It’s been 40 years since J.R. Parsons got into the bakery business, and the family-owned eatery offering 34 kinds of doughnuts is still thriving.
The Parkersburg staple has long since expanded and the menu now includes cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, brownies and a dozen different kinds of muffins.
And now JR’s Donut Castle has won a national contest to find the state’s best pepperoni roll.
Aaron Parsons is thrilled to have bested other well-known state bakeries named as top 10 finalists in the 10Best and Sandwich America contest. Online voters decided his shop has the Best Pepperoni Roll in West Virginia.
The contest began in February when 10Best editors joined forces with an unnamed West Virginia food writer and The Food Channel to nominate 20 worthy contenders.
Results were announced Friday and a fan texted Parsons the good news.
He credited his late father, who died last November, as a pepperoni roll connoisseur who paid special attention to his dough recipe as well as stuffing the buns with plenty of meat.
Local folks love them, but the rolls are also shipped nationally including three boxes that went to North Carolina Friday.
“A lot of people have moved away from West Virginia but they still want their pepperoni rolls.”
Plain rolls are a staple, but American and pepper jack cheese can also be added to them. Homemade hot dog sauce is also available.
Troops stationed abroad have received pepperoni roll shipments and there was even a shipment to Istanbul, Turkey.
“That had to be our most unusual destination.”
Winning is nice, but it’s important to give credit to the other contenders because “these early pepperoni roll bakers are the ones who actually opened the road for us to follow.”
He’s not yet tried many of them and hopes to sample some more in the future.
Victory is a little bittersweet since it comes only a few months too late for his father to see.
“But I’m sure he is right here with us now, and is very proud too. Getting this kind of love and support is just amazing,” Parson said.
Buckhannon’s The Donut Shop came in second, followed by third-place Dragon Mart in Cameron, fourth-place Boggs Pizza and Grill in Middlebourne and New Martinsville’s Pasco’s Pizza rounded out the top five winners.
Some people may be surprised by the results.
That’s because well-known bakers in Marion and Harrison counties were on the list but ranked in the bottom half.
Fairmont’s Country Club bakery is credited with baking the first pepperoni rolls that were popular with coal miners who ate them underground. They came in eighth.
Another Fairmont favorite, Colasessano’s Pizza, took seventh place.
Clarksburg winners included sixth-place Tomaro’s Bakery, ninth-place D’annunzio’s and Home Industry Bakery which rounded out the top 10.