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The Best Donuts in the Planet are in East Boston...

  • h

Seeing the recent donut exchanges, I simply had to put out here again in Chowhound-land- the Betty Ann Food Shop in East Boston, since 1931 (565 Bennington St.,open MORNINGS ONLY, closed Mondays, 617-567-1479)- their jelly donuts make other jelly donuts seem like they are made of play-do and sawdust! Theirs are oh so yeasty, soft and fragrant with really good quality jam in it (homemade? or atleast from a very excellent bottle). On Fridays they make their most extraordinary lemon donuts, and also long versions as twists. The lemon filling is gentle and not too sweet, this is true about the jelly too not too sweet. Apparantly, on Saturdays they have baked beans- going back to that time and world where the bakeries had the good ovens around and people would get a lot of their ritualistic and weekly foods, including bread, from their bakery- also, very nice in the summers to not have to turn your own ovens on and get slow-cooked baked beans et al. Be warned that when looking for Betty Ann's that it is a very non-descript place, it is across from the school - it is just a storefront but the people who work there and the donuts they make are incomparable- soothingly wonderful- everything a donut should be!!!! Please Chowhoundies make the trip, it is really worth it! Enjoy!!!!...

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  1. I heartily second that recommendation! And many times you can get them still warm, which is even more delicious. They have pretty good scones (the dry, biscuity kind) and excellent fig and lemon squares. You can't bet the prices either.

    1. I could not agree more. I went to High School just up the street, and that place has contributed more pounds to my waist line than I would ever like to admit.

      I graduated H.S. in 1993 and in 92 they raised the prices of donuts from $0.20 to $0.25 I am sure they are still a deal.

      Worth the trip no matter where you come from!

      1. Someone mentioned Betty Ann's this week (sorry, can't remember who) so we gave it a try this weekend. I'm sold, these are great donuts. Very old fashioned, and taste homemade. They remind me of Mother Hubbard's in Southie, which was my favorite until they closed years ago. The donuts are smaller than most donut shops, and don't feel mass produced. The Jelly donuts were slightly warm in the center, and the texture was just wonderful. The sugar-dipped stick donut had a crisp exterior, with a soft, cinnamon-nutmeg cake interior. We'll definitely be back.

        Betty Ann Food Shop
        565 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

        4 Replies
        1. re: Chris VR

          I like a guilty pleasure filled or dipped as well as the next hound, but do they make any donut, donuts, ie, cake style?

          1. re: Harp00n

            From what I gather, they make 3 types of donuts- a plain cake donut, a sugar coated cake donut and a yeast-dough jelly donut. I don't think they have any dipped donuts. Give it a try but go early-- from what I've read, they run out pretty quickly. Hubby was the one who went and he said it was a TINY non descript bakery. He said the pies also looked really good and plans to pick one up next time he goes.

            1. re: Chris VR

              Thanks Chris VR.
              I'll be interested to see how they stack-up against my favorite, and certainly a lot of other Hounds', Kane's Doughnut House.


              Kane's Doughnut House
              120 Lincoln Ave, Saugus, MA 01906

              1. re: Harp00n

                This is a different donut than Kane's, which for me these days has by surpassed by Demet's and Donuts with a Difference. I've loved Kane's for years but of the past 4 times we've been, 3 of the times we got donuts that felt stale, or maybe they were just overcooked. They were dry and crunchy (not crunchy in a good way). I can't really describe it- maybe it's the paper bag they put them in versus the box, or maybe it's the almost round jelly donut, but there's something about Betty Ann's that feels more homemade, more "real".

                Demet's Donuts
                199 Mystic Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                Donuts With A Difference
                35 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

        2. Made the trip to Betty Ann's yesterday (Sat) and what it trip it was-- like a journey back in time. The shop is like a movie set bake shop circa 1940, with old wood and glass display cases, cash registers with keys like old typewriters and numbers that poke up on tabs displayed in the glass viewer across the top, spools of thread mounted overhead for wrapping boxes,(although the donuts are packed in brown paper bags) depression era green painted woodwork, tongue and groove wooden ceiling, large, round center mounted chrome rimmed clock.....it was magical and I think I enjoyed the setting more than the donuts which are just as others have described here.

          They only make 5 varieties, jelly, lemon cruller, sugar dusted raised, plain, and sugar dusted crullers.(granulated, not powdered) Yes, the jelly were warm and we had to smell that heavenly scent all the way to the Cape. It was torture! Indeed, they are old timey, old school confections, confirmed by the folks we shared them with who are in the senior years of life and said that they were just what they remembered bake shop donuts of their childhood to be (1940-50's) I on the other hand don't think I've ever had this type before and I feel like I need to develop an entirely different criteria for judging these as they are so unlike my favorites from places like Kane's and D wth a D.

          Be forewarned, they only have donuts on weekends, no other baked goods unless they are day old. There were a few scones (just as described above and not quite my cup of tea) and brownines (didn't try) The cases were literally empty (5-6 of them) and the donuts were served from the back, with a few on trays on counters behind the display cases.

          Now, my curiousity is piqued and I feel that I must go back to check out the other goodies but I'd love some advice from those of you who are familiar with the place. Just how expansive is the selection of baked goods during the week? Got a list of items they bake but I get the feeling not everything is available everyday, sort of whatever the baker feels like making today type of place. Again, the selection has a back in time feel to it and the prices to match. A dozen donuts is $4.80, squares-.40, pies $5, cinnamon buns .60 and cakes $3-6!!

          So, I will return on a weekday next time (and that's a challenge because they are only open 7:30-10:30 and I hope to be armed with advice from my fellow CHs. Oh yeah, leave your pennies at home. Handwritten signs around the place announce NO PENNIES!

          2 Replies
          1. re: tweetie

            Wow, what a great report tweetie!
            I know you do a fair amount of posting on the home cooking board but we need more Boston/New England posts please.


            1. re: tweetie

              Great report- I'd also be interested to hear reports on the other baked goods. Hubby said they also sell baked beans for lunch on Saturdays.

            2. oh you must try the jelly and cake donuts at Ohlin's in Belmont!

              1. Went to Betty Ann based on this thread - as a donut connoisseur, I have to agree - the best I've had. Thanks for letting this non-native in on the secret!

                4 Replies
                1. re: ggbeantown

                  Although it's a pain to get over to Eastie, I'll check out Betty Anns. Also wanted to plug Donuts with a Difference in Medford, on the same block as Chili Garden. And if you are ever in Monterey, CA, check out Red's Donuts, which is right in the downtown area. It's similiar to DWD, a long counter with some stools, althougher the stools are tall rather than short!

                  1. re: JohnnyQ1960

                    Personally, I prefer Donuts with a Difference to Betty Ann's. Sure, it doesn't have the utter-bare-bones appeal of Betty Ann's, but I prefer the style of donut. I found Betty Ann's raised donuts (e.g. jelly, lemon) to be too chewy, almost tough, even, and they were dead fresh, so that wasn't the issue. The standout at Betty Ann's for me were the crullers, with a nice crunchy exterior and tender interior.

                    1. re: JohnnyQ1960

                      as it turns out, my Mom is in Monterey right now and will be flying back tomorrow. i called her and told her to pick up some donuts for me at Red's. thanks for the tip!!

                      1. re: craveyummyfood

                        Glad to help and hope you enjoy Red's. Hopefully she gets there early before they sell out. Full disclosure: I've never met a donut I didn't like, other than Dunkin. The other great thing about Monterey is the municipality has an amazing healthclub (including deep water lap pool) where you can pay $10 per diem and work off Red's donuts.

                  2. Yes, I think Betty Ann is the last bakery in eastern Massachusetts that still prepares the canonical dish on Saturdays. I had a friend who lived on Byron Street who told me about this.

                    One thing I've wondered is whether they *receive* customer pots of beans to bake. My Mom grew up in the 1920s and 30s in Bridgeport, CT, and one her jobs was bringing the pot of beans - that my grandmother had prepped - to the bakery for baking when the ovens were done with the day's active baking (of course, this was in the days when bakeries started baking in the wee hours - in the NY area into the present generation, bakeries opened before 5AM, some even earlier, though I've never seen that in the Boston area).

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Karl S

                      I've bought bread at the back door at Iggy's (in the old location) a 3:00 am on the way back from a late night...

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        That's exception in these parts. Bread n'Bits of Ireland in Melrose is open at 5AM.

                        Where I grew on on Long Island, the lines for the bakeries before 6AM on Christmas morning were very long. Here, bakeries open on Christmas are either rare or non-existent. I've just never found the kind of bakery culture here I associate with German/Central European style bakeries in other parts of the country.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          I remember sneaking off the porch when we'd sleep outside in the summer and meeting the boys at the bakery in Springfield VT for fresh donuts. Too bad they got shut down cuz of some icky health issues and the next food place failed. Who knows what it is now. I still long for Grand Union sour cream donuts which were as good as the bakery but they got taken over by Shaw's, sigh.

                        2. re: StriperGuy

                          I'm getting an 80's flashback...Michael J. Fox as the coke-head Jamie Conway in Bright Lights Big City...Jamie trading his sunglasses for a loaf of fresh baked bread...watching the sun rise and deciding to start his life all over again... :-)

                        3. re: Karl S

                          I have purchased bread and the like from Bova's in the North End at 2:30 or 3:00am a few times.

                          1. re: TomH

                            Yes, that's among the exceptions. But in other places, that would have been the norm.

                            1. re: TomH

                              bova's was open 24 hours in the past.

                            2. re: Karl S

                              I biked by Verna's last Friday at 1 a.m.; the kitchen door was open and boy did it smell like donuts... I decided it would be rude to drop in, though.

                              1. re: djd

                                Rude, nonsense. Lonely baker at 1:00am with a fan saying how much they love the donuts... next time knock on the back door.

                              2. re: Karl S

                                Away from Boston, but there are lines late into the summer night at Back Door Donuts in Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard - and they are good.
                                Love to see the look of the illicit glinting in the eyes of so many adults sneaking into a shadowy parking lot ... for fresh donuts.

                              3. So I was going to get some donuts at Betty Ann's for my son's 2nd birthday breakfast party (mostly for the parents as the party is at a playground with a water spray) I just realized they are away on Vacation....where should I go? I live in Eastie and the party in on a Sat at 10am

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: kochmm

                                  Demets and Donuts With a Difference, both in Medford, are pretty high up i my book, as well as Kane's on a good day.

                                  1. re: kochmm

                                    Verna's in Cambridge, or in a pinch Linda's or Ohlin's in Belmont.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                      Surprised you mentioned Ohlin's favorably - I have tried that place on several occasions over the years - I really have not found a single item they make that was redeemable. But I would forget how I disliked it and stop by again, and found that nothing was good again. Not necessarily donuts, though I think I've tried theirs - what am I missing?

                                      Wholeheartedly endorse Verna's and Linda's.

                                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                        You are not far from the mark, 70% of what Ohlin's makes is pretty lame, but some things are good:

                                        The apple fritters
                                        Donuts in general, particularly apple cider donuts in the fall and the maple glazed plain crullers not bad either
                                        Some of their breads are okay including the not very eggy challah

                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                          The one time I got an old fashioned donut at Ohlin's, it was great. I didn't see maple frosted, I'll be back for that (if it's on a cake donut, not glazed).

                                          1. re: Joanie

                                            Had a coconut donut at Ohlin's today, and some sugar cookies. Cookies, meh, nothing special. The dpnut, however was one of the airiest, lightest cake donuts I've ever had. They had plenty of varieties, so I'll have to check them ot again sometime.

                                            1. re: kimfair1

                                              I'm telling ya, Ohlin's donuts are generally worthy.

                                  2. i recently tried betty ann food shop for the first time and had a wonderful old fashioned style donut. light, sweet, and filled with just the right amount of tart raspberry jelly

                                    1. Stopped by for my first Betty Ann's (after 3 1/2 years in Eastie!) and alas! They were on vacation until early Sept - but looking in, I felt like I had gone back in time sixty years...

                                      Also found out, the oldest Jewish in these parts (1844!) is around the corner!! And soon to have it's own exhibition hall - Click on my screen name and email me for more info!

                                      1. Here's a link to a great article on them from edible boston. I still haven't gone yet but I drool every time I read this.


                                        1. Since hearing about this place, I've been going over every Saturday morning for the best donuts in the world. I tried the danish and coffee rolls, but didn't really care for them, I'll have to try a pie next!
                                          Nobody ever mentions Doughboy Donuts on Dorchester Ave, across from the T yards.
                                          Really good donuts, I think they are much better than Demets or Donuts With A Difference.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: janzy

                                            I just saw this place again when I was riding the #9. So it's worth checking out?

                                            1. re: janzy

                                              Where is Doughboy Donuts? Is that Southie? BTW, I can't stand Demet's, but I love Donuts with a Difference. I like some of the donuts at Betty Ann's---the plain cruller in particular, but couldn't stand the lemon-filled or jelly-filled.