Is it possible Chicago has achieved peak gourmet doughnut saturation? A question like that implies that there is such a thing as too many doughnuts, which is simply not the case. (Except maybe during Donut Fest, when a visitor caught unprepared may attempt to eat a dozen in an hour.) Anyway, there are still many pockets of Chicago that have not yet been graced with a bakery that produces fresh doughnuts. Until recently, one of those pockets was Old Town.
On the surface, it would seem logical that a neighborhood that has both a SoulCycle and a Pure Barre would have little room for doughnuts, but then again, what’s the point of all that exercising if you can’t reward yourself every now and again? And Doodle’s Doughnuts, which opened this spring on Wells Street, has not just doughnuts and coffee, but also bacon. In other words, it promises three of the greatest things known to humankind (outside, of course, of an exercise high).
And it more or less delivers.
Let’s begin with the bacon, which comes in four different varieties: smoky, candied, honey-sriracha, and ginger-curry. The slices are thick and cooked to the optimal texture of crispy on the edges and juicy and chewy in the middle. This is not sad, brittle steam-table bacon that shatters as soon as you pick it up. This is bacon to be savored. It’s definitely worth trying out the different flavors, especially the ginger-curry, which has a nice kick to it and balances out the rich porkiness of the bacon.
And now the coffee. It’s from Metropolis. It’s properly brewed and served at the appropriate temperature, which makes it a perfect foil for the bacon and, especially, the doughnuts. (At a doughnut shop, coffee should play a supporting role, to enhance the doughnuts. It should not be center stage.)
And, finally, the doughnuts. I had a plain old-fashioned in the shop. It was a nice combination of craggy-crisp and moist, and, along with the bacon and coffee, made for a perfect breakfast. The staff were cheerful and friendly, which should be expected of people who spend their lives surrounded by bacon and doughnuts and coffee, but is not always the case. I also had a lovely conversation with a fellow patron about the glory of bacon.
Afterward, I brought a half-dozen doughnuts back to Reader world headquarters, where my coworkers made quick work of them. It was generally agreed that all varieties were delicious. They hadn’t grown stale in transit, and they maintained their structural integrity. They also tasted good—even the gluten-free blueberry-lemon. A gluten-intolerant coworker carved that one into quadrants, virtuously intending to share, but ended up devouring all four pieces herself. It’s hard, she noted, to find a gluten-free doughnut that actually tastes like a doughnut instead of like cardboard.
Maple bacon is part of the arsenal of every self-respecting doughnut shop these days, but Doodle’s, it was agreed, produces an especially fine salty-sweet specimen. (It helped that the bacon came in pieces instead of one long strip, which made it easier to divide among several people.) The Samoa, based on the caramel-and-coconut Girl Scout cookie, also received a great deal of love. There was more ambivalence about the plain glazed. “It tastes like a Krispy Kreme!” reported one coworker. When pressed, she said that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but also not very special.
Doodle’s signature doughnut is the Doodle, a chocolate- or vanilla-filled Bismarck with white glaze. It comes with a small packet of icing that a customer can use to, well, doodle on top. An artistically minded and steady-handed coworker took control of the icing packet and drew a doughnut on top of the doughnut (“Very meta!” more than one person said), but everyone dismissed the whole thing as just a gimmick. I think, though, that if I were seven years old again, I would quite enjoy it, especially if I got to sit at the long table in the middle of the shop that’s been painted with blackboard paint and stocked with chalk. For this reason alone, if I were responsible for a child for a day, I’d choose Doodle’s above every other doughnut shop in the city.
Doodle’s Doughnuts, 1419 N. Wells, 312-631-3339, doodlesdoughnuts.com