There’s something Pavlovian about the Hot Now Krispy Kreme sign. The phrase itself is titillating and on the other side of that slight, seductive crimson wink is a warm, sugary, pillow-soft delight … and then there’s Dunkin’ Donuts.
Let me begin at the beginning of my love affair with Krispy Kreme to properly guide you to my (correct) conclusion that saying it’s better than Dunkin’ Donuts is a no brainer.
In the glory days, before Mt. Pleasant was the baby metropolis that it’s currently striving to be, it felt like a small, family-friendly town. I attended Moultrie Middle School, and back then there was a Krispy Kreme located directly next to the school. I used to walk to my friends’ houses after school, all of whom lived in the Old Village. We always made two stops: one being Pitt Street Pharmacy and the other, Krispy Kreme. My little group of fellow sixth-graders would salivate with our doe eyes fixed upon the classroom clock counting down to the dismissal bell. We’d meet up on the awning-covered sidewalk to the left of the school, re-count our money that we had inevitably begged our mothers for the night before, and excitedly speed-walk over to Krispy Kreme.
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There’s a nostalgia that envelopes you when you step foot inside a Krispy Kreme, the soft white and green colors, the eye-level doughnut selection, the spinning stools, the hats that remind you of the days when milkmen made deliveries, and, my goodness, the smell. It’s a cashmere-soft caress of vanilla. It’s the promise of a confection-covered delight. In those days we could live that promise for a mere 27 cents a doughnut. We were undoubtedly the most grateful customers the employees would see all day, so when the planets were perfectly aligned and the Gods favored us, the employees would give us an extra doughnut for free. I can still recall that feeling. To an 11-year-old, nothing tastes as good as a free Krispy Kreme doughnut.
I am a creature of habit when it comes to Krispy Kreme, so my favorite is the classic glazed. The perfectly dipped diamond-glazed doughnut can beat any artisanal, fancy pants doughnut from any boutique shop that’s covering doughnuts in everything from bacon to popcorn nowadays. Do forgive my nostalgic waxing, dear reader, but it’s important to see where my bias originated if we’re talking comparisons.
Charleston is lucky enough to have a factory Krispy Kreme location, which means we get the HOT NOW, made-on-site doughnut option, unlike other locations that may have the doughnuts delivered to the store. Now I’m not totally sure how Dunkin’ Donuts is doing it, but they don’t have a HOT NOW option. Shouldn’t that be enough to end the debate? If not, I’m happy to dive deeper.
I don’t know if I’m naturally wired as a Southerner to favor the North Carolina-born Krispy Kreme, or if I just don’t find the Massachusetts-born franchise to not be my cup of tea. But the Dunkin’ locations bear no romantic ties for me. There are no soft fragrances beckoning you to enter — it smells like old coffee. The doughnuts aren’t eye level; you must strain to look over the shoulder of a brown visor-wearing Dunkin’ Donuts employee to pick your flavor. There’s no conveyor belt coasting by in the background bearing warm doughnuts. Dunkin’ Donuts is the working man’s Starbucks, slinging sandwiches, croissants, grease-soaked Texas toast, flatbreads, and bagels. They have oatmeal, wraps, and coffee, the virtues of which can be sincerely extolled — if you’re looking for a full meal on your way into the office, sure, Dunkin’ Donuts is your spot.
But when it comes to Dunkin’ Donuts, the flavors are: asphalt, sulphur, carbon dioxide, and steel. And as for the glazed doughnuts at Dunkin’, they lack the sophisticated grace of a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. The doughnuts are cake-like; they’re muffins masquerading as doughnuts. This is not to say that the blueberry cake doughnut at Dunkin’ isn’t delicious — it is. But there is a je ne sais quoi that is aggressively absent in the doughnuts served at Dunkin’. Dunkin’ is a contender, but they can never be the champion; at least not in the heart of this Southern girl who still clings to the memories of the quaint decadence of after school doughnuts shared with friends.