Doughnut cheeseburgers have arrived in Cambridge’s Central Square. Donut Villa Diner — a decades-old diner in Malden — has expanded to 20 Prospect St., Cambridge, the former home of the Field, an Irish pub that closed in summer 2020. While the neon-bedecked new location has been quietly operating for a few weeks now, it’s celebrating its grand opening this Friday, June 11, and the first 100 diners will each get a free doughnut.
Those familiar with the Malden location will find that much is the same at the Cambridge location. There are doughnuts, of course, that are hand-cut daily and served on their own or as part of over-the-top dishes like a doughnut cheeseburger, doughnut French toast, and doughnut Benedict. There’s also plenty of other breakfast and lunch food, not to mention a full vegan menu that Donut Villa Diner introduced in recent months. (There are vegan doughnuts available, too.) But the Cambridge location has a couple things the Malden one doesn’t: dinner and booze.
“What goes better with brunch than a mimosa or bloody mary?” says owner Erin Bashllari. As for dinner, he says it’ll include easy-to-share items like quesadillas, nachos, and tacos, as well as typical American diner food, like turkey dinners and pasta. Breakfast will be available all day, too, in true diner fashion.
Bashllari and his parents took over the original Malden location of Donut Villa Diner in 2017, breathing new life into the 40-plus-year-old breakfast and lunch spot. Bashllari, a nurse, had always worked in the restaurant industry on the side, and he and his father had always wanted to open a place.
“About three years ago, we said it’s now or never,” Bashllari tells Eater, and they bought Donut Villa Diner. “After a few months, we realized that we had something. We have the doughnuts; we have the diner. People love both of those, so why not see where it goes?”
Although 2020 was a difficult time to keep a restaurant running, let alone consider expanding, Bashllari and his wife Khadija decided to look for a second location, eventually finding the Prospect Street space in Central Square, which happened to be where they met and where they lived for the last seven years. Aside from the sentimental reasons, the space boasted a patio, an understandable plus when shopping for a restaurant space in the middle of a pandemic.
Khadija, who loves interior design, took the lead on finding all the vintage signage that decorates the walls at Donut Villa Diner, collecting pieces online, at flea markets, and in vintage shops. The neon signs were custom-made by Neon Williams, a Somerville-based neon shop that has been around for the better part of a century. It’s one of the only local places to get custom neon, but it was also a perfect fit for Donut Villa Diner.
“Fun fact: They have a diner inside of their house,” says Bashllari. “An old-school diner. They love diners, they love doughnuts, and they love neon.”
Donut Villa Diner’s new location is currently open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends; stay tuned for extended hours — including the aforementioned dinner service — soon. Takeout, with online ordering, is available.
Be sure to try the classic honey dip doughnut; it’s the bestseller “without a question,” says Bashllari. But he’s also partial to the Nutella hazelnut, stuffed with Bavarian cream and topped with hazelnuts, and the Samoa, like the Girl Scout cookie. And there are over a dozen other varieties to try, from black raspberry jelly to pistachio.