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Dunkin’ Drives me Nuts

March 31, 2011

I don’t get it. I really don’t. And I’m hoping someone can help me understand this. I’ve talked about Dunkin’ Donuts in passing here and there over the past couple of years. But I have never come out and said it explicitly.

Dunkin’ Donuts really sucks.

It sucks in a way beyond simple mass American fast food chains. Because McDonald’s still has delicious French fries, Wendy’s has the Frosty, Taco Bell has a bean burrito that actually resembles nutritious food, and Auntie Anne’s makes some tasty soft pretzels drenched in fat and salt. Even White Castle’s “burgers” are a magnificent delivery device for onion-flavored beef fat.

But Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t have good anything. In fact I view what they sell as both an insult to donuts AND to coffee.

What do I mean by that? Well, their coffee is thin and acrid unless you allow them to add copious amounts of cream and sugar (which they are more than happy to do). Or unless you pair it with one of their stiff, heavy donuts that have an odd factory-made taste to them. Their eggs are nasty. Their bagels are a joke. And despite their claims, they do not serve anything that remotely resembles espresso.

On top of it all Dunkin’ Donuts charges a premium for these inferior foods. And still people line up every morning as part of their daily ritual.

As far as I can tell, the only thing Dunkin’ has going for it is location. It may be bad, but there are a lot of them. So if you need something caffeinated and sweet, you are only a stone’s throw away from one of these pink and orange beacons.

But really, it’s not just that. Because time and time again I hear people say that Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is cheaper than Starbucks. Now you may not like Starbucks coffee and that’s fine. But one shouldn’t conflate the two arguments. And the swill at Starbucks is actually less expensive than the swill at Dunkin’. No joke. Starbucks has a serious marketing problem.

And speaking of expensive, holy moly their donuts cost a lot. Donuts from The Cookie Factory or Bella Napoli are so much better across the board and significantly less money.

Sure, they may not be convenient, but donuts are terrible for you. They are. White flour, deep fried and covered and filled with sugar. That is what makes them a treat. And dammit, if I’m going to be eating something like this, I want it to be superdelicious.

I’ll even accept that at one point in the past Dunkin’ Donuts were superior to what you could get elsewhere. This could be revisionist history, created by the fond memories I have of Dunkin’ Donuts from my teenage years. But back then every shop made its own donuts in-house. Regrettably this practice has given way to centralized kitchens that truck donuts out to almost every store.

But maybe it’s not about any of that.

Maybe it’s just about wanting some thin coffee with cream, sugar and something to nosh on. Okay. But then why don’t people opt for the convenience store instead? It’s cheaper and just as bad.

The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.

I really hope someone who reads this and is a frequent visitor of this most popular local eatery will be brave enough to stand up and be counted. I do want to understand. And perhaps if I can figure out this phenomenon, I will be one step closer to figuring out the culinary desires of the Capital Region.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2011 10:13 am

    I used to have a house mate who drank Tang (remember Tang, the drink of the astronauts?) My other house mate and I could not figure it out. One day we asked him why he drank Tang, and we pointed out that it tasted nothing like orange juice, which it was supposed to be imitating. He said, ” I know – but I like the taste of Tang.”

    My wife and I like the taste of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, with a bit of half and half in it. We don’t drink Starbucks coffee because we don’t like that taste of it.

  2. March 31, 2011 10:14 am

    I think the quality of the DD coffee depends on the location. I usually only get one thing – decaf iced coffee with milk. I usually like it, but sometimes I don’t–the one near my parents’ house is quite consistent. Depending on the circumstances (ie, just finished a tough workout), almost anything cold will do, and it has the extra of having milk, which is basically fuel/a snack. On the food, the egg white flatbreads (or sandwiches, or whatever shape they have changed them to this week–they have been both triangular and enormous and small and round) are a solid, high protein, relatively healthy option when you are on the go. Of course it would be better to prepare something at home, but if you’re short on time, the New Baltimore rest stop on 87 doesn’t have many more options.

    I make my own iced coffee so long as I have time. Cold brewed overnight in my French press.

    This might be one of those things you’ll never understand. Like me and bubble tea. Or rompers. (The last one is not a food or beverage, but still, I really just don’t get the appeal.)

  3. March 31, 2011 10:42 am

    Amen

    • Tonia permalink
      March 31, 2011 10:55 am

      I second that Amen. I am going to say it: I pre-judge people when they say I gotta have my Dunkin, or I don’t like other coffees, as slightly inferior as far as food tastebuds are concerned. Sorry! I think you addressed in another post…. if not, I will also say it. It is not the coffee flavor people love, it is the sugar and milk. But, what do I know. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and tastes.

      This reminds me of this movie, The Bread, My Sweet…. slightly cheesey-tastic movie with Scott Baio…. there is a point in the movie when Scott Baio looks around in his corporate job and sees people in a meeting eating all this pre-packaged crap… and thinks back to the family bakery…. he quits the job and becomes a baker. I had that type of realization one morning when I found myself, because I was in a hurry, stopping and grabbing an egg white something or other. I looked down at it, realized, and I never went to Dunkin Donuts again.

  4. Tonia permalink
    March 31, 2011 10:57 am

    By the way… the Hole in One in Orleans, MA (Cape Cod) has the best donuts. I don’t usually like donuts, but gosh darnit… they make a tasty coconut cake donut or their sour cream donut is yummy-tastic as well.

  5. March 31, 2011 11:19 am

    I have to agree – Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is terrible. Sour, bitter, and oftentimes burnt-tasting. I drink my coffee unsweetened, with only a bit of whole milk, so the actual taste of the coffee comes through.

    If in a pinch, though I try not to get myself in that kind of pinch, I will get the Toasted Almond flavoring added. I know how people feel about flavored coffee, but I don’t care – I enjoy it. So, the flavoring masks the bad coffee flavor. I know, what’s the point?

    I love Starbucks coffee, and I love Green Mountain coffee.

    Dunkin’ Donuts’ donuts are abhorrent. Waxy, sugary, awful. They were better when they made them in-house, but not that much better.

    DD’s marketing ploy is to appeal to the “common man” – the average working Joe – and to offer their product as the alternative to snooty Starbucks. A ploy which is obviously working. People have not yet noticed that their coffee is actually more expensive than Starbucks, cup for cup. But, screw that evil empire Starbucks!

    My favorite ads for Dunkin’ happened a few years back, when they first dipped their toes into the espresso world. They had John Goodman doing v/o for them, and the copy went something like this: “Delicious lattes from Dunkin’ Donuts. You order them in English.” Insert Italian language lesson here.

  6. Ewan permalink
    March 31, 2011 11:22 am

    Agreed on all counts; I will go coffee-less rather than enter a DD (which for me is a big deal!).On which note: when are you organising a meetup at Caffe Vero?

    • April 1, 2011 9:23 am

      Oooh Oooh! I’m there if this gets organized. :)

      • Ewan permalink
        April 3, 2011 11:28 am

        I had the opportunity to drop in for a (take-out) macchiato yesterday – really very good. So I am a tentative convert, fwiw.

  7. March 31, 2011 12:16 pm

    This is about convenience. It is about the prevalence of the drive-thru lane. It is about not having to get out of your car as you rush in to work, bleary-eyed and anticipating the schedule for the day. As a people, we love fast and easy. Dunkin’ Donuts has really cornered the market on this. Yeah sure, some Starbucks have a drive-thru, but they are few and far between. Everyone knows where they can get a cup of coffee (or some other caffeinated jolt) and a quick one-handed breakfast that they can “enjoy” (this is questionable) behind the wheel.

    While I agree with you on all points (including Bella Napoli’s perfectly presented gut bombs), you can’t deny that often folks choose convenience over quality. It is, after all, the American way.

  8. March 31, 2011 12:59 pm

    Dunkin is pretty much good for one thing — good road food. If we’re heading out on a road trip, we’ll always stop there for breakfast, ’cause you can get a fairly healthy, tasty breakfast that’s on the way and not too hard to eat in the car. (I’m speaking, of course, of the egg white and turkey sausage Wake-Up Wraps, which are actually healthy and quite tasty — best thing on their menu by far.)

    As for the doughnuts, they may not be gourmet-awesome, but they’re pretty tasty and way easier to get, ’cause Dunkin is so handy. That said, I haven’t eaten one in years, just ’cause I can’t seem to justify the calories.

  9. RealFoodMom permalink
    March 31, 2011 3:05 pm

    DD’s coffee? Blech. Donuts? Yuck. Other food? Never tried it. But healthy?????? Here’s the ingredients for the Wake-up Wrap, taken from their website:

    INGREDIENTS: Egg Patty: Egg Whites, Cooked Turkey Sausage [Dark Turkey, Mechanically Separated Turkey, Seasoning (Salt, Spices, Sugar, Dextrose, Spice Extract, BHA, Propyl Gallate, Citric Acid)], Reduced Fat Provolone Cheese [Pasteurized Reduced Fat Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Natural Smoke Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate), Powdered Cellulose (to prevent caking)], Spinach, Nonfat Dry Milk, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Ground White Pepper; Flour Tortilla: Bleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Contains one or more of the following: Cottonseed Oil, Soybean Oil) with Mono and Diglycerides and/or Citric Acid, Contains 2% or less of the following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate), Dough Conditioners (Fumaric Acid, Wheat Flour, Calcium Sulfate, Sorbic Acid), Sodium Priopionate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives); Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese: Pasteurized Reduced Fat Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color), Vitamin A Palmitate.

  10. March 31, 2011 5:21 pm

    I eat the donuts.

    Not often, it’s kind of once-in-a-blue moon. I have absolutely no idea why. There isn’t really any discernible flavor in a dunkin donuts doughnut, certainly nothing resembling something buttery.

    I think it’s a kind of grainy, vaguely crunchy (stale?) cheap frosting taste– I usually go for the vanilla frosted because sprinkles is my middle name. It’s disgusting, but somehow, I also have occasionally wanted to eat it. Everything I know in life is against it, but there it is.

    I did eat a Romanian doughnut once. It was the puffiest, ariest, slightly chewy little pocket of warm confectioner’s sugar. I think there was a peach jam inside. I don’t remember, but it was transcendental.

    So I don’t know why I occasionally eat a DD doughnut. Temporary insanity?

    In other news, I’m going to say :p at convenience of the DD drive through. 90% of them are clogged to high heavens at any normal coffee hour of the day. Don’t have to get out of your car, but it’ll take you 15 minutes to order. Derp.

  11. March 31, 2011 5:50 pm

    Because I really like their sesame seed bagels…which is weird because I do not like bagels in general, anywhere else. One day soon I will try my hand at making homemade bagels. Dunkin’ Donuts was my “gateway drug” to liking coffee to cope with the lack of sleep of parenthood. It started with the French vanilla coolatta, which became an iced latte, which became an iced coffee and then hot coffee. An occasional “milkshake-like” beverage with the bonus of caffeine soon morphed to the need to make coffee at home. I am starting to enjoy coffee at home with a little cream (and cocoa powder), but sometimes I cannot pull myself from the convenience of DD at the corner of work on mornings when I am out of coffee. If I liked McDs coffee (other than their milkshake “Frappe”) or if I had a Starbucks on that corner, that would be my go to. Gas stations do not have drive-thrus. My job has a disgusting Flavia machine. Excuses, I know. In a pinch at home I will make real hot chocolate with instant espresso powder. I admit to having a sesame seed bagel for lunch today from DD. I will, however, like to make the trip to Cafe Vero and sit down and enjoy one of their drinks because of your wonderful AOA review.

  12. March 31, 2011 7:51 pm

    I love this post, and I mostly agree with you.

    I will, however, disagree on one point:
    Maybe it’s just about wanting some thin coffee with cream, sugar and something to nosh on. Okay. But then why don’t people opt for the convenience store instead? It’s cheaper and just as bad.

    No, I think most times, it’s worse. Because if nothing else, DD has some semblence of quality control. The gas station? If it’s anytime other than morning rush, it’s burnt yuck-o. I’ve never had a great cup from DD, but I’ve never had one that was really really bad, either. (That is, I’ve never had one that’s undrinkable.) Granted, I do like me copious amounts of cream. That makes a difference.

    Don’t get me wrong: if there is a Starbucks nearby I’ll choose that over DD every time, because their coffee is BETTER and it is cheaper. Hell, if there is McDonald’s nearby, I’ll take THAT over DD. (Their coffee is also better and cheaper.) If there is an independent coffee shop, I’ll generally take that one instead over all of those options, and will go out of my way to do so. But, most days, I make my coffee in my French press* and bring it with me to the office. If I need caffeine for a long trip, I’ll usually do the same. But if I’m on the road, and I need something hot, wet, and caffeinated? It’s reliable.

    *I was most recently brewing Liquid Assets Indo Noir. It’s some of the best coffee I’ve had in a long time. C and I made a trip to the Pioneer Valley this weekend for a Trader Joe’s run and dinner/beers at the Amherst Brewing Co., so I got a couple cans of coffee – fair trade Ethiopian and Kauai. I busted open the Ethiopian and it is quite good. Also, folks, if you’re able to make a trip to Trader Joe’s and stock up, their coffee is only nominally more than the bagged DD stuff and it is SO. MUCH. BETTER. Not Liquid Assets good, but still really good, and very affordable.

  13. Ellen Whitby permalink
    March 31, 2011 10:44 pm

    My reason for going to Dunkin Donuts?

    Chocolate Chip Muffins. Soft on the bottom, soft chips and crunchy on top, due in no small part to the crunchy sugar crystals on top.

    Plus they don’t charge for ice water.

    It’s an occasional treat. When I want good baked goods (which is why I go, never for the coffee, which I don’t drink at all), I go to Crisan’s on Lark St. Much more expensive but oh, so worth it.

  14. Sarah M. permalink
    April 1, 2011 12:00 pm

    I think they’re supported due to misguided regional pride. In my opinion, something is terribly, terribly wrong when you can’t purchase a hot glazed doughnut. (Krispy Kreme 4 Lyfe!)

    Perhaps through your FLBallot efforts, you can redirect the regional coffee drinkers’ sentiment toward dear ol’ Stewart’s instead. I won’t be knocking down the doors to eat their peanut butter & butter rolls, but at least that place has some character. And cheap, plain coffee (which is what DD customers claim they want anyway). And usually plenty of parking right near the front door, so you don’t have to walk more than maybe 4 steps!

    • April 5, 2011 8:43 am

      You know, that’s a good point. The coffee at Stewarts is comparable to the coffee at DD. And I like supporting a local business.

      • April 15, 2011 5:34 pm

        ::oh hi oh mysterious irisira ;D::

        I agree when it comes to ranking Stewart’s coffee over DD coffee. I might have had one bad cup at a Potsdam Stewart’s (I got my coffee there every day when I was working up there). However, at least I know it’s going to a local business who actually cares about its employees.

  15. April 1, 2011 12:29 pm

    In college I was managing editor of my campus paper. We’d put the weekly issue “to bed” on Wednesday nights, and unfortunately, due to horrendously antiquated and uncooperative computer equipment, it was usually at least 5 a.m. on Thursday before I was headed home from the office. My point? This sort of activity requires coffee, but unfortunately, you’re left with few options when it’s 2 a.m. The DD box o’ joe unfortunately became an office staple as a result. Nowadays, like many of the others, I will only drink the swill they serve in dire caffeine emergencies, such as 1 a.m. drives home on the Thruway.

    • April 2, 2011 10:40 am

      Jess, we had the same thing at my college paper as well. DD was the only place open at that hour, and sometimes we really needed an excuse to get out of the f&*$ing basement (our offices were in the basement of an old, asbestos-filled building) for 20 minutes.

  16. April 2, 2011 12:58 pm

    Wanna know a secret? There’s a Tim Horton’s inside Albany College of Pharmacy.

    • Ewan permalink
      April 3, 2011 11:29 am

      And one at UA also, but they’re not very good… *and* they refuse to fill travel mugs, apparently compny policy.

      • April 5, 2011 8:45 am

        Yeah, I kinda don’t get the whole Tim Horton’s craze. The coffee is OK, but not outstanding. Better than DD, maybe that’s why people love it?

  17. Carly permalink
    April 8, 2011 7:29 am

    Dunkin has serious issues with attention span of the person listening to orders from people in the drive thru line. I lost count of how many times I ordered a cinamon raisin bagel with. Egg. And. Cheese. (emphatic enunciation) and got cream cheese. It’s now my habit to smile at the person handing me the bag, and with one hand I dump the bag into my lap and with the other I catch it and flip the wrapper aside to make SURE. They scramble around I there. Part of the problem seems to be that they can type BAGEL, then PLAIN, then they have to hit toasted before they can type what’s on it, so if they ask do you want it toasted then they forget what you actually wanted on it. I’m used to repeating my entire order twice. (oj, bagel, xl tea with two sugars – don’t get me going on how sometimes they do me a “favor” and give me a second teabag…. Didn’t ask for that, kids, thanks for the headache).
    So, I’ve forced myself OUT of the habit of going there and throwing $7 at them everyday, (usually – I end up there during the full moon). I eat at home and write long rambling comments on the Internet instead.

  18. April 10, 2011 4:42 pm

    Totally on the money about DD — I have hated them since I lived in Jersey (and they sucked there, too). No amount of money could force me to once again endure the migraine headache I sustained after downing a DD “flavored” coffee one morning that tasted like pencil shavings (and on the way back up, tasted a lot worse). No, I was not sick. Just sick of bad coffee.
    Everyone where I worked used to fork over chunks of cash every day for DD coffee and food and I could never — being a foodie — understand it all. Now I partially get it, thanks to your column. People have no taste buds or sensibilities, or they just don’t even remember what GOOD doughnuts taste like!
    We have a local farm — Golden Harvest Farms — in Valatie, NY. They make one heck of a cider donut. They are open early in the morning, and the Stewart’s across the road serves pretty good coffee. I’m off and runnin’.

  19. August 22, 2011 1:21 pm

    Im Canadian living in Mass.. don’t understand why Dunkin Donuts is so popular.. its complete garbage… coffees crap.. food is horrible.. especially the big n toasty.. $5.00 to literally eat a piece of shit.

    Not to mention.. they don’t have much variety for food.. and donuts for that matter too compared to Tim Hortons..

    Timmies is better in every way possible.. and yet massholes still think Dunkin Blownuts is better, irl lol’d.

    HoneyDew Donuts is the only place i get coffee here.

  20. September 13, 2011 11:55 am

    I agree. The place where I work always has a big box of dunkin donuts… I’m a donut lover, and sometimes I’m compelled to grab one and eat it. I’m always hoping for a better experience and am always disappointed. You’d think I’d learn. But damn it, it’s a donut!! How can you so badly screw up deep fried dough with sugar on it?!!!!?

    OK… sorry, I just had to let off some steam. I just ate one and it was just so bad.

  21. Mallory Pernaa permalink
    November 23, 2011 4:03 pm

    Thank you for this! You have put my thoughts to words. I cannot believe how many DD cups I see everyday.

  22. January 1, 2013 1:58 am

    I have to agree with everything that was said in this post! Dunkin Donuts no longer makes a tasty donut. The last time I ate a tasty donut from Dunkin was in 1989. I was only six years old at the time. If you are searching for a great tasting donut, go to Krispy Kreme instead.

  23. AarMaDra permalink
    April 18, 2013 12:05 am

    I was drinking my coffee the other day and thinking about how i take it for granted what a special treat it is to have coffee everyday. Maybe its not that special anymore, but in the perspective of time it is. For instance, back in the cowboy days, you would have to find the wood, to light a fire, to boil a pot of your store of fresh water, to brew your luxury aliquot of fresh coffee beans. a true luxury to have your little tin of hot black coffee to make you the envy of the plains. Nowadays i drink my large half-coffee, half-cream, half-sugar three times a day. I’ve gained fifteen pounds in four months. I can feel my stomach when I sit down. Good bye Dunkin Donuts.

  24. Anonymous permalink
    April 21, 2013 2:20 pm

    Hi!
    I work at Dunkin’ Donuts and I can understand how you feel. My main problem is how they treat their employees. The managers and big bosses treat us horribly. They disrespect us, are never satisfied about our work, complain about everything, and will write you up for not smiling “enough”. Stupid right? All of the other terrible things people do at jobs worldwide, they will write you up for that! PATHETIC! How am I sure? Because they did it to me. Dunkin’ Donuts is full of crap and they do their employees dirty; in the end, they’re doing you dirty too. I would just say if you have a choice and don’t have to, don’t work there coz they won’t treat you right or pay you enough for aggravation, stress, and misery that comes with the job. As for the public, they only want to keep you satisfied so they can make money off of you. They treat us employees like absolute garbage, so I hope that someday people will see that without workers, a business is nothing and can do some damage to a company that doesn’t care about nobody. I would love to see that. Sounds conniving and hateful? Oh well.

  25. June 12, 2013 2:41 pm

    D.D. sucks the big one ,
    They are a***oles , the retentive nerd that runs the one in our subdivision
    put a dumpster in behind his store and placed it to block off traffic to all
    the other stores in the strip mall , Main office could care less .do not buy from
    these corporate fascist punks .

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 3, 2013 4:48 pm

      Agreed. They also don’t give a darn about their employees and will do them dirty in a heartbeat. Take it from somebody who knows.

  26. June 17, 2013 4:06 pm

    I retract my statement , Main office told the local store to move the dumpster.
    They are not so bad . Thanks , D.D.

  27. January 5, 2014 4:36 am

    I never liked them. My sister bought me their surprisingly expensive original blend and I had the same amount of rage, if not more, as you sir!
    I love how you summed up the matter in a single line “It sucks in a way beyond simple mass American fast food chains.”

    Thank you

  28. rene permalink
    March 10, 2014 6:27 pm

    The donuts are so bad it makes me angry. I too remember growing up in the 80s, and living for the strawberry frosted. About once a year I try to relive the experience and without fail, I’m reminded how bad their donuts are. Dry, stale, tasteless. No glaze. And way overpriced.

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