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Donut madness: Bob's, Rolling Pin, Donut Wheel

I really do like the occasional donut. I also like to see what neighborhood donut shops can do with the standard donut shop palette. I am a fan of Bob's on Polk in the Tenderloin, because after a night out in the city, they are open 24 hours and the super fresh donuts are ready to go when the bars close, especially the warm and almost gooey apple fritters that seem to go into the fryer between 1:50 am and 2:05 am (n=4 visits).

I have recently been able to check out some other 24 hour donut operations and can report back how the three stack up. The donuts checked at each place are plain cake, cinnamon and sugar cake, glazed old fashioned and glazed buttermilk, and glazed raised. My wife also claims that the plain cake with chocolate at Donut Wheel is the best she has ever had. I will say that the cake donuts at Donut Wheel in Cupertino are totally awesome.

Donuts listed in order of preference of location:

Cinnamon and sugar cake:

1) Bob's- Bob's cake donuts have a nice crust and them, while the insides are a nice balance of soft and dense (not too much of either)
2) Rolling Pin- Rolling Pin cake donuts do not have a nice cake donut crunch, and their donuts are soft and spongy. They taste pretty good, but they seem like really fresh/good versions of a Hostess donut. Possibly great for coffee dipping, but not preferred by me at all.
3) Donut Wheel- DW did not have cinnamon and sugar cake while we were there, but their cake donuts are the best of this bunch- see below.

Plain cake:

1) Donut Wheel- light yet almost crisp, delicate crust to the donut. Absolutely fantastic. Lighter donut-y flavor of the insides.
2) Bob's- heavier crunch on outside, but not as uniform as DW, stronger flavor of inside that DW. Still really good.
3) Rolling Pin- No crunch and spongy, not my fave.

Glazed old fashioned (this donut is the best donut I think to try if you want to judge taste but might not have an absolutely fresh one to compare)

1) Bob's- great crunch, lighter glaze, slightly lemony taste, cake donut taste comes through, and the glaze does not feel greasy in the mouth.
2) Donut Wheel- good crunch but not as good as Bob's, heavier glaze, kind of coconut taste to glaze, not too greasy.
3) Rolling Pin- thick, great crunch, heavy glaze reminiscent of coconut, but also glaze and donut combine for greasy mouth feel (like you can get from apply fritters that are greasy and have a lot of glaze).

Glazed raised:
I don't love any of the glazed/raised donuts from these three spots

1) Bob's- when fresh have a nice chewiness and OK taste.
2) Rolling Pin- decent, not spectacular.
3) Donut Whee- DW raised donuts are pretty tall, and every tall raised donut I have had has been a little bready. They are OK, though.

So to sum up, Bob's for fresh apple fritters after the bar and old fashioned, Donut Wheel all the way for cake donuts. Rolling Pin if you like softer donuts.

I will try Stan's as well, but their hours are much more for the commuter and not the late nighter. Stan's glazed seem to have a great rep, but they will have to wow me on the cake for me to alter my new love affair with Donut Wheel.

Bob's Donuts
1621 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109-3614
+1 415 776 3141

Rolling Pin Donuts
429 San Bruno Avenue,
San Bruno, 94066
650.589.9687

Donut Wheel
10250 N. De Anza Blvd,
Cupertino, 95014
408.252.8193

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  1. This is good stuff and you certainly have your thoughts on donuts. I like an occasional donut as well but don't have any idea where to find one. I live in the city. Have you ever tried an All Star donut? Are they any good? I prefer a regular glazed donut or old fashioned glazed. Any recommendations you could offer?

    1 Reply
    1. re: poulet_roti

      You know, I actually have been to All Star, but only once. I had a glazed old fashioned and it was OK, but a little greasy feeling. If you get over to Bob's (on Polk in the Tenderloin), I think they have the best old-fashioned glazed, and this is the one to compare to- All Star's old-fashioned were closer to DW and Rolling Pin- quite sweet.

    2. Pic of awesome cake donut at Donut Wheel-

      http://farm1.static.flickr.com/185/40...

      Note the nice, delicate crusty outside.

      1. I really like the place in my neighborhood, Eagle Donuts. I think their donuts in general are of very good quality. It's 3303 Mission (29th & Mission). I think their sign says they open at 5:30 AM, but I've seen them open much earlier than that as I was driving by on my way to catch an early flight at SFO. I believe they close at 7:00 PM. The woman at the front counter routinely works a 14-hour day, yet manages to remain cheerful throughout.

        1. Great write-up. I'll have to try Donut Wheel. I'll probably be down that way to do my Easter food shopping. Also nice to know when to score hot dunuts at Bob's.

          Another good 24 hour donut shop is Andy's Donuts in Richmond
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/37009

          I was re-reading an old post ... it isn't 24 hours but Bear Claw Bakery in Pinole makes a fine cake donut. They are plump and tender and have a good crumb with a delicious chocolate topping.

          Another not 24 hour place ... last chance to get donuts at La Fayette in San Rafael. This bakery that has a great selection of made from scratch donuts ... including real French beneights ... closes in April.

          Last opporunity to see what a real raised glazed donut tasted like ... yeasty and not just light flavorless Krispy Kreme air... at La Fayette they don't need to be warm to taste good. Believe it or not, at one time the glaze was just the ... well, icing on the donut ... unlike KK where the donut is there to frame the icing. At La Fayette it is about the donut and not the sugar. After eating the donut at La Fayette, for the first time I was angry about KK.

          And donut forget ... March 19th, St. Joseph's day is coming ... zepolle day at Italian bakeries. Victoria has the best ... so decadant ... follewed closely by Emporio Rulli

          2 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            I always remembered being able to have randomly delicious raised donuts from grocery store bakeries, where they were lighter but with some chewier substance than a KK, and the glaze would not overpower. KK is great for what it is but I think it is squeezing out some classic and different raised donut goodness. I will make a special trip to La Fayette.

            1. re: P. Punko

              You can always take the San Rafael bridge and hit the 580 23rd St exit for a side-trip to Andy's

              La Fayette opens at 5 am and is closed Sunday
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/366795

          2. Here's Bob's donut schedule:

            10pm-1130pm Buttermilk Old Fashioned French and Cake donuts
            1230pm-2pm All the varieties of Raised Dough, Apple Fritters being last

            Nothing beats a fresh out of the fryer donut from Bob's!

            2 Replies
            1. re: anna

              I think those are a.m. times for the last, and that totally fits my observations!

              1. re: P. Punko

                You're probably right. I copied that for the owner's post on Yelp and didn't pay attention to that. Thanks for pointing that out.