Monday, June 13, 2011

Chicago Brunch Bets: The Doughnut Vault

After landing in Chicago and getting ourselves oriented with the city, naturally, my first order of business was to seek out sustenance. Having lurked on several Chicago food blogs in anticipation of our vacation, I couldn't help but notice the city's newfound obsession with doughnuts, particularly from Brendan Sodikoff's The Doughnut Vault. I'd heard stories about long lines and selling out within hours, so I initially doubted our chances of trying these doughnuts. But after frantically checking their twitter feed and realizing the vault was only a few blocks away from our hotel, I decided to wake up early and brave the line for some freshly made doughnuts.

Arriving a good ten minutes before opening at 8:30 AM, I was greeted by a line of hungry people that wrapped around the block. A "mere" 40 minutes later I had finally reached the restaurant's distinctive blue door. Fortunately, it didn't take nearly as long for me to decide what I would be ordering. Painted on the outside wall was the concise menu that featured three varieties (Buttermilk, Gingerbread and Glazed), and a grand total of five different selections in all. For the sake of this blog (and my stomach), I decided that ordering anything less than one of each would be nothing short of blasphemy.

After two cups of hot coffee and a short walk back to the hotel, MW and I dug in. First up, the Buttermilk Old Fashioned. The only cake doughnut available, the interior was nice and moist with a slight tang from the buttermilk that quickly gave way to the sweet glaze that covered it. It was a good, but not great, as we both felt it was too heavy by itself.

Next were the Gingerbread Stack doughnuts. These small doughnut rings contained a prominent gingerbread flavor and were covered in a nice cinnamon-sugar coating. Still warm, these were excellent with the coffee.

All three glazed doughnuts were the yeast variety, puffy, soft and deftly fried. The Vanilla Glazed doughnuts sported a handsome glaze that was adorned with the black specks of vanilla bean seeds. Unfortunately, despite its appearance, the doughnuts lacked any real strong vanilla flavor and was the weakest of the bunch.

The Chocolate Glazed doughnuts had been painted with an ebony glaze and were sprinkled with chocolate sprinkles. Although MW and I much prefer the taste of dark chocolate to milk, we both agreed the rich flavor of the chocolate glaze avoided being overwhelming, but was better with coffee.

The Chestnut Glazed doughnut was easily our favorite. Not being much of a chestnut fan, I was particularly skeptical of this flavor. Brandishing a beautiful caramel-colored glaze, compared to the other glazed doughnuts, this had a distinct flavor that reminded us of brown sugar, and, surprisingly, not of chestnut. Still, it was complex and delicious.

After sampling all five varieties, we understood why Chicago has fallen for The Doughnut Vault. There is no debate that these doughnuts are expertly prepared and range from being good to downright great. Still, as good as these doughnuts were, neither of us were convinced that The Doughnut Vault was really any better than Doughnut Plant, Peter Pan or Dough here in New York. If you're in the area or are just a huge doughnut fan, I highly encourage you to wait out the line, otherwise perhaps it'd be smarter to follow MW's lead and have someone else bring them to you.

The Doughnut Vault
400 1/2 N Franklin
Chicago, IL 60654

To see all the pics from this meal click HERE.

The Doughnut Vault on Urbanspoon

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