Edit: I had the double chocolate old fashioned from Do-Rite today and it has changed my life forever, to wit, I now know that old fashioned donuts can be spectacular if Done-Right.
I have succumbed to the doughnut craze, and I’m taking Schmoops down with me. Or at least that’s how it started, but at this point he’s the one dragging me around by the nose. So… success? We have completed our odyssey of downtown Chicago doughnut joints.
Do-Rite Donuts is my overall favorite, by quite a margin. I think their yeast raised doughnuts have the perfect amount of sweetness and unparalleled texture, with not even a trace of yeastiness. Their offerings are varied and aesthetically pleasing (we call their vanilla bean glazed doughnut the Platonic Ideal Doughnut) and TASTY. Their fillings are remarkably good. For instance, I have always really disliked Boston creme filling, but I can eat this one. My favorite is the toasted coconut bar doughnut, but I’ll happily eat any of their yeast raised ones really. The cake doughnuts are also superlative in texture and taste, especially the pistacio lemon. I don’t really care for old fashioneds so I won’t judge them. The only merely decent yeast doughnut I have had here (and, uh, I have had most of the doughnuts here) was the caramel creme brulee special. The “caramel” that I had been fantasizing about turned out to be a hard layer of candy on top of the bar doughnut. I ended up cracking it and peeling it off, but the rest of the doughnut was still awesome, and the filling was fabulous.
The Doughnut Vault is monstrously overrated. Their website is the best of the three and will have you salivating, but you’ve got to realize that only one of those unique, interesting doughnuts is going to be on offer on any given day. And the other few doughnut flavors that are available just aren’t that good. We tried a chocolate glazed, chestnut glazed, and buttermilk old fashioned. The two glazed doughnuts were mediocre, both in the quality of the glaze and the doughnut itself. The glazes were thin, translucent, and didn’t have much flavor. The doughnuts had a good texture but also tasted of yeast. From the shape of them (height and diameter roughly equal), it’s clear that the slightly sour taste was the result of over rising. Unlike me, if you enjoy old fashioned style doughnuts, this place has the best of the three. The other two places seem to score their old fashioneds too deeply, leaving the entire thing rather hard throughout. The Doughnut vault doesn’t score theirs deeply at all, resulting in what is basically a cake doughnut that’s crispy on the outside. Even if we hadn’t had to wait in line for these, they wouldn’t have been worth it.
Firecakes’ doughnuts don’t taste nearly as good as they look. The yeast doughnuts were objectively OK and subjectively disappointing, the cake doughnuts were either horrible or just OK. At the very least it’s better than The Doughnut Vault because there are always interesting flavors to gawk at. We had a coconut cream cake, triple chocolate cake, chocolate hazelnut long john, and valrhona and espresso cream. They were all beautiful. They were all disappointing. What’s up with the fillings? They were an insult to The Heaven Sent Idea Of espresso cream and chocolate hazelnut cream filling. The coconut cream was unremarkable as well but I didn’t expect much from it in the first place. At least the yeast doughnuts were well made, and their chocolate glaze is excellent. The coconut cake doughnut wasn’t bad. The triple chocolate valrhona cake doughnut was an insult to cake doughnuts, and to their own excellent chocolate glaze. It was the driest cake doughnut I have ever had, and if I had bought it at a place that wasn’t so busy I would swear it was stale. I did lick the chocolate glaze off of it though.