Our Michigan’s Best team of John Gonzalez and Amy Sherman are currently on the hunt for Michigan’s Best Doughnuts, looking for those locally-owned, mom and pop-style shops that are community gems.
In honor of this search, and with the acknowledgment that sometimes the only option might be a chain doughnut, we decided to see what we could rustle up in this category, give them a try, and let you know who came out on top of the doughnut heap.
We found three chain options to try, and went out and got a dozen of each. We tried to match up at least a few flavors to be the same varieties, and we took a bite of almost every single one. Out of the three chains, one came out clearly on top with pretty decent doughnuts. The other two offered up – at least in our minds – not-so-great versions.
Scroll on below, and you can watch our quick video of us taste-testing the doughnuts, and then you can see our complete reviews of the three places we visited.
Dunkin’ Donuts has been around since 1950, when Bill Rosenberg opened up his first shop in Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1955, Rosenberg started franchising the store, and currently there are more than 11,300 stores, in 41 states and 36 countries, serving over 3 million customers every day.
We’ve always been impressed with the sheer variety of doughnuts that are typically offered at Dunkin’ Donuts, from cake, to raised, with even a few crullers thrown in. Seasonal flavors are another highlight of Dunkin’. You might find pumpkin, or apple cider doughnuts in the fall, and cherry blossom doughnuts in spring. If variety is your game, Dunkin’ might be your choice.
We grabbed our doughnuts around noon, and the selection was notably small, for still just being in the middle of the day. That, we could deal with. What we couldn’t understand was how incredibly un-fresh these doughnuts were. They were dry, pasty and unfortunately not that enjoyable. If these had been made that morning, their shelf life is incredibly short. We’ve had good doughnuts from DD in the past, but these ones were a no go.
JOHN: “The doughnuts were extremely dry and not really worth the calories. You might need a cup of coffee or a big glass of milk to wash them down. If I had to have one, I’d go with the plain one, because it tastes like nothing. If it’s supposed to taste like something I would give them credit for trying, but they don’t.”
AMY: “I have two favorite styles of doughnuts, the classic chocolate cake, and the ‘exotic’ French cruller, both of which I’ve gotten numerous times from Dunkin’. Both versions today were a disappointment. The chocolate was dry, crusty in a bad way, and hard to choke down without copious amounts of water. The cruller was better, but it was small, kind of flat, and generally uninspiring. Tops for me out of this bunch was the raspberry jelly filled, topped with powdered sugar. While still dry, that jelly helped add a bit of moisture and a whole lot of flavor.”
Krispy Kreme has an almost cult following, with patrons lining up every time they see that famous red light on, promising super hot and fresh doughnuts, right of the fryer, and dripping with melting, sugary glaze. The chain got its start way back in 1937 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina when Vernon Rudolph started selling his special yeast raised doughnuts to local grocery stores. The doughnuts proved immensely popular throughout the southeastern part of the United States up until their expansion into a publicly-traded company in 2000. They are now back under private ownership, and have over 1,000 locations world wide, with over 350 throughout the United States.
We were looking forward to the Krispy Kremes, since when they come straight out of that fryer, they are hard to beat. Unfortunately, these weren’t. And while they are decent doughnuts cold, they all taste the same, from the dough to the glaze. We do recommend these if the red light is on, but otherwise, save your calories, in our opinion.
JOHN: “Overall I was part of the Krispy Kreme bandwagon when they first came to Michigan, but now, after many years of trying so many doughnuts, I realize they are kind of a one-trick pony. They all taste the same. I do like the holiday specials that they come out with like the footballs, Halloween, Christmas trees. And I do still get excited when I see that the red light is on. A free doughnut is better than no donut at all.”
AMY: “These all taste the same in my book. The classic glazed and raised, which Krispy has made their name on, is fantastic when hot and dripping with glaze. But sitting here, cold and silent like a little sugar tomb, it was pretty unappealing. Biting into the now crispy sugar glaze, brought me to a doughy, chew interior, that collapsed upon my entry. Topped with sprinkles, different colored glazes, or with the addition of a few spices for fall, all tasted similar. The best of the bunch for me was the custard filled, and chocolate topped, like a long john, but in doughnut bomb form. That custard was solid, and the chocolate rich. You can’t beat that combo in a properly filled doughnut, and this one was pretty good. Worth a trip if the light is on.”
Tim Hortons -#1
Thank goodness for our northern neighbors. They know how to make a fresh and tasty doughnut on mass scale. We pick Tim Hortons as our favorite out of the three chain doughnuts we tried. Not only were they fresh, the dough inside came out fluffy, light and not gummy. Although not a huge variety of doughnuts were available to us, the ones that we did try were all well done. The French cruller was light on the inside, properly sugared and crisp on the outside, and standing tall. Glazed cake was simple, but right, and the chocolate cake had a nice flavor. In addition to proper round doughnuts with a hole in the middle, no one can argue that Timbits are not a wonderful addition to a morning meeting, or Saturday morning soccer game.
Tim Hortons is based in Canada, but has making in-roads in Michigan for the last few years, creeping across the Ambassador Bridge to take over corners all over metro Detroit, and now expanding all over the state. The chain now has almost 5,000 locations across 14 countries, and it is Canada’s largest quick service restaurant chain. The original location was in Hamilton, Ontario and opened in 1964. Started by the actual Tim Horton, he quickly partnered with Ron Joyce, and expansion ensued. They now have over 800 stores in the United States.
JOHN: “I think, out of the three we tried, these were the most moist, freshest-tasting doughnuts, and the ones with the most flavor. The cruller was really good, and I don’t often get crullers so that was a big surprise for me. They don’t hold back on the sugar, and that may be why they’re so good.”
AMY: “Agree, John. That sugar coating may be what is keeping these doughnuts so fresh. I love that you said “most moist” which is a tongue twister, but the truth. Flavors were good, but honestly, the key to a good doughnut is that they taste fresh. These did. For further thoughts on these doughnuts, please read my review above.”
To try some of the chain doughnuts available in Michigan yourself, check these places out:
To see more from our search for Michigan’s Best Doughnut, which we focus on locally owned businesses, check out these stories:
Check some of our other chain foods, ranked:
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