Chicago: Doughnut Vault

My best friend arrived in Chicago at midnight Saturday morning.  I allowed her a few hours of sleep before I dragged her out of bed and to the Doughnut Vault.  Luckily, my friend wanted in too and drove all of us there in her car.

I first heard about Doughnut Vault through Tasting Table.  It had all the makings of a great food spot: hole in the wall (literally), Harry Potter-esque address (400 1/2?), unpredictable hours (announced on Twitter), limited supply (you snooze you lose), not to mention donut creations dreamed up by the masterminds behind Gilt Bar and Maude's Liquor Bar.  Needless to say, I was excited.

Unfortunately, Doughnut Vault opens around 8:30am on weekdays (closed Mondays) and sells out obscenely early.  I thought I would have a better chance of scoring donuts on a Saturday, when they open around 9:30am.  We got to the Doughnut Vault around 9:45am and were confronted by a massive line that wove around the corner.

Here's what the front of the line looked like:

Here was what my view was like from the butt end of the line:

What makes waiting in a long line more tolerable are really the people waiting along with you.  With nothing better to do, we ended up talking and joking with the people around us.  These conversations later proved to benefit us greatly (read on to find out how).

Apparently, another way of coping with the wait is to nibble on the potted plants lining the sidewalk:

The Gilt Bar around the corner had lots of planters filled with different kinds of herbs.  Mint seemed to be most popular with the Doughnut Vault crowd.

After standing in line for over an hour and a half, we finally made it inside the vault, which fits less than ten people at a time:

The entire time that we were in line, my friend was keeping track of the dwindling donut supply via Twitter.  The buttermilk and carrot cake (daily special) donuts were sold out before we even reached the door.  Once inside, donut statuses were announced orally and each announcement felt like a stab in the heart.

Three gingerbread left.  No gingerbread left.  Four chestnut left.  No chestnut left.

By the time we got to the counter, there were only vanilla and chocolate left:

There's a strict donut limit per person.  I'd read online that the limit was half a dozen, but when we were inside the vault, we were told that the limit was a dozen.  My friend bought six:

Here is where conversing with those in line with us came to save the day.  Right when the couple in front of us reached the counter, the announcement of "Four chestnut left!" was made.  We all visibly wilted when we heard the couple order the last four chestnut donuts.  Then, a miracle!  The wife turned around and asked us if we wanted one.  At our vigorous nodding and hopeful expressions, she changed her order to three chestnut donuts.

That, my friends, is how we got the last chestnut donut:

My best friend and I separately ordered one vanilla:

And one chocolate:

So here's the million dollar question: was it worth it?

I really, really, REALLY want to say yes.  The donuts were excellent, yes.  Perfectly fluffy and pillow-y.  But special enough to justify spending over 1.5 hours in line and paying $3 per donut?  Granted, we got the most basic of flavors, but even the chestnut one didn't taste very different to me.  The chocolate donut was essentially a vanilla donut with chocolate fudge and sprinkles.  Don't get me wrong, the fudge was amazing, but did it leave me wanting another?  Not so much.

Perhaps my opinion would be different if we'd been able to try the gingerbread stack, the buttermilk old fashioned, or the daily special (the photos of the pistachio one on their website looks incredible).  But now that I've experienced the wait and the tragic donut status proclamations, I'm not sure if I want to put myself through the anxiety and heartbreak all over again.

I have learned my lesson though.  If I ever decide to give Doughnut Vault another go, I'll be sure to get there at least ten minutes before it is scheduled to open.  Until then, I think I'll stick with Dat Donut.

Doughnut Vault
400 1/2 N Franklin
Chicago, IL 60654


  1. Nehemiah should have hit up this spot ;p

  2. I guess he would be the type to wait in line for food....but I don't see him to be the type to pay $3 for a donut...


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