Over the course of a month, I visited all the popular donut shops in the area to figure out who has the best donuts in Boston. It was a grueling task (which if you watch my Instagram story, I'm sure you heard me complain at least once during the month), and I hit a "donut fatigue point" after one particularly disappointing shop visit. I wanted to save you the agony of biting into a sub-par sugary-treat.
Let's face it... there's nothing worse than setting out to have a great donut and then have it be totally disappointing. After all, they can get expensive and are loaded with sugar (and other stuff that isn't fabulous for our bodies), so if you're going to make the commitment - it better be for something you don't take one bite into and immediately regret.
The rules for finding the best donuts in Boston:
I got two at every location. I don't like cake donuts (no matter how special), so I'm judging yeast donuts (plus, I find that yeast donuts are harder to get right). I purchased one glazed/honey dipped and one of whatever the shop attendant recommended. The judgement will be made on the glazed donut.
Disclosure: I paid for everything I ate. And if I say I ate it, I definitely did. Like, the whole thing. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure how my stomach tolerated this experiment and I'm a little surprised I'm alive. I'm not the type of lady that buys food for photos and then ditches it in the bin. I don't stand for that kind of wastefulness.
I'll be going in the order in which I ate.
Union Square Donuts
Union Square Donuts had a great reputation, and prior to my month of donut gorging, it was the place that I had been the most. I got a glazed and a toasted coconut. Both were very good- a little on the denser side (which I tend to like), not overly greasy tasting, and I didn't feel crappy after eating either one.
Pro: Union Square has more than one location and they have some really creative options if you're seeking something less traditional.
Con: If you like super fluffy donuts, they might not be your style.
Conclusion: Will definitely go back.
Davis Square Donuts and Bagels
This spot is a little hidden. Compared to the other donut places in the Boston metro area, they don't yell for attention quite like their competition- so unless you know someone who has been, you might not ever know of their existence. Luckily, I'm that friend telling you that they exist. I got a regular glazed and a maple frosted.
Pro: They have a good variety of donut options (if you get there early enough). They also have bagels, so if your breakfast companion isn't keen on something sweet, they'll have options.
Con: The donuts were a little greasier than I would like. They tasted good and were a good size, but about 15 minutes after I finished I started feeling very crappy. The greasiness wasn't super obvious when I was eating, but that is generally what makes me feel really bad after eating something like a donut.
Conclusion: May go back, but won't prioritize them over other shops.
They've won a bunch of awards (including "Best Honey Dipped Donut in America" by Travel + Leisure) and are typically touted as Boston's Best donut shop. But are they really? I got a glazed (honey dipped) and a cinnamon sugar.
Pro: Holy hell was that honey dipped donut good! I can absolutely see why it won an award. It was so friggin fluffy - but no so much so that I was left wondering where the donut was. Does that make sense? I'm so enthusiastic about this donut that I'm worried that my words cant match the way I feel.
Con: The birds out front were mini vultures? There isn't a Kanes on every corner? I can think of no substantial cons.
Conclusion: Will be going back. Might even try a cake donut.......
Ok. Before going, a friend of mine who lives in the surrounding neighborhood was telling me about their great coffee, so I was super excited for the whole donut and coffee experience. I got a glazed and a chocolate frosted. I didn't love either.
Pro: The flavor of the chocolate frosting was nice.
Con: The texture of both wasn't very nice. They both tasted kinda... old? I've been to donut places later in the afternoon (I went to Blackbird around midday) and they don't get that "slightly old" taste until maybe the evening or the next morning if stored properly.
Conclusion: I won't be going back. I could be talked into going in for coffee. Maybe their filled donuts are better?
It was at this point in my quest for the best donuts in Boston that I hit a "fatigue point." I was so unimpressed (and a little mad that I consumed these "bad" calories that I didn't actually enjoy) by the last place I tried that I almost quit. I couldn't bear the idea of another bad donut experience-- especially since the next place was going to be a little bit of a feat for me to get to from my apartment.
But, alas, I pressed on.
Donuts With a Difference
This place wasn't even on my radar until I had asked a friend for her recommendations. I was barely finished my "Do you know any good don---" sentence before she blurted out "Donuts With a Difference in Medford!!" They recently won the Best Donuts in Boston award. It's not difficult to get to (as I alluded to above), but it is outside of Boston and the only time I had to spare was early morning, on a rest day from the gym (and I usually hate giving up those mornings to anything other than sleeping in). I got a glazed and a raspberry jelly-filled (but it was glazed, and not sugar coated like most jelly donuts).
Pros: I've never had a fresher donut. It was so incredibly good - fluffy, yet substantial like the Kane's - but somehow just a fraction of a fraction better. The ladies behind the counter were so friendly and happy to have a little chatter with the customers. I sat in the shop for a few minutes and it was clear that they knew their customers personally.
Con: It's a little far outside Boston - but you will not regret taking the trip up.
Fun anecdote: After I purchased my donuts, I was chatting with the woman behind the counter about this article that I was writing. I mentioned that I almost didn't make it to their shop because I had a less-than-ideal donut experience at the location prior. When I told her where, the name didn't really register - it became clear that was the reason they were "different" - they didn't give a sh!t about the competition, but instead just made great donuts. Also, the shop has clearly been there for decades. Can't beat experience, ya know?
Conclusion: Will go back. Will tell all my friends. Will dream about the donuts and surely reach out for them in my sleep.
BONUS (but not a donut)
If you're a donut fan, but interested in expanding your horizons, I recommend trying a Flour sticky bun. It has been featured on a few lists of "what to eat while in Boston" - and I'm finishing one right now as I write this.
Pro: It tastes great. It has nuts (nutrition!). Flour has a great reputation for their food and having a sustainably-minded business model.
Con: Be prepared to eat. If you're not able to put back a sizable portion, find someone to split with.
Conclusion: Love. Will eat again. Will travel through harsh weather for the bun.
This month was a roller-coaster of donut-induced emotion. I didn't realize how difficult it would be to find the best donuts in Boston, nor did I realize how disappointing it would be when I had two (from one place, no less) that I didn't like. Boston has a wonderful food landscape and it can be difficult to decide which places to try (especially if you have a limited time in the city) - these days anyone with a strong social media presence can claim to be the "best" to drum up business... so I wanted to get to the bottom of who is the product of hype and who is the real deal.
- Are you a Bostonian with an opinion about the best donuts in Boston? Leave your thoughts below!
- What is the most popular donut shop in your area?
- If you're not a donut person, what types of foods do you hunt out when you visit a new place? Have you ever been disappointed by a well-known establishment in a new place?