Gallery: Behind the Scenes at Old Fashioned Donuts in Chicago

Forming the Doughnuts
Forming the Doughnuts

The doughnuts begin their short life in commercial mixers in back, their metrical hum filling the shop with intermittent noise. After a rise, the dough is turned out onto a heavily floured workbench, where Bulloch rolls the dough into an expansive, pillowy comforter and punches and pulls it into various shapes and sizes.

Proofing Box
Proofing Box

Formed doughnuts are next moved to an ancient-looking proofing box, where they are rapidly raised with a mixture of "moisture and humidity."

Frying
Frying

After 18 minutes in the sauna, they're ready to be dunked in hot oil, where they are prodded and flipped with deft, wooden dowel armed hands. Finally, they're moved to cooling racks for finishing touches.

Glazing the Apple Fritters
Glazing the Apple Fritters

The item that put Old Fashioned on the collective radar, the Apple Fritter is actually a relatively new addition to the menu and one born from pure frugality. Yeast dough scraps that have been cut two, three, four times don't make for fluffy, high-as-the-sky doughnuts. But mixed with cinnamon and hunks of apple, these fritters fly off the shelf.

Apple Fritter ($3.18)
Apple Fritter ($3.18)

Under its petrified glaze, the dough is slightly tangy with a lingering cinnamon headiness. Biting into a piece of softened apple hearkens back to the apple dumplings of my youth. The dinner plate size is attributable to the large hands of the midnight man who makes these in the wee small hours each morning. He says he can't make them any smaller, and I hope he never does.

Bowtie ($1.10)
Bowtie ($1.10)

The Bowtie is everything great about a yeast doughnut twisted into one whimsical application. Though light and fluffy, it pulls back more than you'd expect, and like the best pretzels, the prized parts are the overlapped, knotted areas of dough.

Just a Sampling of the Yeast Doughnuts
Just a Sampling of the Yeast Doughnuts

There are at least nine Yeast Raised Doughnuts on offer, each differentiated by its glaze or frosting. The interior of the doughnut itself is moist and tangly, like a proper croissant. You can taste and see the assertive yeast bite: its mile high rise is evidenced by a quarter inch tan-line on the doughnut's equator where it floated unscathed above the boiling oil.

Glazed Yeast Doughnut
Glazed Yeast Doughnut

The Glazed is the purest iteration, and the one first timers should start with.

Caramel Yeast Doughnut
Caramel Yeast Doughnut

The Caramel is topped with a generous candy apple spackling, and is easily the richest offering I tried.

Strawberry Yeast Doughnut
Strawberry Yeast Doughnut

The Strawberry features that familiar strawberries and creme flavor without succumbing to overwhelming sweetness.

White Frosted Coconut
White Frosted Coconut

And the White Frosted Coconut tastes the most old fashioned out of the whole lot, its hard rain of bagged coconut flakes adding little more to the experience than texture.

White Frosted Long John
White Frosted Long John

The White Frosted Long John is a heavy sucker. It's also chewy and moist inside, with plenty of frosting to get me leaving my childhood cream filled favorites behind for good.

Strawberry Filled Sugar Bismark
Strawberry Filled Sugar Bismark

One of ten filled varieties, the sugaring on the Strawberry Filled Sugar Bismark adheres fiercely, the excess expertly tapped away. Unlike most paczki you get around town, these could be eaten in the car without an immediate need for a detail. The jam-like strawberry filling is only found deep within the inner sanctum, making this doughnut best enjoyed by the mouthful.

Cake Doughnuts
Cake Doughnuts

Representing the second branch of the bipartisan doughnut structure, the Cake doughnuts are where Old Fashioned gets serious. Each emerges from the fryer with a craggy shell, each nook and cranny crispier than the last. Under its burnished exterior, the insides are dense and crumbly.

Plain Cake Doughnut
Plain Cake Doughnut

The no nonsense, no frills Plain seems engineered for the sternest, most straight-laced of doughnut eaters.

Glazed Cake Doughnut
Glazed Cake Doughnut

On the other hand, the Glazed features a mere surface shimmer and packs just the right amount of sweetness. The Glazed will be a permanent fixture of any dozen I order from here on out.

Chocolate Chocolate Cake Doughnut
Chocolate Chocolate Cake Doughnut

The Chocolate Chocolate is dense and brownie-like, its hard shell shattering under teeth.

Crueller Cake Doughnut
Crueller Cake Doughnut

And for those who value crunch above all else, the cigar shaped Crueller is maximized for coffee dunking.

Buttermilk Cake Doughnut
Buttermilk Cake Doughnut

The Buttermilk Cake Doughnut is the perfect way to wean yourself off the sickly sweet Dunkin' variety if you aren't ready for Old Fashioned's other, subtler cake varieties.

Donut Holes ($1.15/half dozen)
Donut Holes ($1.15/half dozen)

An on-the-house sample from a curious owner wondering why two guys were trying to eat fourteen doughnuts by their lonesome, the Plain and Glazed Donut Holes ($1.15/half dozen) arrived straight from the fryer. Bulloch said that you can find doughnut holes anywhere these days—even Whole Foods—but they're nothing like his. He's right. After a slight crunch, these melt away completely. I'm ruined on bouncy, cocktail meatball doughnut holes forever, and if you're lucky enough to come in when these are just fried, they are a must order.

Orange Cake Doughnut
Orange Cake Doughnut

The zest-flecked Orange is front loaded with plenty of citrus flavor.

Aftermath of the Tasting
Aftermath of the Tasting