Tom Quill has never tried one of his own jelly donuts.
“I joke that I own the place and I still can’t get a donut, because they sell out so fast,” says Quill of the fried treats at the ANGRY Donut, the Newburyport shop he opened in February with business partner Jill Passen. “I’d rather sell them than eat them.”
Although the title on Quill’s business card reads “Optimist,” the shop’s success has taken even him by surprise. Quill, with absolutely no food service background or formal training in the culinary arts, launched the ANGRY Donut as a pop-up in 2016 at the Essex Farmers’ Market, after realizing that his grown children were doing well in careers that they love while he plugged away in sales. “I always told my kids to do what makes you happy, but I realized I wasn’t doing it myself,” Quill says.
Owners Tom Quill and Jill Passen
One of his earliest supporters was Passen. In fact, the name ANGRY Donut was inspired by Jill’s nickname, “the Angry Baker,” which she acquired before joining the business because of her habit of baking to cheer herself up when in a bad mood. “I think that’s inspirational,” Quill says—in addition to being distinctive.
What Quill lacks in experience, Passen has in spades, as he is the first to admit. She spent a lot of her career working in Port City restaurants—owning Taffy’s Diner for a time, managing Lexie’s on State, as well as helping to open Metzy’s Taqueria. Oh, and she even worked in the very space that houses the ANGRY Donut, a decade ago when it was Buttercream Bakery. Her baked goods are legendary around town—and many have turned up alongside the donuts. Fans of Passen’s macaroons have made urgent requests to have them shipped, and her krak brownies and molasses ginger cookies are welcome additions to the Newburyport bakery circuit.
“I’m not really meant to work for someone else,” Passen says, noting that the partnership with Quill works well, blending his creativity and her serious restaurant chops. Sometimes his inspirations are a hit—Passen was admittedly skeptical of the Fruity Pebbles–topped donut that has become a regular fixture in the shop. And sometimes they are a disaster, like the one topped with vanilla glaze and Flaming Cheetos.
Popping up in area breweries did give Quill the chance to experiment with some oddities that have joined the regular rotation, like a savory pizza donut. Because the shop exclusively uses a rich brioche dough—laden with butter and eggs, but without any sugar—it lends itself to a surprising number of toppings.
The dough needs to rise for a full 24 hours before it is cut, and then proof for another 24 hours before hitting the fryer. That means they can’t just whip up a few more donuts if they sell out, which they always do—about 450 to 500 donuts on a given weekend. And Quill has learned to be okay with that. “I was killing myself, but then I realized it’s okay to [just] make as many donuts as I can, and make them as good as I can. Once that hit home, I was fine.”
So arrive early—the ANGRY Donut closes shop once the goodies are gone.
38 Washington St. (Winter St. storefront entrance), Newburyport, 978-358-8776, theangrydonut.com