Companies spend millions on advertising to get us to part with our money, but if you have the right product with the right name you don't have to do any promotion to get us into your store. Case in point: Dunkin' Donuts new experimental menu item Donut Fries.
There's nothing an ad agency could ever say to sell us on something any more than just telling us those exist. But getting us to try something once is a lot easier than getting us to buy it again and again, and a great name doesn't guarantee success. So when we had the chance to sample them--along with every other new test item currently on sale in a handful of select stores in Boston--we couldn't pass it up. Because if Donut Fries deliver on the hype generated by their own name, it could change the doughnut game forever. Or at least our snacking habits.
Currently on sale at three Boston-area locations, they make up the new "P.M. Snack Menu," even though they are available all day, for about $2 per item. As of now all the company will say is this "test is designed to gather valuable feedback from consumers, franchisees and their employees to help inform future decisions about a possible national rollout," but we get the feeling all of these are being seriously considered already.
So which ones do we hope become permanent additions? We tried everything to find out.
Gluten-Free Fudge Brownie
The only item that isn't cooked-to-order is the prepackaged, gluten-free fudge brownie, but it was still very soft and very chewy. This is much more appetizing than those dry brownies you used to buy in your school cafeteria, and if you are hoping to fulfill your chocolate craving it will get the job done (though we'd easily choose a chocolate donut over it). It is on the smaller side, making it the worst value for the cost. It's not amazing, and you won't confuse it for a freshly made brownie, but it's above average for what it is and would hold up the best for a long car ride.
These are more enjoyable than most pretzel bites you get at a mall kiosk, in large part because they aren't greasy. They are chewy--probably a little too much because they are on the denser side--and lightly salted. The biggest issue is they come with a very thin Ken's Honey Dijon sauce that just doesn't work with them. It's a weird combo that ruins the savory flavor of the pretzels. They are much better plain, but ideally we would eat these with yellow mustard. Also, don't let them sit for too long, eat them while they are still warm so they don't get too hard.
Waffle-Breaded Chicken Tenders
These look like totally normal chicken fingers, which is why the first bite is strange. You don't expect to taste maple when eating a chicken tender. But once your brain makes that adjustment these are way better than they have any right to be. The maple-flavor isn't overwhelming, and they have a nice texture. They aren't crispy though, because the breading is slightly sauced. Fortunately they aren't over-saturated, and that helps them hold up while also making it so you don't need a sauce to enjoy them. You can eat these in the car easily.
We recommend dipping them in the honey Dijon that comes with the pretzel bites, because it tastes good with these tenders. (I still thought they were better plain.) These are going to be a big hit with kids, and also the number one choice for drunk people at three a.m.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies are really big, and the fact you get two of them at that price is kind of incredible. This is a very traditional chocolate chip cookie, and it was crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I would have preferred if they were softer in general (I would have enjoyed them more with milk instead of an iced coffee), but others will likely wish they were crispier, so this is probably a happy medium. Tasty, but these aren't breaking any new ground because they aren't trying to. That might be the most appealing thing about them.
Ham & Cheese Roll-Ups
These are similar to their regular Wake-Up Wraps, only they are rolled instead of being folded over. These are simple and tasty, and if you are looking for a snack that isn't sweet and will hold you over until your next meal this is what you should order. You get two of them, they have a satisfying texture that makes you feel like you ate something substantial, and they are nice and warm. If your mom made these for you after school you'd eat 400 of them.
Munchkins with Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Munchkins are already great, so it seemed unlikely a very thin, cold chocolate dipping sauce would do that much to improve them. Wrong. So, so wrong. This was easily the biggest surprise of the menu, because they are addictive--dangerously addictive. You get six munchkins with the order, but there's enough sauce you could easily order an additional ten on the side and also dip them. Which you should--and will--do. By the time I was done eating them I couldn't understand why it had taken this long for someone to come up with this seemingly obvious idea already.
Easily the most exciting option though is the all-new Donut Fries, which are baked not fried. Despite also being small "donuts" they aren't anything like the munchkins though. And while they look like mini churros, especially because they are brown and covered in sugar and cinnamon, their consistency isn't really like a churro. These aren't crunchy, they are unbelievably soft and layered. They reminded me a lot of a thin cronut, which you can really see in this closeup. You can pull these apart layer-by-layer if you want.
And they are freaking awesome.
No, seriously, these more than live up to the hype of their name, even if they are only like fries in shape. They are baked to order, but seem like they were just made from scratch before you walked in. They're sweet without being cloying, and are chewy enough to be a satisfying snack. Surprisingly they don't come with any kind of dipping sauce, even though they look like they should. But it doesn't matter because they don't need them. In fact, in a huge shocker, when I tried dipping them in the munchkin chocolate sauce it kind of ruined them.
Ultimately I could see every single item being added to the menu, because while not all of them will be appealing to everyone, none of them are bad, not even the inherently weird tenders which I found strangely appealing. But I am positive the Donut Fries will eventually being available everywhere.
Which one of these are you most excited to eat? Take a bite out of our comments section below and let us know.
If you want to try these items yourself you can find them at the Dunkin' Donuts locations at 265 Franklin St. in Boston, at 100 Harborside Drive near Logan airport, and at 588 Washington St. in Quincy.
Images: Mikey Walsh