Our Official Ranking:
- Coffee Craving
- Angry Donut
- Market Basket
- Stonehouse Bakery
- Wicked Mini Donut
- Duston’s Market and Bakery
- Harvey’s Bakery & Coffee Shop
- Donut Love
- Emery Farm
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Sweetened Memories
Homer Simpson. Ariana Grande. Sadie Hackenburg. Emily Hamilton. What do these very important people have in common? They are all donut lovers. As Homer Simpson and Ariana Grande are probably too busy to dive deep into the donut scene of Seacoast New Hampshire, we took it upon ourselves, as icons of the donut world, to find the best donut in the area.
Before we really get into it, if you’re a longtime MOR reader, the premise of this story may sound a bit familiar. Back in 2017, MOR published “Zach and Spencer’s Pizza Adventure” written by Zach Leichtman and Spencer Clark. This story caught our eye, somewhat because of the questionable ranking (Pizza Hut as number one? Really?) and inspired us to provide the Oyster River community with a ranking of our favorite food: donuts.
Over the span of a month, we visited twelve different places known for their donuts within a thirty minute drive from Durham. At each place, we chose the donut(s) that first caught our eye and that we felt would represent the shop’s best work.
We even curated our own ranking system, which consisted of six categories. Each rating was calculated using the following criteria: taste, affordability, visual appeal, creativity, quality, and the variety of options that the shop provided. All categories were weighted equally out of five points, and we took the average of each score to give each donut’s final rating out of five stars. Please refer to the very scientific spreadsheet to see the amount of data and math that went into our reporting. Before we dive into the six different categories, keep in mind that our version of how good a donut is is entirely subjective and someone else may see a donut very different than us.
The taste category was arguably the most subjective, and we found we even disagreed with each other at points. The most important factors we kept in mind when judging taste included donut texture (was it more like bread or cake?), sweetness, the frosting to donut ratio, level of excess oil or grease, how well the combination of flavors worked, and whether or not the frosting overpowered the donut and vice versa.
We decided that affordability would be how “worth it” the donut was for the price, not just the price itself. If a donut was of lower quality but cheaper, like around a dollar, it might be worth it, but if we were getting the same quality for almost two dollars, would it still be worth it? Visual appeal was purely aesthetics and our own personal opinion on how good it looked. Creativity was mostly in regards to flavors: have we seen it before? Was it common? Quality, we decided, was a combination of how fresh the donut was and if it seemed like it was made with love, which was very important. We took into account the variety of options because they could have the best donuts on the block, but what if you don’t like glazed?
Hannaford – 2.7
We started our journey a mile from ORHS: hungry, naive, and having no idea the toll this article would take on our bodies. Our expectations were low, as the Mill Plaza Hannaford isn’t exactly known for its donuts, but our spirits were high. Hannaford produced a decent donut, but lost quite a bit of points in the creativity and quality categories. The donut was dry, tasted as if it had been sitting around for a while, and reminded us of a mediocre bread with some glaze. That being said, the holiday sprinkle topping was certainly a favorite for us and satisfied our initial donut craving. This was the only place where we each indulged on our own donut, and following this trip, it was safe to say the two of us would be splitting one donut moving forward. With a Dunkin’ Donuts right down the road, we would probably pass on the Hannaford donut and go to a place where donuts are truly the priority.
Dunkin’ Donuts – 3.1
Our second stop was a classic, a place that any self-respecting New Englander would be familiar with: Dunkin’ Donuts. We knew this was an important stop on our donut journey, as it would set a baseline for all the other donuts due to its reputation and popularity. We got there later in the afternoon so the selection had been reduced, but we didn’t hold that against them. We instead looked at what they would have had at a reasonable time of the day, like we did with many of the other spots. We ended up picking a donut with chocolate frosting and tiny snowflake sprinkles that added a bit of festive flair that we appreciated, although overall the presentation wasn’t above and beyond, due to the fact that it looked a bit messy and like minimal effort was put in. However, to be fair, it was also one of the cheapest we tried, so for the price of 99 cents, the quality and taste was fair. The experience was mediocre as a whole, the donut was what you would expect and would satisfy a craving, but it was definitely nothing to write home about because it was lacking in creativity as well as visual appeal.
Emery Farm- 3.22
After undergoing some major renovations with the addition of a new cafe and market last year, we were excited to see what Emery Farm had to offer in the donut department. Similar to Hannaford, donuts were obviously not their priority, and our only option was their classic apple cider donut. Our first impression was that the donut was messy. No points were deducted for messiness, but be warned that you will be finding cinnamon sugar in your car for weeks afterward. The donut would be considered classic by any definition. You could tell they were made fresh as no two looked the same. It had a very cakey inside, and was covered in enough cinnamon sugar to feed an army (or two very hungry teenage girls). Overall, this donut was exactly what one would expect from a rustic farm stand like Emery Farm. This donut was ranked on the lower side, mostly because its good taste and quality ranking couldn’t make up for the lack of variety and creativity.
Wicked Mini Donut – 3.6
Wicked Mini Donut was a curveball. Neither of us had been there before and we were not sure what to expect. As we drove into Portsmouth we looked up the menu and had to discuss it at length. There was a ton of variety and the choices they had were very creative. You could get anything from a rice crispy donut to a bacon donut, and that’s exactly what we did. The idea of the shop was that, true to its name, the donuts were super small, so we went for the three donuts for three dollars deal. It seemed only fair that with such a large variety we tried a few flavors because some flavors might be better than others. We actually ended up asking the cashier what her favorite was, assuming that that would be a good place to start. Hers was the rice crispy donut, and we followed that up with Emily’s favorite, the maple donut. Last but not least, we knew we needed to try the bacon donut. They were some of the prettiest ones we ended up trying, with cute little garnishes and carefully dripped frosting. However, we were surprised that the taste didn’t live up to our expectations. It seemed that in their mission to create these wacky, fun, small treats, they lost some of the donut experience on the way. When biting into a donut you want it to be soft and decadent, that was not the case here. They were on the dry side and most of the flavor came from the various garnishes, such as bacon and had little to do with the donut itself, which was bland overall. They were also pricey compared to the other places, although many of the other donuts were priced around one dollar as well, because these were so small you were paying more for the appearance and the novelty.
Market Basket – 4
We say this with absolutely no hesitation: Market Basket did what Wicked Mini Donut couldn’t. Were we surprised? Yes. Was this one of the best donuts we have ever had? Also yes. The options were limited, which was where Market Basket lost the most points, but we happily agreed on a Boston Cream donut. While the lack of options was disappointing, we would have rated taste 100/5 if we could. This donut was heavy, overflowing with rich, creamy filling. The donut itself was light and airy, and the chocolate frosting was the perfect level of sweet, without being too overwhelming. For only 79 cents, this donut was not only tasty, but extremely affordable. After our mediocre donut experience at the previous grocery store, we can say our expectations were greatly exceeded at the Lee Market Basket.
Coffee Craving – 4.5
On our second stop, on our second day, you might think that we would be filled to the brim with the cakey treats, and boy was that true, but we had a mission to complete and we were not giving up now. We knew that Coffee Craving was a pivotal point for us. Coffee Craving makes their donuts to order, so we knew we were in for a treat as soon as we pulled up, and the anticipation only grew after we placed our order for one piping hot cinnamon sugar donut and waited while it was made up for us. We were not let down. The five minute wait was well worth it. We got the donut piping hot, covered in cinnamon sugar that made us forget all about Emery Farm. Their selection was minimal with only a few choices. They had the cinnamon sugar one we had but included on the menu was also a powdered donut that looked delectable. However, their quality made up for the smaller array. It had a great rustic look that matched its great taste that is well worth the price; the only thing we could knock it for was creativity, but in this case I think it can be forgiven because of how well this classic was executed.
Stonehouse Bakery – 3.8
After our immense success at Market Basket and Coffee Craving, we were off to Stonehouse Bakery in Barrington. Especially following the rich Boston Cream donut from Market Basket, we were in need of something lighter. Stonehouse Bakery had a wide variety of options, and we decided on a gingerbread donut without any glaze, frosting, or sprinkles. It had a great ginger flavor and was not nearly as sweet as some of the other treats we had. It was on the lower side in the visual appeal category due to the lack of fun or colorful decorations, but we would definitely go back to Stonehouse (probably not for some time though. We unfortunately won’t be eating donuts for a while after writing this article). Overall, it was exactly what we needed after our back to back donut days, as our bodies filled with more and more frosting and sprinkles. It wasn’t overly sweet or heavy, and was the perfect end to a very successful day of donut tasting.
Sweetened Memories- 3
Now we are obviously ranking donuts here, however, when curating our list for all the places we wanted to go, we stumbled across a gem. Right in our own town of Durham, Sweetened Memories makes cookies in the shape of donuts. While we realize that, in actuality, a hole in the center of a cookie, along with some creative frosting work doesn’t make it a donut, it was too fun not to include. It was very pretty with light pink frosting and small pearlescent sprinkles. The store had no other donuts, so unfortunately we had to give them a very low variety score. In terms of taste, it was a very high quality sugar cookie with some sweet frosting that had a nice balance and only grew on you the more you ate. However, because it didn’t taste like a donut we figured we would settle somewhere in the middle and give it a three out of five on taste. It was high quality and creative, but it was one of the more expensive treats we tried and that, combined with the lack of choices, made it lower on our list even after the visual appeal was taken into account.
Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop – 3.4
For our next day of donuting, we were off to Harvey’s Bakery in downtown Dover. We decided on a maple donut and were immediately blown away by the quality, and knew Harvey’s was not messing around with anything frozen or pre packaged. As for taste, the donut was not too cakey, but very light, airy, and soft. The frosting was very sweet, but not too overwhelming with artificial maple flavoring. It was comparable to fresh maple syrup, not any old jug of Aunt Jemima you could get at the grocery store. However, we did long for some sort of sweet filling on the inside, and were instead only met with more donut. Though this was disappointing, it was a solid donut that tasted great, looked appetizing, and was, without a doubt, made with love.
Duston’s Market and Bakery – 3.5
Duston’s actually wasn’t on our original list; we found it in a last ditch effort to find more donuts after a difficult search through Dover’s cafes and bakeries to make sure we had found everywhere in the surrounding towns that had donuts. On our last stop, Duston’s turned our trip from a total loss to a successful outing. The bakery section had a few classic options, so we went with a donut that had a thick chocolate glaze. There were bubbles on the top of the frosting that made it look less appealing, but the taste brought it home. The chocolate frosting was probably the best we tried; it definitely had a strong flavor that can sometimes be lacking in a low quality frosting, but this seemed like it was made with care. The donut itself was pretty solid, but the frosting was definitely the star of the show. This very affordable donut, at $1.25, kind of came out of nowhere, but it ended up making it pretty far up our list.
Donut Love – 3.3
Based on the name alone, we had high expectations walking into Donut Love in Exeter. They had many creative options, and we decided on a sea salt chocolate donut, something we hadn’t seen at any other place. This donut came in at a whopping $3.25. Sure, it was a decent sized donut that was clearly made fresh that morning, but the taste did not live up to some of the other donuts we have previously tried. The donut itself was very cakey, but had a good chocolate flavor and a sweet glaze. It was nothing over the top, but the donut tasted fresh and the quality was high. The salt on top threw us off a bit and, because we weren’t blown away by the donut itself, could not call this odd combination a favorite of ours. It was certainly creative, but after scoring a 3 for taste, and even lower in the affordability category, this donut resided in the middle of the pack.
Angry Donut – 4.3
Our drive to Angry Donut was emotional for us. After our highs and lows across the local donut world, we were sad, one may even say angry, to see our journey come to a close. Given it was our last stop, and that all the donuts sounded exquisite, we ended up getting two: a raspberry jelly donut, as well as one of their specials of the week, a maple frosted donut with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal on top. Angry Donut had a large variety of options: everything from a donut with Fruity Pebbles on top, to an Almond Joy inspired treat. Before we even bit into the donut, we knew Angry Donut would be a front-runner, based on creativity, variety in options, and visual appeal. We were even happier when the taste lived up to the standards we had set for it based on looks alone. While waking up early wasn’t fun, we were glad we arrived right when Angry Donut opened at 7am, as we could tell the treats were baked fresh that morning. Both donuts were fluffy like pancakes and were soft and airy. We thought the Cinnamon Toast Crunch donut was a bit too much sugar for such an early morning, but the jelly donut was exactly what we needed. Neither of us are huge jelly donut fans – this was the first one we had throughout this whole experience – but we were blown away. The jelly inside was fruity and sweet, but tasted like real jelly, not overly sugary with artificial flavors. The sweet glaze on top paired perfectly with the tart jam and was all tied together perfectly within the fluffy donut itself. While this donut fell just short of Coffee Craving for the grand title, we were more than happy to end our donut journey on such a high note.
It is safe to say, without hesitation, that we have scouted the best donuts in the area and we hope that our research like ours aids future donut endeavors. Going into this article, we weren’t sure how many donut places were actually in the area and could only name a handful. After a little bit of research, a lot of driving, and $21.07 spent across all donuts, we were unexpectedly impressed by the local donut scene. While we are confident in our calculation on the best and worst donuts in the area, it’s important to remember our reviews are entirely subjective. Who knows, maybe you would like salt on your donut or wouldn’t be as big a fan of overflowing Boston Cream donuts. With that being said, we would recommend any place on this list and would encourage anyone reading this to check out and support these (mostly) local businesses. We had so much fun writing this article and while we may be horribly sick, it was all worth it in the name of science and donut supremacy.
Cowritten by Emily Hamilton and Sadie Hackenburg