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Taste Test: The intern and the food critic on the Doughnut Vault

Is the relative energy required to obtain boutique doughnuts proportional to one's appreciation of them?

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Location: 401 N. Franklin,

Hypothesis: The relative energy required to obtain boutique doughnuts is proportional to one's appreciation of them.

Subjects: The Doughnut Vault's buttermilk old-fashioned, chestnut glazed, vanilla glazed, chocolate-vanilla glazed, and gingerbread stack (that's three smaller unglazed cake doughnuts for the price of one).

Abstract: Seniority has its privileges. Last Wednesday food writer Mike Sula had a late night at Next (see review) and the Aviary, and the following morning while he was sleeping it off, Reader intern Asher Klein had his back. At 8:25 Klein was waiting in the second-longest line in town, at the Doughnut Vault, the cash-only takeaway hole-in-the-wall from Brendan Sodikoff (Gilt Bar, Maude's Liquor Bar), where the queue stretches around the corner and the $2 to $3 hand-formed dunkers typically sell out before noon. Klein successfully secured a dozen, making it possible for the day's work to be done, and we thought it would be instructive to evaluate the fried dough from two perspectives: that of the patient unpaid intern who stood in line (with an upset stomach to boot), and that of the hungover food critic who rolled into the office at noon in his bathrobe.

Criteria Food Critic Intern
Dimensions Two reasonable appetites should be satisfied by one glazed. I got up at 7:30 AM and I get half a doughnut? I don't think so, boss. Eating two wouldn't disappoint, unless it's just two glazeds.
Shelf life These doughnuts are at least three hours old. The crunchy buttermilk and gingerbread have some life, but the yeasted glazed are over. And why didn't the kid bring coffee? It's from Metropolis. The gingerbread was crisp on the outside, moist on the inside; the glazed were still fluffy. A guy in the line told me that ones he'd eaten in the afternoon were still some of the best doughnuts he'd had in his life, so it sounds like they keep at least for a short time.
Overall delectability The fully dimensional vanilla glaze is fully flattened when smothered by the chocolate and jimmies. Nice mounting spice in the gingerbread. Buttermilk leaves me cold. It's better than Dunkin' Donuts for sure, but not by an order of magnitude. I realized that I've never actually had a truly life-changing doughnut.
Originality The candied-chestnut-studded glaze is a modern improvement on textbook maple. But besides that, why did I wake up again? The aftertaste of the gingerbread was so surprising I laughed. But it's the tiny store with the speakeasy feel and ghetto-blaster music that I really enjoyed.
Worth the wait? At 8 AM it's a 60-minute round trip from downtown to Old Fashioned Donuts (11248 S. Michigan, 773-995-7420) in Roseland, where they're $8.50 a dozen. Next time send the kid there and the money saved covers cab fare. I don't think I'd go again that early, but I was happy to see the place once. Beware that if you send the intern, he might just enjoy it more than you.

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