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The Underdog Doughnut Is the Best One of All

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Like cupcakes and macarons before them, doughnuts are having "a moment." You know this, and you also know that if you want one of the highly Instagrammable Cap'n Crunch or cocoa nib or hibiscus-glazed ones, you will have to wait in line.

Nowhere is this more true than in Portland, Oregon, where the lines and alliances for doughnut shops are long and strong. Many people will tell you that Voodoo Doughnuts are the ones to wait for; others will put their vote in for Blue Star. At the Portland airport, I recently saw a woman drop her box of doughnuts as she scanned her boarding pass to get on the plane; the airport employee checking her in looked sincerely concerned.


But all this buzz and fuss about doughnuts does not and never will include the old-fashioned doughnut: an unglazed, unsugared cake round with a fried, golden crust and a pale interior.

Above, our Creative Director Kristen's selection of doughnuts—olive oil, beet-ricotta, chocolate-pretzel—from the Doughnut Project yesterday. Alas, no old-fashioneds.

The old-fashioned doughnut will not win any awards, will not be the prom queen, will not have its name in lights. It's all in the name: It's old-fashioned. That is okay. I love it.

There's comfort in its lack of sensationalism—in its simplicity, its confidence in this plainness. At best, it's cakey and dense and a little crumbly, just barely sweet with no sugar dusting the outside. Its flavor is of "old-fashioned doughnut" and nothing else; it's closest compatriot is coffee cake, and it has only the faintest trace of cinnamon.

The plainest Janes, pre-fry.
The plainest Janes, pre-fry. Photo by Yossy Arefi

There are no 'round-the-block lines for these doughnuts. You'll find them in a Dunkin' Donuts or at your local equivalent—or in a spot with a long counter and a row of stools screwed into a tile floor. The doughnuts will be in paper-lined wire baskets (no reclaimed wooden cases to be seen), on a row of shelves tilting toward you. The roster will also include crullers (preferably the long ones and the round ones).

There might be powdered sugar on the floor. There will definitely be coffee in thick diner mugs, and this is crucial. An old-fashioned doughnut would barely be itself without a cup of coffee next to it; old-fashioneds are almost always a little dry, and will fill your mouth (pleasantly!) like a wool blanket without hot coffee to wash it down. Do this and feel like you're in on a doughnut secret. You are!

The best doughnuts—these ones—won't make you wait in any line. (And they won't cost you more than a buck, either.)

What's your doughnut of choice? Would you wait in line for a good one? Tell us in the comments.

Tags: donut, doughnut, dunkin' donuts