If you're hungry, donut worry!
Set directly across the street from Blitman Commons, 518 Donuts offers a welcoming space for food and fun. The shop sells a selection of fried chicken, beverages, and many other foods, in addition to their various donut options. Rensselaer alumni Sam Clifford ’04 and Joseph Carl ’94 designed their restaurant specifically for RPI students, stating “we chose this place for them. We built this place for them.”
Though 518 Donuts’ location at Clifton Park opened eight months before the one in Troy, the owners always intended to bring the project to RPI students. In fact, the owners briefly opened a location in Troy before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, two years later, 518 Donuts opened anew last August, ready to serve the RPI community. The owners are always trying to be as involved with campus as possible, providing food for the walk down to the Hudson River during Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond, the inauguration for President Martin Schmidt ’81, and Alumni weekend. They even give students a 10 percent discount and leave their store sign lit up 24/7, clearly visible walking down the hill into Downtown Troy. Clifford and Carl said the ultimate goal would be to work with the Institute so students could use their Flex Dollars and RAD, which would make their products even more accessible. The shop currently closes at 3 pm, but the owners are trying to staff for later hours to cater to the college crowd. They were eager to hear what hours we thought would be best for college students, though they are currently aiming to stay open until 9 or 10 pm so students can come down for dinner. Even if there is no time to come all the way down the Approach, 518 Donuts is connected to Mealeo Food Delivery, creating flexibility for students to order ahead or deliver to campus.
From the moment I walked in, the blend of delicious aromas wafted towards me. The soft lighting and peaceful atmosphere struck me as somewhere I would love to spend my free time. Besides the amazing food, the wide range of seating and electrical outlets and ample daylight provided by the floor-to-ceiling windows created a space which would be perfect for studying or working on group projects. Their wide selection of breakfast sandwiches and coffees make it an essential morning stop. Additionally, they also serve sandwich meal boxes, chicken nuggets, fries, sides, milkshakes, and homemade sauces, which the owners asserted were specifically tailored to college students’ preferences. They made sure to include many comfort foods and unique options when designing their menu as well. They even have gluten-free options, making their food more accessible.
Unfortunately, lunch foods are not served until 11 am, so we were unable to try their award winning gourmet fried chicken—labeled best in the Capital Region—but the donuts were divine. They’re made on-site on a daily basis which is evident from the first bite. When we tried the cereal donut, it was like a real bowl of cereal manifested in a donut. Even my simple chocolate donut order had a rich chocolate glaze set on top of the cakey chocolate donut, putting a twist on the traditional. Their drinks were equally as delicious, complementing the donuts in an amazing breakfast that I would highly recommend.
518 Donuts’ exemplary food was an astounding experience, easily worth the walk down the hill from campus. I hope that the owners will expand their project beyond the Capital Region, spreading their outstanding menu to other cities in the future.