Trays of iced donuts at Strange Donuts (Michael Melinger)
Trays of iced donuts at Strange Donuts

Michael Melinger

Donuts of STL

We came. We saw. We ate.

September 16, 2017

Vincent Van Doughnut
★★★☆☆ | 40 N. Central Ave, Clayton

Named after one of the greatest impressionists of all time, we expected Vincent Van Doughnut to have an artistic feel. Walking into the store, we were immediately greeted by a nice, cozy, hipster atmosphere. The donuts were magnificently presented behind glass panels, and the simple wood floors complemented the off-white walls.

Another unique aspect of the store became apparent quickly: the price. It usually isn’t hard to find a good donut for one dollar or less. However, at Vincent Van Doughnut, all of the donuts are above $2.50, some even entering the three-to-four dollar range.

The donuts themselves certainly lived up to Van Gogh’s name. Vincent Van Doughnut is known for its unique square donuts, each meticulously handcrafted to look like it could belong in one of Van Gogh’s paintings. The shop possesses a wide variety of donuts with somewhat unusual flavors, from “Maple Bacon” to “Cheesecake Cookie Crumble”. Each donut has a unique aesthetic feel, whether it is drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs or covered in a generous layer of powdered sugar. The square shape also adds to the unique atmosphere of the shop.

The donuts’ appearances set the bar high for our expectations of taste. While the donuts certainly were good, they fell a bit short of this standard. Each donut did have a soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture. They were a little bit thicker than I liked, but overall they were still pretty tasty. However, though Vincent Van Donut boasted a wide variety of flavors, these flavors often got lost and didn’t blend together well. The maple bacon, for example, just tasted like maple syrup. As far as I could tell, the bacon’s only contribution was a slight crunch. The chocolate chips in the chocolate chip donut didn’t work very well with the texture and just made it overall more difficult to eat. The french toast had a more synthesized taste and really tasted nothing like actual french toast.

Due to its close proximity to the high school, Vincent Van Donut is a great option if you want a quick bite during your lunch period. However, each day they make a limited amount and often sell out in the early afternoon.



World’s Fair Donuts

★★★★☆ | 1904 S. Vandeventer Ave, St. Louis

One of St. Louis’s most iconic bakeries, World’s Fair Donuts has a strange atmosphere. The small, mostly undecorated white building seemed to stay in the time period of its namesake: 1904. Three elderly workers manage the entire store, slowly walking around behind the counter, rudely serving the donuts. The mechanical cash register with giant, typewriter keys only adds to the eerie civil-war-era ambience.

At noon on Sundays, the store is empty except the three workers. Come just a few hours earlier, however, and there will be a weaving line out the door in the small, jammed building. Most of these customers frequent World’s Fair Donuts, and this popularity comes for a reason.

Our second favorite location, World’s Fair’s glazed donuts had the doughy, slightly chewy bite desired in a donut. The outer glaze gave a good balance of sweetness with the dough, adding just enough flavor. This first bite took us all off guard, though; so much butter in one donut overwhelmed the experience with richness and almost ruined the donut. By the second bite, however, the sweetness returned and marked the greatness of World’s Fair Donuts.

The powdered donut we tried came with the same texture as the glazed but without the richness of the butter. It was a pleasant experience.

While we were too sick to try the rest, World’s Fair covers all of the classic donut flavors. From Kruller to Long John to Apple Fritter, World’s Fair makes them all. Despite this, the store lacks unique flavors and variety beyond the classic, matching the 20th century America feel of the whole experience.

Not exceptionally cheap or expensive, the donuts priced in around one dollar. The store is located by Tower Grove Park, a little out of the way for a club meeting donut run.

Overall, the store sold some great donuts but an odd experience. Weirdest of all – World’s Fair Donuts does not make all of their own donuts. A van labeled with “Pharoah’s Donuts,” a store in downtown St. Louis, backed up to World’s Fair and emptied trays into the back. When approached, the van’s driver dodged answering questions.



Donut Drive In

★★★★★ | 6525 Chippewa St, St. Louis

Tucked between Ted Drewes and the Hill, Donut Drive-In has become a local dessert favorite among St. Louis locals. Thus, the shop was a must-stop on our tour for the best donuts in the city.

As we pulled into the parking lot, we struggled to get a parking spot given the popularity and the extremely constrained parking. When we finally got out of the car, the line actually ran outside the doors of the cramped shop. The cashier was quite friendly and gave great recommendations on donuts. We ordered a glazed and marble donut with a cinnamon twist, which were each around one dollar. Since there wasn’t a great spot to sit down and eat, we walked to a small stone table nearby to dig in.    

We began our tasting with the classic glazed donut. After taking one bite, the first observation we made was in the unique texture of the donut; first, there was a light, crispy exterior followed by a soft, extremely satisfying chew. While other donuts have a monotonous, soft, doughy bite, the Donut Drive-In donut offered textural diversity in each mouthful that made the experience that much more interesting. In addition, the glaze was delightful and definitely not saccharine.

The cinnamon twist offered the same awesome slight crunch on the outside, but also added a punch of cinnamon that gave a warm, hearty flavor to the dessert. The group agreed that this was the best donut of the day.

While the marble donut looked delectable, we were disappointed by it. Although the other donuts were light and delicious, the icing on the marble donut was overwhelming, overly sweet and failed to offer the same experience as the other two flavors. Nevertheless, we still highly recommend Donut Drive-In if you just need a delicious donut.



Strange Donuts

★★☆☆☆ | 2709 Sutton Blvd, Maplewood

The next stop on the tour was Strange Donuts, located in Maplewood. The decor was simple and modern, adorned with only blue walls and a glass display full of donuts. The staff was very inviting, friendly and easy to converse with. Each donuts was fairly cheap at around one dollar, and the donuts themselves looked aesthetically beautiful.

After ordering the recommendation of the glazed and the gooey butter cake flavored donuts, we looked for a place to enjoy these sweets. Like the other locations except for Vincent Van Doughnut, the shop did not offer seating, so we decided to eat on a small staircase nearby.

We first bit into the glazed donut and became instantly disappointed. In contrast with the light, fluffy consistency of the other donuts, this donut was extremely dense and dry. Unlike the fried, yeasty delectable treats we found at the other locations, we found these donuts to be little more than slightly sweetened loaves of bread. Not only was the consistency not up to the standard set by the other shops, the icing on the glazed donut was flavorless as not enough sugar was added. Had we wanted something so thick and bland, we could have gone to our backyards and dug up some clay.

The next donut we tried was the recommended gooey butter donut. Again, it was not light at all and boasted a sickly sweet, synthesized flavor accompanied with a dull and doughy texture. The donut was even more egregiously bad than the glazed. It seemed that Strange Donuts was tasting more like deranged donuts.

Overall, while the staff was great and really casual and the decor was solid and streamlined, the donuts easily fell out of standing for the best donuts in St. Louis. Perhaps the donuts were just not to our taste, but we thoroughly disliked the desserts. If you enjoy very cakey donuts, Strange Donuts may be for you. If not, there are easily better options for delicious donuts that cost the same, are closer to Clayton and taste better.


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