I love donuts. In fact, donuts are my favorite food. I might even consider myself somewhat of a donut connoisseur, but I haven’t yet compared Claremont’s donut shops head-to-head. So, I set out to compare some of the most-talked donuts to see which stood up to the hype.
I went to six different donut shops within 10 miles of the Claremont Colleges. I chose shops based on reputation, distance, price, and hours. Fellow donut lover Jenna Loesberg PZ ’18 came along so that I wouldn’t eat 12 donuts alone. At each shop, we bought: a maple bar (my favorite and an American classic); a chocolate glazed chocolate donut (Loesberg’s favorite and a true marker of a good donut maker); and whatever donut the shopkeeper recommended to us.
We started at Road Runner Donuts of Upland, a tiny walk-up window which was neither particularly welcoming nor off-putting. The chocolate glazed chocolate donut (CGCD) was very dense, and the donut itself didn’t have much chocolate flavor. Loesberg judged it “not good.” The maple bar (MB) was very dense and bready. Both had artificial tasting glazes. The shopkeeper suggested a cinnamon roll and threw in a glazed twist. Despite the letdown of the MB and CGCD, both the cinnamon roll and glazed twist impressed. The cinnamon roll was bready, not necessarily in a bad way, and the cinnamon flavor didn’t overpower. The glazed twist was light fluffy and crisp, with perfectly sweet frosting; it was Loesberg’s favorite of the day.
Christy’s Donuts on Foothill Boulevard in Upland was next. Loesberg compared the CGCD to Dunkin’ Donuts and “not in a good way,” as it was sweet, but lacking in chocolate flavor. The MB had a good fluffy texture with nice yeast structure, but not too airy. The glaze was much better than the maple glaze at Road Runner. The winner at Christy’s, though, is their specialty donut. We chose the whipped cream and strawberry-filled donut. The donut was crispy and light with a really nice glaze – filled high with whipped cream and fresh tasting strawberries. It was a big winner.
Next: Upland Donuts. The CGCD was the best so far, but still imperfect: crunchy, but not cakey and had good chocolate flavor. The MB was incredibly fluffy and tender with a wonderful doughy sweetness. The glaze was well-flavored, fresh-tasting, but thin. The shopkeeper suggested their chocolate glazed buttermilk donut to us, and it was absolutely incredible. It was crispy and crunchy with a wonderful tangy and cakey dough. They also threw in some glazed donut holes that the customer before us had forgotten. They were the same dough as the MB – very tender and fluffy.
Form there, we came closer back to campus to Pixie Donuts, in the strip mall near Vons off Baseline in Claremont. The CGCD did not have a lot of chocolate flavor, was too crunchy, very sweet, and dense. The MB had a lot of nutmeg and other spices in the dough which complimented that maple flavor well. It was cakey and dense. Pixie Donut’s specialty was their “cronut” (croissant donut). It was extremely flakey and buttery, and it was very good. However, it was rich and indulgent and hard to take more than a few bites of.
The last shop in the immediate area was Grizzby’s Biscuits and Donuts in the Claremont Village. Grizzby’s has a wide array of flavors and very few traditional flavors. Loesberg chose a salted caramel donut, as Grizzby’s lacked CGCDs. I went with a maple crumb donut. Grizzby’s was substantially more expensive than any other shop. Our totals elsewhere averaged $3 to $5 while Grizzby’s cost $10. Each donut was around $2.50. The steep price was justified, however, by the flavorings and toppings. The salted caramel was sweet, sticky, and indulgent. The maple crumb topping was similar to a cobbler topping, which was a nice addition. Where Grizzby’s falls short, however, is the donut itself. The dough is very dense, bready and oily. Despite their bougie aesthetic, they miss the mark on baking quality.
Last but not least is the donut king: Donut Man on Route 66 in Glendora. The classic 24-hour shop features a walk up window looking onto frying donuts, with more being poured onto the shelves. Their CGCD was cakey and crisp, but still not as good as Loesberg’s favorite donut shop back home. The MB was huge with very crisp edges. Donut Man’s claim to fame, though, are their strawberry and peach filled donuts: huge, round glazed donuts filled with fresh strawberries or peaches and doused in syrup. They were amazing and decadent, almost like eating a sweet bread bowl of fruit.
Loesberg’s favorite donut of the day was the glazed twist at Road Runner Donuts of Upland: expertly glazed atop a perfectly crisp and fluffy donut. My favorite was the maple bar at Upland donuts: the yeasted dough had such an amazing texture, and it was the only donut I finished. The best overall donut experience – drumroll – was Donut Man. The dough frying right before your eyes, the incredible smell, expansive selection, and access off Route 66 at any time of day or night makes for a classic American donut experience.