Sheets of rain didn’t keep the crowds away from last Saturday’s Twin Cities Donut Crawl. Soaked boxes were commonplace as the crowd of 4,000 scrambled around packed Mears Park in Lowertown St. Paul from vendor to vendor. The wetness and old school soul jams playing overhead pushed the frenzy along as people followed the gluttonous pursuit of happiness, fueled by Five Watt Coffee.
Eight local donut shops hawked their treats to the hordes of hungry patrons hankering for fried dough. Though eating eight donuts for breakfast is a fool’s errand, I mustered enough misbegotten moxie for the challenge in the name of crowning the definitive donut in the Twin Cities. Among the donut crawl participants, here’s how their donuts stacked up.
8. Blueberry donut from YoYo Donuts
The line between sugary and saccharine is difficult to toe, and it takes certain flavor balance and deftness to end up on the right side. YoYo Donuts’ blueberry donut hits the mark for the basic donut, a crumbly cake number made too sweet by the artificial-seeming blueberries. The excess sugar sprinkled atop the donut was overkill, distracting from the otherwise pleasant flavors of the small orb.
7. Cinnamon donut from Denny’s 5th Avenue Bakery
The primary flavor of a cinnamon donut should be cinnamon, right? Wrong, at least in the hands of Denny’s 5th Avenue Bakery. That’s a shame because the egginess of the donut’s base was light and wonderful. Though visible in the donut, my palate detected little cinnamon taste, perhaps due to the excess of goopy glaze, which was stickier than Krispy Kreme. With a little more cinnamon and a lot less glaze, Denny’s donut would’ve earned a spot in the top half of the list.
6. Apple fritter from Mel-O-Glaze Bakery
Mel-O-Glaze doesn’t make a bad apple fritter. The basic batter is a notch or three above chain donut shop and supermarket fare, and the taste lingers after each bite, more so than any other donut from the crawl. The apples, however, were over-sugared, and the glaze was thick and excessive, making the donut the least attractive of the bunch.
5. Mexican chocolate donut from Angel Food Bakery
Angel Food Bakery, owned by Mitch Omer of Minneapolis’ Hell’s Kitchen, didn’t produce the devilishly dark donut I’d hoped for, but their Mexican chocolate cruller is no slouch. There’s nothing Mexican about the chocolate — no deep pepper accents or purity in cacao. Rather, it’s a rock solid milk chocolate donut that melts in your mouth. The decent cruller base is airy and attractive. Though the chocolate tastes pedestrian at first, each succeeding bite ramps up in intensity, and the flavor’s full potential is realized after the very last bite.
4. Cream cheese banana macadamia nut donut from Glam Doll Donuts
My mediocre experiences at Glam Doll Donuts’ Nicollet Avenue storefront derive from unmet expectations of their Showgirl donut (featuring bacon and maple icing).
While the cream cheese banana macadamia nut dinger didn’t quite appease my skepticism, it makes a case for Glam Doll’s popularity. The grainy donut itself is nothing to write home about, but the topping was out of this world. Imagine Banana Nut Crunch in donut form; this is it. Reliving the flavors of my favorite childhood cereal helped me accept and appreciate Glam Doll Donuts for what they do; they don’t serve the best donuts in town, but their
inventive toppings create a memorable donut that differs from what other bakeries churn out.
3. Apple fritter from CafÃ© Donuts
Of the two apple fritters I tried at the Donut Crawl, this took the cake, hands down. CafÃ© Donuts’ fritter’s picture perfect appearance set the bar high from the get go, and the subtle hints of sugar shocked me enough to make me wonder if I was indeed eating an apple fritter. The apples were of better quality than Mel-O-Glaze’s variation, and the amount of sugar and glaze used was proportionate to the size of the donut.
2. Cake donut with lemon glaze from Mojo Monkey Donuts
Fruit donuts are risky business. They lean toward sweetness instead of subtlety and cheeky refinement. Mojo Monkey Donuts proved experts of the latter with their lemon-frosted cake donut. The donut itself upended the idea of what a cake donut should taste like. The donut’s slight sweetness danced across my tongue, providing a perfect foil for the lemon’s citrus notes. Bakers take note — this is how to do a fruity donut right.
1. Glazed donut from Bogart’s Doughnut Co.
Classic donuts embody minimalism. The newfangled maximalist renditions seem sacrilegious at times and dress up a foodstuff that looks and tastes best without dozens of toppings. After opening a year ago, Bogart’s Doughnut Co. changed the local donut game with their dedication to simplicity. The subtle glaze is nuanced and spread out. The donut itself was light and airy, and while the texture was a tad drier than the donuts I’ve bought at their Southwest Minneapolis shop, it nonetheless packed the pliancy and slight bite Bogart’s built its name on. Thanks to Anne Rucker and her team, donut nirvana is attainable in the Twin Cities.