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BUSINESS JOURNAL: Sarnia’s lining up for unlikely menu of doughnuts, ramen and pizza

Two chefs who met at Lambton College’s culinary school have pooled their talents and their resources to open Sarnia’s most eclectic new takeout.

Two chefs who met at Lambton College’s culinary school have pooled their talents and their resources to open Sarnia’s most eclectic new takeout.

Honestly Dough is the brainchild of Tyler Archer and Ben Stewart, two 30-somethings who decided they didn’t want to work for other people anymore.

They graduated from college about 10 years ago and followed somewhat similar professional paths, working for numerous restaurants both in and out of town.

In 2023, they collaborated on some pop-up brunches at Maud’s Variety in Mitton Village.

“People started asking if we had a bricks and mortar location,” Stewart said. “We thought about it but we knew the restaurant business is chaotic.”

They’d both seen too many dine-in restaurants struggle with the high cost of labour and neither wanted to take that financial risk.

So they found a solution they say is working even better than anticipated.

Honestly Dough opened in early January with a limited menu featuring doughnuts, ramen and pizza for takeout only. Dessert treats, noodle bowls and pizza may seem like an odd combination but they all involve dough and they are all popular items that can be switched up with new flavours and toppings.

As soon as their doors opened at 138 Cromwell, Archer and Stewart were surprised with the popularity of their yeast-risen doughnuts.  It’s not unusual to see lineups out the door in the morning, especially on Saturdays. But Stewart said customers are getting wiser about finding a coffee first – often right across the street at The Cromwell Grill – then heading to Honestly Dough to minimalize any wait for their doughnuts. 

They offer only three varieties of doughnuts including cinnamon sugar, vanilla glazed, and a doughnut-of-the-month that’s a pairing with a different local business each time. The March feature doughnut is a mocha dip made with espresso from Blackwater Coffee Company on Christina Street. 

The guys start their day in the kitchen by 6 a.m., preparing everything they sell from scratch. Archer said they are still determining that sweet spot where supply meets demand. Two-and-a-half months in, they are selling 400 – 500 donuts a day.

It’s a work in progress, said Archer who is also an instructor for the same culinary program he graduated from at Lambton. “We sell out all the time. We didn’t expect that doughnuts would be our #1 best sellers but everyone is loving them.”

Doughnuts, which are available until 10:30 a.m., cost $2.50 for one, $9 for four, or $24 per dozen.

They chose to put ramen on the menu because it’s not easy to find elsewhere in Sarnia, said Stewart. 

“And I wanted it on there because I love it,” he said.

Honestly Dough’s ramen is “dressed up” with what Stewart described as “extra-fancy” noodles made in-house with tender pork belly and various toppings that can either by vegan or chicken broth based. Nearly 1,000 bowls priced at $19 each have gone out the door in the first weeks of operation.

Archer is capitalizing on his previous experience at the Dante Club making focaccia bread by using it as the base for $5 single slices of Honestly Dough pizza. Twelve-inch pizzas made with sourdough feature five gourmet varieties that reflect the duo’s fine-dining background and sell for $20 each. 

Archer and Stewart say they chose their location because it’s near the waterfront and on a block with heavy foot traffic. That’s got them thinking about expanding the menu. They’ve already began offering sandwiches and more desserts on Saturdays like danishes, brownies and cinnamon buns.

So far, orders are only taken in-person. But telephone and online orders will be possible later this month, said Stewart. A grand opening celebration is also planned once Honestly Dough finishes hiring and gets the whole operation running smoothly, he added.

Honestly Dough at 138 Cromwell Street is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

The Business Journal is a regular feature about new business in Sarnia-Lambton. If you’ve got an idea, send it to [email protected]


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