• Donut Vending Machine

    When visiting the awesome Can Can Wonderland recently, I walked down the hallway to head downstairs when I saw a sign with a donut on it.

    Naturally, I got excited.

    As I kept walking, I realized that it wasn’t a bakery, but a donut vending machine called The Donut Trap. I had heard that this existed before, but honestly I’d forgotten about it and didn’t remember where it was located.

    Turns out there are two locations of The Donut Trap’s machines: the same building as Can Can Wonderland/BlackStack Brewing in Minneapolis, and the Roseville Mall. The origins of the machine, from what I understand it, are the brainchild of Bradley Taylor, the owner of Sssdude-Nutz — a shop previously located in Dinkytown near the U of M campus that eventually became a food truck. I never made it to that shop before it closed, but its donuts and its marketing always intrigued me. (The names of the donuts include “Girls Luv Beyonce,” “Ferrari Fat Boi,” “Oprah’s Money” and more unique titles.) So when I stumbled on The Donut Trap, I was excited.

    There’s a screen that shows all the available donuts — and the selection is ample. There were around 15 kinds of donuts available when I was there, each packaged individually in a box inside the machine. You make your selection and pay, and then the machine gently dispenses your donut to you.

    My one issue with the machine was that it didn’t include descriptions of the donuts, just a picture and title of each one. Even its website doesn’t list descriptions, so it’s a bit of a guessing game.

    I ended up getting the ODB, which had some chocolate frosting and Oreos on top. From the pictures, I couldn’t 100% tell which were cake donuts and which were raised (they sell both). As a cake donut connoisseur, I was glad I picked right and ended up with a cake donut.

    The cake texture of this donut is hard to explain. It almost had more of a muffin texture than a cake. Needless to say, the flavor was good. You can see their full lineup here. I assume the machines are stocked daily, as it certainly tasted fresh.

    The donuts were $4 each, and I probably should have gotten a few to try some variety, but I was in a bit of a time crunch so I grabbed one on my way out. I’d encourage anyone visiting Can Can Wonderland, BlackStack Brewing, or the Roseville Mall to give it a try. I can’t think of many better things to buy from a vending machine than a donut.

  • Mochi Donuts

    I was in disbelief when I first heard about Asia Mall. It was a while back when the plans were announced to turn a vacant sporting goods store into a mall with various vendors of Asian food and other goods.

    The most shocking thing about it? It was going to be built in my hometown of Eden Praire.

    Growing up in EP, I got used to the fact that our town was mainly filled with chains when it came to dining options. Sure, there were a few independent restaurants like Lion’s Tap, but we also had many of the major chains. It was, for better or worse, typical suburbia. A good place to grow up, but not much culinary excitement.

    So the fact that Asia Mall was going to be built in Eden Prairie was exciting for me — even though I now live 45 minutes away. But I still have family in the area, so this made for a good excuse to visit.

    That’s exactly what I did recently when my family and I met up with mom for dinner at Asia Mall. Of all the dinner options there, I was most interested in the hot pot restaurant. We ate there and really enjoyed it; I’d recommend checking it out.

    But perhaps the thing I was most anticipating during my first trip to the Asia Mall was the mochi donuts. What is a mochi donut, you’re wondering? I wasn’t entirely sure myself. I knew it was a Japanese take on the donut, with rings that looked a bit different than your classic donut. The shop in Asia Mall is a chain, Mochi Dough. The company’s website describes mochi donuts as such:

    Our Japanese inspired donuts use rice flour instead of traditional yeast to create a uniquely airy and chewy inside with a perfectly crisp outside.

    Made fresh throughout each day with multiple flavor options, our donuts’ famous “pon de ring” shape allows you to enjoy each bite, one pull at a time.

    So there you have it.

    There was another Mochi Dough that opened in Minneapolis a while back, but I had yet to try it. That meant this would be my first foray into mochi donuts.

    Simply put, these were awesome.

    Not pictured: the matcha donut, which had green frosting and a dusting of matcha. They took a few extra minutes to make because they were out when I ordered.

    They’re made fresh, and like anything made fresh, they’re best eaten right away. We got six different flavors and sampled all six right away. (Well, I should amend that. My son wanted his own, a fruit loops donut, so I didn’t taste that one. But he seemed to love it.)

    The flavors we did try were: taro, black sesame, strawberry (it might have been strawberry shortcake; I forgot…), churro, and matcha. All were good, but the strawberry was my winner, followed by the matcha. If I had to rule one out, it would be the black sesame. It was a bit too savory.

    We ate these before sitting down for the hot pot dinner, so we didn’t finish all of them while still fresh. I did eat more after dinner (for the blog, of course!), and they were still good, but not nearly as good when they were warm and fresh. So again, if you go there and get these, eat ’em while they’re hot. And be prepared to wait in line. We were there on a Sunday night, and I probably waited 10 minutes to order. I’d heard that the line when Asia Mall first opened was over an hour, which even for me is a long time to wait for donuts…

    The rest of Asia Mall is worth checking out as well. There’s a full market filled with various Asian goods that you can’t find at your typical grocery store. There are also several other restaurants, including a pho place that seemed quite popular.

    But of course, this is a donut blog. So I’m here to give my seal of approval to mochi donuts in general, and Mochi Dough in particular. Next time you’re in the West Metro, consider stopping at Asia Mall for some great food and tasty donuts.

  • World’s Best Donuts?

    Remember the scene in Elf when Buddy stumbles onto a little diner that has a neon sign that says “World’s Best Cup of Coffee?” The naive elf walks in and yells “You did it!” to a confused group of patrons and staff.

    I was so tempted to yell “You did it!” when I got up to the window to place my order at World’s Best Donuts, but I refrained.

    If you’ve ever been up to Grand Marais, chances are you’ve stopped there before. Or you’ve at least seen the sign of the little red building claiming to be the best donuts in the world. When a place names itself that — even if it’s tongue-in-cheek — the donuts better be good.

    Thankfully, the donuts at World’s Best Donuts are good. I’d even say they’re great. But are they truly the world’s best? I wouldn’t go quite that far…

    I made my first voyage to World’s Best Donuts this summer when my family and I went camping on Minnesota’s North Shore. We were camping in Tettegouche State Park, about an hour north of Duluth. That also meant we were about an hour from Grand Marais — and World’s Best Donuts.

    I’d only been to Grand Marais once before, and it was during the winter while I was skiing in Lutsen. That meant I’d never been there when World’s Best Donuts was open, as it’s a seasonal shop. I’m not sure exactly when they open and close every year. This year, their final day was Oct. 22 (which means I probably should’ve written this review earlier…).

    Before I get into the donut scene in Grand Marais, I thought I’d make a general comment on the town itself: it’s charming. We spent the better part of a day here, eating lunch at the Fisherman’s Daughter, grabbing flights of beer at Voyageur Brewing Company, and bumming around at the many little shops in town. (Drury Lane Books, an independent book store right next to World’s Best Donuts was awesome. I’d recommend stopping in.) But for me, the highlights of our visit was the donuts.

    Of course, World’s Best Donuts was our first stop when we arrived in Grand Marais. Donuts are the breakfast of champions, I always say. So we started our day with some sugary goodness.

    World’s Best Donuts specializes in cake donuts, which was music to my ears. I went with a glazed cake donut, a sugar cake donut, and something called a Skizzle. I had no idea what a Skizzle was before going here, but now I can’t stop thinking about them.

    What is a Skizzle, you’re wondering? The website for World’s Best Donuts defines it as “a sweet, yeast dough stretched out and deep fried.” It’s thinner than a donut and is dusted with sugar. It’s served fresh, so mine was nice and warm when I got it.

    It was heavenly.

    The Skizzle. (I forgot to take a picture until I was well underway with eating it.)

    My wife and I both got one, and I seriously contemplated getting back in line to order one more. This was definitely the best thing I ate there, and I will 100% get two of them if I make it back up to Grand Marais. If you’re stopping at World’s Best Donuts, be sure to get a Skizzle (or two…or three). The cake donuts were great as well, but they didn’t quite compare to the Skizzle.

    World’s Best Donuts also serves coffee, and sells a few souvenirs — I picked up a window decal for my car. They don’t have the biggest variety of donuts, but they don’t need it. The donuts they do offer are great. Why mess with success?

    I’m not ready to declare World’s Best Donuts as the world’s best donuts, nor are they Minnesota’s best donuts (that would be Cardigan Donuts). But I’d put World’s Best Donuts in my top 5 in the state, maybe even top 3.

    It’s too bad Grand Marais is a bit of a drive to get to, otherwise I’d be getting a Skizzle every week.

  • Clearwater Travel Plaza

    Good donuts in a gas station?

    Hear me out.

    I guess the donuts from Nelson Bros. aren’t technically inside a gas station — rather, they’re next to it. But they’re in the same building, all part of the wonderfully fabulous Clearwater Travel Plaza. For many years, I’d driven past the Clearwater Travel Plaza without giving it a second thought. It’s right off of I-94 in Clearwater (hence the name), and is on the way to my family’s cabin. Yet it took me nearly 20 years of making that drive to Alexandria to finally realize just how much donut goodness was inside.

    Before we dive into the donuts, I need to expand on the Clearwater Travel Plaza situation a bit. It’s one part traditional gas station, one part restaurant, one part arcade, and one part bakery. I can’t vouch for the restaurant, but I didn’t get a sandwich from the deli once (separate from the restaurant) and recall it being good. What I can definitely vouch for is the bakery.

    The best thing about the bakery at the Clearwater Travel Plaza — Nelson Bros. Bakery — is the variety. Whether you like cake donuts (I do), raised donuts (not my speed), fritters (sure, why not), muffins, cookies, caramel rolls, and more, they’ve got it here. There’s truly something for everyone. My wife’s favorite pastries are ones with cinnamon. My son loves sprinkle donuts. I’m a cake donut fan myself. Nelson Bros. has all of those. They also make some gigantic-sized donuts and other pastries. Like, as big as your face. Because sometimes you just need a donut that doubles as a steering wheel.

    On my most recent visit to the CTP (I don’t know if anyone’s calling it that, but I’m starting the acronym), I wanted to get a sampling of some of the donuts there. I went with my standard glazed old fashioned, plus a maple cake donut and an apple fritter. My son got his go-to of a sprinkle cake donuts, which he wouldn’t let me try. I told him I needed to taste it for the blog, but he doesn’t really get what a blog is, so no dice for dad. I tried some of my wife’s glazed fried cinnamon pastry, which was tasty.

    The favorite thing I ate was the maple cake donut. A nice texture to the dough, and the right amount of maple frosting on top. The fritter was the runner-up of my three items. Sadly, the old fashioned was a bit disappointing. It was a tad dry and on the thinner side as far as old fashioneds go. Did I still eat it? Of course. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t the best old fashioned I’ve ever had.

    Needless to say, Clearwater Travel Plaza (or CPT if you prefer) is worth the stop if you’re driving on I-94 north of the Twin Cities. It just goes to show you that sometimes a donut hotspot is more than meets the eye.

  • Cardigan Donuts: My Holy Grail

    Do you ever have a donut you dream about? That you frequently crave out of nowhere?

    I do.

    It’s the old fashioned from Cardigan Donuts in Minneapolis. This donut is my holy grail. It’s the one I tell friends to try. It’s the donut I suggest to anyone who works downtown Minneapolis, is visiting downtown Minneapolis, or is willing to just drive downtown for the best donut in the state.

    Back when I used to work downtown Minneapolis in a building connected to the skyway system, I remember seeing a sign about a donut shop opening soon. I of course got excited, and I didn’t even know if the donuts would be good.

    Turns out, they weren’t good. They were great.

    For my money, you won’t find a better donut shop in Minnesota than Cardigan. They do the classics really well — in addition to the aforementioned old fashioned, their cake donuts, fritters, and more are all awesome — but they also elevate the game with their specialty donuts. Earlier today, I saw a post on their Instagram account about their pumpkin old fashioned, which I’ll definitely go out of my way to pick up next week on my way to work. Other specialties include their vanilla blossom, lemon poppyseed lavender old fashioned (one of my all-time favorites of their specialties), salted cookie dough, and more.

    Despite the pandemic significantly decreasing the amount of foot traffic in the skyway the past few years, Cardigan has not only survived, but thrived. It recently opened a second location, in the IDS Center a few blocks away, that also serves ice cream. You can order a donut ice cream sandwich. Need I say more?

    Cardigan does offer more than donuts, including their oatmeal bowls, and they have several coffee and kombucha offerings as well. But the star of the show is, of course, the donuts. When I worked downtown, I’d often have the impulse to walk through the skyway to grab one. Sometimes my coworkers would join, because they recognized Cardigan’s greatness, but sometimes I’d make the solo trek. It was a blessing (good donuts) and a curse (my waistline) to be in such close proximity to Cardigan. A coworker and I went frequently enough that we got to know the owner a bit, and we filmed a video of a donut drone delivery (which they don’t actually offer; it was an April Fools video).

    In this donut blogger’s opinion (now that I have this blog, I’ll reference myself as a donut blogger whenever I get the change), you won’t find better donuts in Minnesota. The only donut shop I’ve been to that rivals Cardigan for me is Blue Star Donuts, which has locations on the West Coast but none near us. But even Blue Star doesn’t have a donut that I hold in as high of regard as the old fashioned from Cardigan.

    If you’ve never been to Cardigan Donuts, find a time to go. They do deliver if you live close enough to downtown (I don’t 😔). Be sure to get the old fashioned, but try a few of the other flavors as well. You can’t go wrong.

  • Welcome to MinneDonuts

    Welcome to MinneDonuts, a blog dedicated to finding the best donuts in Minnesota. My name is Tyler Mason and I’m a donut aficionado (I’ve even included that in my Twitter bio). I’ve had a sweet tooth for about as long as I can remember, and in recent years my biggest craving to satisfy that sweet tooth is donuts.

    I’m certainly not unique in my love of donuts, but my friends, family and coworkers have come to know me as the donut guy. I mean, I even have a donut shirt, so I guess you could say I’m a bit obsessed. 

    If I had to trace the origins of my donut love, it might stem from the early 2000s when Krispy Kreme made its debut in Minnesota. The first location opened in Maple Grove, which wasn’t exactly a convenient drive from my home in Eden Prairie. But when my town finally got its own Krispy Kreme, it was the beginning of a donut love affair.

    There was something so perfect about a fresh glazed donut hot off the conveyor belt at Krispy Kreme. Those warm donuts just melted in your mouth, requiring barely and chewing to enjoy that sweet glazed goodness. Once a week in high school, we’d have what we called “Connections” that could also be referred to as homeroom. Most weeks, someone would bring donuts. I’d always cross my fingers that I’d walk into the room to see that familiar white box of Krispy Kremes sitting on a desk. Disappointment would take over if it was a collection of donuts from the grocery store (though I’d still eat one, of course).

    Fast forward nearly 20 years later, and my love of donuts is stronger than ever. While it never really went away, I blame (or thank?) the opening of Cardigan Donuts downtown Minneapolis for helping rekindle the flame. At the time, I was working downtown Minneapolis and remembered seeing the signage that a donut shop was opening soon, just a short walk from my office. Once Cardigan opened and I tried it for the first time, I was hooked. I ended up visiting the skyway location far more times than I’d care to admit. So I felt it was only fitting that Cardigan be the first entry on this blog, coming up in my next post.

    If you ask people in Minnesota what the Twin Cities’ style of food is, I’m not sure people would have a great answer. There aren’t a ton of foods that scream “Minneapolis” or “St. Paul.” Sure, we have a good burger scene here, thanks in part to the iconic Juicy Lucys from Matt’s, the 5-8 Club and others. But I’m not really sure that Minnesota can lay claim to other foods that truly originated here the way Chicago can claim deep dish pizza, St. Louis can claim fried ravioli, Cincinnati can brag about its weird chili, etc. 

    I started this blog to prove that the donut game here in Minnesota — not just Minneapolis and St. Paul — is strong. As someone who has been eating donuts for the better part of my life, I’d like to think of myself as a bit of an expert on the matter. I will, however, preface this entire blog by saying that I much prefer cake donuts to raised donuts. I’m sure that will come up in future entries, as some locations specialize in one kind or the other. But a donut’s a donut, and I’m not one to turn down a donut of any kind.

    So come along on this journey filled with fried dough, sugary toppings, frosted creations and more. I hope to share some insights on the state’s popular donut destinations while also unearth some hidden gems along the way. If you’ve got a favorite donut place you think I need to check out, I’m all ears (and stomach). Leave a comment to let me know where you’d recommend I get my next donut fix.

    To me, the ultimate donut is the glazed old fashioned. I’ve yet to find a style of donut I enjoy more. So on my journey across the Land of 10,000 Donuts, I plan to sample as many old fashioneds from as many different bakeries as I can. But in order to give a better glimpse into what each of these donut shops offers, I’ll be tasting more than just that. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. I’ll be the one to do it, if I have to…