My hometown of Kingston, Mass., covers only 20 square miles. It’s home to roughly 12,000 people, and seven Dunkin' Donuts, three of which are on the same street.
This is not uncommon for any Massachusetts town. Dunkin’ is, true to the stereotypes, an insidious spore that has spread across the entire state, working its way into the very DNA of the Bay State’s population. The rest of the world is now learning what Massholes have known our whole lives: Dunkin' is essential. The national chain of coffee shops has remained open through the COVID-19 quarantine, including every burgeoning Minnesota location.
America Runs on Dunkin’, but Minnesota has been the exception to this well-branded rule. Dunkin’ left Minnesota in 2005 after its last location closed in Austin. But it’s roaring back now. There are now 18 shops in Minnesota, with one destined for the Mall of America, part of the ubiquitous East Coast standby’s long-term plan of opening 100 locations statewide.
Dunkin’ is not Caribou. It is not Tim Hortons. And it sure as shit isn’t Starbucks. Like the people of Massachusetts themselves, it is an animal all its own. A caustic, in-your-fucking-face animal that you cannot ignore. As such, this demands that an old-school wrangler like myself teach you the ropes.
The best Dunkin’s are the ones near construction sites
Remember that Saturday Night Live sketch where Casey Affleck plays Donnie, a scumbag contractor who smokes inside the Dunkin’? I feel like I went to high school with that guy.
Construction sites have kept Dunkin’ in business since 1950. Pop into a shop across the street from a new condo project, and you’ll see weathered union workers with holes in the armpits of their T-shirts order for the whole site. Often, a worker will fill up a banker’s box with the order (in Boston, these are customarily W.B. Mason paper boxes) and hand it over.
This is Dunkin’ at its absolute zenith. Just like that, catering for 12, prepared in 10 minutes for $35. The intricate machinery of America working just as it should. Look for the Carhart jackets and follow. They will lead you to paradise.
There is a language to ordering
“Large light, three Equals.”
These are the only words my dad ever spoke to a Dunkin’ Donuts employee during my childhood, and we used to go to the same location on Summer Street every Saturday. When we drove around to the pickup window, he’d get his order—a 32-ounce khaki-colored coffee with way too much fake sugar—hand the girl at the window $3, and drive off before she could give him the change.
Like Starbucks, Dunkin’ requires you to speak another language to order. But it’s not a language that exists already. It’s an economy of words. The ideal way to order at Dunks is to never say the word “coffee.” “Hot” means “hot coffee”; “iced” means “iced coffee.” Anything else really shouldn’t be ordered.
Since cream and sugar come pre-mixed by the barista (a luxury many Minnesotans I’ve met have not yet grown to appreciate), you order your coffee by color. “Regular” is the standard. “Light,” like my dad orders it, ups the dairy ratio. The biggest pieces of shit order their coffee “white,” which means they just got a half gallon of milk with a teaspoon of coffee in it.
Which brings me to my next point:
Good coffee isn’t the point
Dunkin’ coffee is just brown water. It is poorly roasted and watered down to the point of nigh tastelessness. As such, it is immune to your criticisms of quality, Dylan.
The success of Dunks is predicated by its mass appeal. This is elementary-level coffee for adult babies. You try a sip of your grandpa’s at 8 years old, develop a chemical dependency, and spend every weekday of your life ordering the same thing for eternity.
The peak Dunkin’ beverage is a large iced regular. You get to work, plop it down on your desk, and slowly sip all day, the ice cubes diluting the coffee to the point where a crisp layer of water sits on top. The sugar crystals fall out of suspension, and you can sip them right off the bottom. This is the only sensation that can make a Bostonian truly happy.
Know the doughnut hierarchy
Despite what these new-age concept restaurants may have you believe, doughnuts aren’t the reason people go to Dunkin’. But they are cheap as hell, so if you’re tasked with ordering a couple dozen for your office, know that there is a steep quality curve that needs to be accounted for.
Generally the classics are the best. Once upon a time, the chocolate glazed doughnut was the king pastry at Dunkin’, but at some point in my childhood, they changed the recipe, and the order has since been thrown into chaos. Many sites (like Thrillist, Delish, and Huffpost) have tried their hands at definitive rankings, but the townies over at Boston.com (hey Perry!) were the closest to nailing the true order:
- Blueberry cake
- Strawberry frosted
- Chocolate glazed
- Chocolate frosted
- Powdered sugar
Bear claws are great, too. Don't be seduced by the Boston Kreme, only normies order that. Munchkins are almost always a better bet than doughnuts. Never, ever, call them Timbits, though.
The hash browns are a test
Through the years, Dunkin’ has tested a litany of bizarro menu items, including cronuts, donut fries, and fuckin’ pizza. These are all a test to see if they can get you to debase yourself enough to order them. Do not fall for Dunkin’s schemes.
Hash browns are the latest in these tests, and you’ll notice that, whenever you go to place your six-word combo order, the cashier will try to coax you into a side of hash browns. Little silver dollars of fried embarrassment. Should you pass this Sphinx’s test, you will be rewarded with the unlimited respect of the Dunkin’ Brands, and founder William Rosenberg will smile down on you from the sky.
Succumb to the temptation, and dock workers in New Bedford will mock you for the rest of your shameful existence.