Not since the days of $4 toast has a starch for sale caused so much concern as when Dunkin' Donuts announced that it would be expanding its franchises to the West Coast. Their expansion plans call for 45 new stores in Southern California by next year, and eventually 1,000 locations in the state, including Northern California.
So with the Massachusetts chain soon to descend upon us unsuspecting kale-eaters, we wanted to know one thing: Is Dunkin' Donuts, like the popularity of the Red Sox, a cruel hoax perpetrated by New England on the rest of the country to convince us that something that fundamentally sucks in fact doesn't? Or is it, like Jonathan Richman, a locally known hero that's actually pretty awesome?
We put the question to San Francisco magazine staffers and friends with firsthand Dunks experience:
Ellen Cushing, Senior Editor: America may not actually run on Dunkin', but New England definitely does, and it's actually one of the things I miss most about living in Providence—not necessarily because the coffee is great (spoiler alert: it's roughly comparable to Starbucks) but because everyone loves it for this unknown reason. It's kind of like In N Out—it's less about the actual thing than it is about the ritual, the idea, and the community. Also in most places they put cream in it for you which is wonderful in its inefficiency like how some states won't let you pump your own gas. Also I support more donuts in more places, as a general rule.
As to the donuts specifically: They have a much wider variety of flavors, and they're less sweet than, Krispy Kreme. This may be mild treason as a native Californian, but in the battle of the alliteratively named donut chains, I'd say DD wins. Also, in Rhode Island at least, a box of Dunks can defuse any situation. Nothing compares here. I also love that their color scheme is orange and pink and brown. They're so utilitarian that they can't be bothered with stuff like not having the three ugliest colors in the world.
Ted Gioia, Editorial Intern: While foodies will lament the arrival of Dunkin' Donuts on the West Coast, D&D (as I call them) will always hold a special place in my heart for feeding me breakfast for four years of college. Breakfast is not a meal for gourmets. I'll take quick, cheap, sloppy, and sugary every day of the week. And while the San Francisco snobs might call heresy, no less a luminary than Project Runway's Tim Gunn calls Dunkin' Donuts his favorite cup of coffee in New York.
Katherine Guzman, Editorial Intern: For most of my twenties in my home town of Los Angeles, I hung out with a crowd of ex-East Coasters and they ALL raved about Dunkin Donuts ALL THE TIME. And so I made a pilgrimage on my first trip to New York way back when. I remember like it was yesterday: Hugely disappointed. The coffee was flavored mud-water and the "food": How was it any different from Yum Yum Donut's? I think it's just a brand connection or a longing for the East Coast, but I can attest, that stuff is NAS-TY. You wanna talk donut obsessions? Let's talk Krispy Kremes!
Scott Lucas, Web Editor: I have no idea. Never eaten there. But my sister, who lives in Providence, said this: "Let's consider this question using Aristotle. Dunks (as it is referred to colloquially in New England) is utility coffee, not virtue coffee."
Sean Pyles, Editorial Intern: Going to school in rural Vermont leaves little to do and often little to eat. Dunkin Donuts was a beacon of donut-y hope during some of the hardest moments of college, providing the vital caffeine and doughy sugar required to finish a thesis. Now that I am Bay Area-based and hundreds of miles away from the nearest Dunkin, I am all the more appreciative the convenience and mass-produced quality that DD has to offer.