Chicago Donut Fest 2018
BREAKING NEWS…DONUT FESTIVALS ARE REAL. Just like Sasquatch and Loch Ness, they exist.
The Chicago donut scene is rivaled by few others, so it was only fitting that the 5th annual Chicago Donut Fest be the first donut festival donutsunplugged.com chose to attend. Ok…that’s not entirely true.
DonutsUnplugged.com planned to attend and sponsor of the Los Angeles Donut Festival in 2017, but due to permitting and other issues, it was canceled just one week prior to the event. We made the trip to LA anyway, and the donut gods smiled down upon us that fateful Saturday morning, as they arranged for us to meet one of the greatest donut legends of all time – Stan Berman. But that’s a story for another time…
Where were we? Oh, Chicago. Yes, the 5th annual Chicago Donut Fest to be held Jan 28 at the Chop Shop’s 1st Ward venue in Wicker Park, just a couple miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Chicago in January?! Yep, we flew to the windy city in the dead of winter and once again the donut gods saw it fit to bless us with non-life-threatening weather.
After settling into our room at The Blackstone Hotel and seeing some sights Friday, we explored a handful of local donut shops on Saturday morning, you know, just to prime the pump for Sunday’s festivities. That handful included Stan’s Donuts, Firecakes, Do-Rite, Beaver’s, Dat Donut, and Old Fashioned Donuts. Like I said, prime the pump.
Our plan was to get up early Sunday morning and knock out some fasted cardio prior to engaging in the carb-coma inducing consumption of Chicago’s finest donuts. Safe to say that didn’t happen. The VIP early entry time of 8am to the Chicago Donut Fest proved too much for our hey-we-don’t-have-kids-and-we-can-sleep-in mentality that struck as soon as we landed at ORD. Time for plan B.
Rolled out of bed and made it to the Chop Shop with 5 minutes to spare. The line to get in wasn’t bad, and started moving shortly after we arrived. Once inside, the super cool Chicago Donut Fest peeps handed us a purple schwag bag, branded coffee mug, a string of numbered tickets, and a paper food tray to help carry your selections, which was nice considering they confiscated my wheel barrow at the door.
The Chop Shop venue was packed with tables for 12 donut shops, 5 coffee shops, and a bunch of OTHER PEOPLE! Does VIP really stand for Virtually Innumerable Persons? We moved through the crowd and quickly understood the wisdom behind their ingenious ticketing system. You give a numbered ticket to the corresponding numbered donut shop, and they give you a donut. Easy! No shock therapy required.
Donut shops (including non-donut shops offering donuts) in attendance included: Longman & Eagle, DeEta’s Bakery, Roeser’s Bakery, D&D’s Place, Gurnee Donuts, GBD Cakes & Sweets, West Town Bakery, Ipsento Coffee Roasters, Doughnut Vault, Firecakes Donuts, Stan’s Donuts Chicago, and Bon Appétit. Some offered whole donuts and while others gave portions, but in the end the harvest proved plentiful.
Enough chit-chat already, how were the donuts?!?! Well, they ranged from choke-it-down to life-changing, and everywhere in between. On the disappointing end was (sadly) one offering from Stan’s Donuts – a chocolate covered mini donut that could have easily been a stunt double for the chocolate Hostess mini donut at the gas station.
Too harsh? Let me be clear, this was EXACTLY the same assessment that multiple people made after taking a bite. Stan’s Donuts did, however, redeem themselves with a creation that landed firmly on the life-changing end of the spectrum, their ‘Le Stan” Croissant Donut. Incredible texture and flavor, winning the judges Best Donut Filling trophy.
On the life-changing side of things was Ipsento Coffee Roasters offering of a hibiscus-glazed sweet potato donut topped with a candied pistachio, the cookies and cream bismark from Doughnut Vault, the expresso creme filled doughssant from West Town Bakery, and the blueberry cake donut hole from Roeser’s Bakery.
As we lingered around the venue watching others partake, we chatted with @poweredbydoughnuts, and stayed long enough to witness the onslaught of the 10am General Admission. We immediately felt better about the VIP crowd as it was half as big as what showed up at 10am.
Looking back, the event was a huge success – well attended, well organized, and the donut shop scene was strongly represented. Hats off to Rebecca and Alyssa for putting on a very memorable donut festival, donutsunplugged.com will be back next year! Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about my wheel barrow…
The envelope please…
First place: Firecakes
2nd runner-up: Ipsento
First place: D&D’s Place
Runner-up: West Town Bakery
2nd runner-up: Firecakes
Best in show
Gurnee Donuts, Best Cake Doughnut
Stan’s Donuts, Best Filling
GBD Cakes & Sweets, Most Creative
West Town Bakery, Most Attractive
Roeser’s Bakery, Best Raised
D&D’s Place, Best Classic