First Look: District Donuts now open in Baton Rouge

Today is Aaron Vogel’s 35th birthday. But May 19 marks another milestone: the opening of his fifth District Donuts location.

About 40 customers were waiting in line outside this morning for the new Baton Rouge restaurant to open its doors. The Towne Center location marks the first non-New Orleans-area restaurant for District co-owner Vogel. And by 4 p.m. today, it had already seen 2,000 people file through its doors.

The restaurant offers outdoor patio seating.

So, what’s all the hype about? District’s small-batch specialty doughnuts and sliders. Which, in case you haven’t heard, are the bomb.com. Every element of the doughnuts is made from scratch, including the pastry creams, fillings and doughnut toppings such as peanut butter cups, Oreos and sprinkles.

The restaurant serves 10 doughnut varieties each day, rotating through more than 120 varieties. The team tracks and plans its daily doughnut slate using an algorithm and spreadsheets, with some flavors repeating weekly, biweekly or monthly. Seasonal doughnuts center around holidays such as Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Each morning, when the restaurant posts on Instagram its doughnut lineup—which is identical at each of its locations—the images routinely break 1,000 likes.

District’s Lemon Ginger and Elvis donuts

But it’s not just doughnuts the customers are crazy for: District also serves a rotating menu of sliders, brew by Stumptown Coffee Roasters and craft beer from Southern Prohibition Brewing and Wayward Owl Brewing.

“The alliteration of ‘District Donuts’ just seems to work, but we really love when people experience our food and find out, oh, wait—they’re a full restaurant,” Vogel says. “We had one guy come in today who said, ‘I hadn’t planned to order a slider, but that just stole the show for me.’”

District serves sliders daily, starting at 11 a.m.
The restaurant sources its coffee from Portland, Oregon.

The Baton Rouge location is a modern take, Vogel says, on District’s first Magazine Street location, which opened late 2013.

The open kitchen is lined with white subway tile and wood shelves. Whisks and spatulas of all sizes hang from a red pegboard, and the walls are stocked with bags of flour and sugar, along with bottles of spirits the restaurant infuses into some of its doughnuts. Today, District’s kitchen team is working furiously behind the counter, rolling dough and making pastry creams to keep up with the crowd.

“We have no walls in our buildings. That’s a big deal for us,” Vogel says. “We want people to interact with the food. People love watching people cook.”


The centerpiece of the restaurant is a 22-foot-long, nearly 100-year-old pine table, with wood sourced from an old French Quarter building—an ode to District’s New Orleans roots. Everything is handmade in Louisiana, right down to the funky metal barstools made by Vogel’s friend. “We’re not buying anything on the internet,” he says.

Owners chose Baton Rouge as the first non-New Orleans-area outpost because of its large population of families and college students. “We’re multigenerational—the food appeals to adults, college students and children. It’s food you eat with your hands, but it is still culinary forward,” he says.

Vogel, center in blue, chats with one of the morning’s customers.

The team behind that food has been hand-picked by Vogel and his leadership team. District’s new location created 30 new jobs in Baton Rouge, and five of the restaurant’s employees moved their families here from New Orleans, so they could live and work in the city.  

Company culture is important to the District team—employees are promoted from within, aren’t required to wear uniforms and are given time off for holidays such as the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras. “We have a culture of celebration,” Vogel says.

As their first day open in Baton Rouge winds down, Vogel says the company plans to take the next 12-18 months slowly, focusing on its company culture and investing in the growth of its team.

“We don’t want to franchise. We are not trying to grow fast,” he says. “But we are growing—we are thinking maybe one new location per year.”

And with that, the restaurant’s front doors open again. But this time it’s not customers walking through them—it’s Vogel’s wife and four kids.

They’ve driven up from New Orleans, and they are holding two giant gold balloons in the shape of a “3” and a “5,” a green gift bag and a chocolate chip cookie cake from District’s Elmwood location. Vogel’s young daughter races up to hug her dad.

The restaurant closes early at 6 p.m. tonight, and for Vogel and his team, there will be much to celebrate.

District Donuts is located inside the Towne Center at Cedar Lodge shopping center at 7415 Corporate Blvd., Suite 900. It is open Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. For more info, visit districtdonuts.com.