I really do like the occasional donut. I also like to see what neighborhood donut shops can do with the standard donut shop palette. I am a fan of Bob's on Polk in the Tenderloin, because after a night out in the city, they are open 24 hours and the super fresh donuts are ready to go when the bars close, especially the warm and almost gooey apple fritters that seem to go into the fryer between 1:50 am and 2:05 am (n=4 visits).
I have recently been able to check out some other 24 hour donut operations and can report back how the three stack up. The donuts checked at each place are plain cake, cinnamon and sugar cake, glazed old fashioned and glazed buttermilk, and glazed raised. My wife also claims that the plain cake with chocolate at Donut Wheel is the best she has ever had. I will say that the cake donuts at Donut Wheel in Cupertino are totally awesome.
Donuts listed in order of preference of location:
Cinnamon and sugar cake:
1) Bob's- Bob's cake donuts have a nice crust and them, while the insides are a nice balance of soft and dense (not too much of either)
2) Rolling Pin- Rolling Pin cake donuts do not have a nice cake donut crunch, and their donuts are soft and spongy. They taste pretty good, but they seem like really fresh/good versions of a Hostess donut. Possibly great for coffee dipping, but not preferred by me at all.
3) Donut Wheel- DW did not have cinnamon and sugar cake while we were there, but their cake donuts are the best of this bunch- see below.
1) Donut Wheel- light yet almost crisp, delicate crust to the donut. Absolutely fantastic. Lighter donut-y flavor of the insides.
2) Bob's- heavier crunch on outside, but not as uniform as DW, stronger flavor of inside that DW. Still really good.
3) Rolling Pin- No crunch and spongy, not my fave.
Glazed old fashioned (this donut is the best donut I think to try if you want to judge taste but might not have an absolutely fresh one to compare)
1) Bob's- great crunch, lighter glaze, slightly lemony taste, cake donut taste comes through, and the glaze does not feel greasy in the mouth.
2) Donut Wheel- good crunch but not as good as Bob's, heavier glaze, kind of coconut taste to glaze, not too greasy.
3) Rolling Pin- thick, great crunch, heavy glaze reminiscent of coconut, but also glaze and donut combine for greasy mouth feel (like you can get from apply fritters that are greasy and have a lot of glaze).
I don't love any of the glazed/raised donuts from these three spots
1) Bob's- when fresh have a nice chewiness and OK taste.
2) Rolling Pin- decent, not spectacular.
3) Donut Whee- DW raised donuts are pretty tall, and every tall raised donut I have had has been a little bready. They are OK, though.
So to sum up, Bob's for fresh apple fritters after the bar and old fashioned, Donut Wheel all the way for cake donuts. Rolling Pin if you like softer donuts.
I will try Stan's as well, but their hours are much more for the commuter and not the late nighter. Stan's glazed seem to have a great rep, but they will have to wow me on the cake for me to alter my new love affair with Donut Wheel.
1621 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109-3614
+1 415 776 3141
Rolling Pin Donuts
429 San Bruno Avenue,
San Bruno, 94066
10250 N. De Anza Blvd,
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