Spurginė – Doughnuts of History
Fast food places, and in fact all kinds of restaurants, come and go, that is just the nature of things. Occasionally though there are exceptions, sometimes places come but they don’t go.
And so it is with Spurginė, a doughnut place that has been in Kaunas for… umm, since… actually there must be a historical record somewhere, but nobody seems to know exactly how long it has been there, since at least sometime in the 1960’s seems to be the best answer I can come up with.
There are ‘American style’ doughnut places all over Kaunas, they seem to be a popular thing and maybe they are not bad, I didn’t try any of them, but they are also just so formulaic, generic and soulless.
Spurginė is anything but soulless, it’s like stepping into a time machine that flings you back half a century into the Soviet Union, without the need for a flux capacitor or Michael J. Fox. Apparently the interior was “redesigned” in the 1980’s but it looks older than that and the people I have spoken to say that they don’t remember it ever looking any different. Whatever the redesign entailed it seems to have been very subtle and it hasn’t really changed since some time in the 70’s.
It’s not just the interior, the staff have not changed for decades and thankfully neither have the recipes, step through the doors today and you are getting almost exactly the same experience as if you stepped through them 30 years ago, maybe the prices have increased slightly, but not by much.
The two most important things to know are that the donuts at Spurginė are very cheap and that they are very very tasty.
There are doughnuts filled with jam, with meat, with curd, and then there are doughnuts that are not filled with anything but are just crispy fluffy fried pillows of goodness adorned only with some icing sugar.
All of these wonderful things, or at least the ones we tried, are still warm when they reach your mouth. While we were sitting there I watched fresh trays piled with hot doughnuts coming out of the kitchen, which through the briefly opened door also looked like it had not changed for many decades, and these new delights were almost enough to tempt me into trying more but a stomach can only contain so much.
There are no advertising or social media campaigns, there is no need for them, seemingly everyone in or around Kaunas knows about Spurginė, along with the best informed visitors. Even though we were there at a strange hour on a Thursday afternoon but it was busy, we took the last empty seats around the large bar. Apparently you often have to queue outside before you can get to sample the fried delights waiting within, but really that is ok and of course the best thing about a place being super busy is that the tasty treats on offer are all super fresh.
If you need something that isn’t doughy and fried then there are also coffee, simple filter coffee – no foamed milk here, assorted teas and cold drinks available. There is also hot chocolate which I read somewhere is delicious but can’t say how true that is.
This is a no frills establishment and there is no pretty menu, they have no website, but there is a toilet so your basic needs are all covered! Oh, it’s worth remembering that you can also pay by cash only, I guess when it is this cheap they wouldn’t even cover the card transaction fee for most sales.
I don’t know if the staff speak English, maybe they do but then why should they. There are doughnuts, they are on trays, you can just point and hope, unless you are a vegetarian not so much can go wrong, or maybe find someone around who will be able to help you.
On a slightly random side note, Google Translate will tell you that ‘Spurginė’ means spinach and Bing won’t translate it at all. They don’t sell anything with spinach in it here though, not even a spinach filled doughnut.
Rima’s comment to me as we bounced away happily down the street after eating far too much sugar was that I was actually smiling. I think this needs to be put into some context, it is not that I am a completely miserable bugger and never smile, but it had been a long day, and out of necessity (naked travel would be a whole different kind of website) some of it had been spent buying clothes in the kind of affordable shops which are as generic and soulless as the American doughnut shops I mentioned earlier. This timewarp doughnut place serving delicious goodies is a far better experience than any shopping centre in the world, I don’t see how it could fail to make anyone smile because this is somehow special!
To conclude then, this is my very simple eleven word review: Spurginė is a place that can’t help but make you smile!
Finally, if you don’t want to take my word for it then you can also check out the most enthusiastic tripadvisor review that I have seen of anything anywhere ever, from a guy called William who seems to get truly excited about doughnuts, perhaps a little bit too much: “And God said, Let there be SPURGINE”