer mornings, two lines stretch outside of Brown’s—one for the restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch plus doughnuts, and one for doughnuts only. Located on the Ocean City boardwalk, the restaurant is filled with the breeze of the ocean and the scent of freshly baked doughnuts. “People don’t mind waiting in line,” Brown says. “They talk, they watch the surfers, they look at the ocean; it doesn’t get boring.”
Those at the front of the line are close enough to watch the doughnuts being made. Brown’s doughnuts have a crunch on the outside that gives way to a soft core; each is topped with a flavored glaze, powdered or cinnamon sugar, and then handed, still warm, to the customers.
Brown’s is open from 7am to 4pm for breakfast and lunch on weekends from Easter to Memorial Day, then daily Memorial Day through September. Through October, it’s back to just breakfast on weekends. Brown’s is closed for the colder months.
St. Charles Place and the Boardwalk, Ocean City