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Doughnut Take It for Granted 

Which fried dough ring is the best?

In some circles, the North vs. South battle rages on. And those circles happen to be doughnuts -- donuts, if you prefer.

Dunkin' Donuts is the combatant from up North. The company was founded in 1950 in Quincy, MA. From down South is Krispy Kreme, born in Winston-Salem in 1937.

Doughnuts have been around for a lot longer than Krispy Kreme's 68 years. One story credits Dutch settlers with introducing them to North America; another raises a cruller to Danish sea captain Hanson Gregory, who, it is said, impaled a fried cake on his ship's wheel during a violent storm so he'd have two free hands to steer.

Regardless of their provenance and how old they are, the important issue is which are better -- the Yankee donuts or the Southern doughnuts.

One way to determine the local favorite is to look at the number of storefronts each brand has in Charlotte. Not too long ago, you couldn't avoid the HOT NOW signs, but now there's just one Krispy Kreme store, on Woodlawn Road. Five Dunkin' Donuts stores dot the landscape in Charlotte (most of them sharing space with Baskin-Robbins). System-wide, Dunkin' Donuts has over 6,000 shops in 30 countries while Krispy Kreme has about 370 stores in the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, Australia and Korea. Both brands are available in many other outlets, like convenience stores and supermarkets.

Krispy Kreme was hot when it went public with an IPO in April 2000. The stock shot up and stores opened up all over the place. Unfortunately, the low carbohydrate craze took the yeast out of doughnut sales and now the company is having big problems. These days, people are no longer so carb-phobic, and Dunkin' Donuts, as part of a large global business, has the backing to grow with market -- and appetite -- demands.

On paper, Dunkin' Donuts seems to have the edge. But knowing how many places you can buy Krispy Kremes and Dunkin' Donuts and what shape their respective companies are in doesn't give the full flavor. Here at Creative Loafing's editorial office, we conducted an entirely unscientific test, pitting six Dunkin' Donuts against half a dozen Krispy Kremes. We couldn't make it a hole-to-hole comparison -- only Krispy Kreme has the yeast-raised type. We included a couple of those fluffy ones, and tried to match flavors for the rest of the contenders. That limited the choices we could make from Dunkin' Donuts' wider variety. They have 52 different flavors -- OK, not all in the same store -- while Krispy Kreme offers only 30 variations on the fried dough theme.

Both brands had about the same number of overall calories and calories from fat. Suffice it to say that you don't want to know those numbers. Of course, if you're eating doughnuts, you probably aren't too worried about it.

Participating in the taste test were some born-and-bred Southerners, a long-time resident of these parts, some transplanted Yankees and two rather peripatetic staffers. Two dyed-in-the-wool Southerners insisted that Krispy Kreme rules. One crossed the Mason-Dixon line with his vote. Most of the Yankees and both nomads went for Dunkin' Donuts. Some of the tasters declared that any doughnut is a good doughnut.

The last quarter of a doughnut left was a Krispy Kreme glazed chocolate, which forced us to declare Dunkin' Donuts the winner. After hearing that, the Krispy Kreme fanatics seemed to have glazed expressions on their faces. But that could have been from enthusiastic participation in the taste test.

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