Hot and fresh mini donuts are provided by Joey Bag-O-Donuts and owner Joey Palermo. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

Joey Bag-O-Donuts is a name you’d expect to hear in a wiseguy lineup in a film like “Goodfellas.” Honestly, he would fit right in because these donuts taste illegal.

If there is any event from Delray Beach to Key West you’re passing and happen to smell a nostalgic sweet hint of vanilla in the air, you’re probably getting a whiff of Joey’s Mini Donuts. Nine times out of 10 you can count on his Key lime green trailer coming in clutch to satisfy your sweet tooth at any local shindig. The donut master, Joe Palermo, is from Ocean City, New Jersey. He was a meat cutter for about 40 years before retiring south to the sunny Florida Keys. 

He has three grown daughters and one son who attends high school in South Florida. Joe and his family are avid boaters, so the Keys are just the ticket. Growing up, he would frequent a local flea market, called the Cowtown Rodeo, an hour from his home. He couldn’t help but notice the life of the event, the donut man. He would have a line down the street waiting for his sweet treats. Joey said to himself “one day I’m going to do that” and he sure did. 

After moving to the Keys, he saw his retirement fund wasn’t cutting it. He decided to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming Joey Bag O’ Donuts to bring in extra “dough.” He built the trailer with his bare hands and ordered a custom classic donut machine much like the one he was in awe of in New Jersey. Creating his proprietary mix, he started with a classic recipe; his wife Olga Palermo then swooped in to add her touch. 

Joey’s Mini Donuts also features hand-squeezed lemonade by owner Joe Palermo’s son, Anthony. CONTRIBUTED

Joey’s Donuts leave you speechless. Dare I say, the best donuts ever. The thing is I already adored these donuts before I even tried them. You’re going to read the word classic a lot in this article but that is what these donuts are, classic. They’re so satisfying and it just feels like you’re getting a little hug to your inner child with every bite. They’re doughy, sweet and always available piping hot out of the fryer. I had his donuts the day after buying them and they are still somehow amazing. Personally, I only purchase his cinnamon sugar option. I think his dough and cooking time are absolute perfection and don’t need anything else. 

If you want to mix it up, you can choose from his array of topping drizzles. He has it all, including a local favorite, Key lime. He also has powdered sugar, coconut, chocolate and vanilla. I think we all have a childhood donut story that brings warm fuzzy memories and I have no doubt Joey’s food truck is making those memories for the next generation. Let’s go back a little bit: remember the son I mentioned? He is Joey’s youngest, Anthony Palermo. He is a freshman in high school and definitely got the genes of making nostalgic classic goodies. He is in charge of the fresh squeezed lemonade and let me tell you, in all my life, of all the lemonade, this is hands down the best lemonade I’ve ever had. 

He started selling lemonade with hopes to save up every dollar to one day buy his own car. He is still on that mission, so drink up, folks. He does the whole show in front of you, lemons floating in ice water, cut, squeezed, sugar, water and shake. I’ve tried recreating it at home and it just isn’t the same. That kid has the ratio down to a science. His lemonade is crisp, refreshing, not too sweet, not too tart; it really is the quintessential lemonade you picture in your head. Now, I don’t know if I just think Joey’s Donuts pairs perfectly with this lemonade because I get them together so often, but I’m telling you, it’s quite the duo.

The best part about Joey and his family, aside from the food of course, is they’re just a happy bunch. I’ve seen him working in everything from a cold front to 100-degree weather and he just has a smile radiating. He truly enjoys what he does and I am a believer you can taste that in the food. Like grandma used to say, the secret ingredient is love. After one bag you’ll be singing “donut worry, be happy.”

Samantha Dellilo
Samantha Dellilo has been in the Keys since she was 1 day old, so definitely consider her a Conch. Holding a passion for food since she can remember, while most kids were watching Barney, she was watching Emeril. "Being half Cuban and half Italian, food in those cultures is considered a love language. It's a total experience whether eating out or cooking." She's been with her other half, Marky, going on 17 years. The two met when they were 9 years old at Key Largo School. Samantha owns Florida Keys Eats, which is a blog of "must eat, must see, and must dos" from Key Largo to Key West.