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Immediately before I moved to Bartlett, I lived in East Memphis in the Sea Isle Park neighborhood. This put me roughly 5 minutes by car from Gibson’s Donuts, a veritable religion in Memphis. We got donuts at Gibson’s once a month or so. Since I’ve moved to Bartlett, I’ve been trying to find a place that’s at least close to as good as Gibson’s. I’ve tried a few Bartlett Donut shops, and nothing even came close. Until today.
A few days ago I was poking around online and stumbled upon The Donut Box. All the reviews were glowing, so I was cautiously optimistic. Today, I woke up early (Because I read that they sometimes sell out), and took the short drive over to The Donut Box on Kirby Whitten, just a bit north of Stage Rd.
I arrived pretty early (at least for me on a Sunday, 8:30am), and there were only two people in line ahead of me. The place is relatively small, with a display case at the front filled with donuts and a few tables in a galley style dining room to the right. The interior was exceptionally clean and neat. That’s always a good first sign. I’m not saying I’ve never been in a filthy dive with amazing food, but in general, attention to detail and cleanliness is definitely a plus.
Since I’ve never been here before, I tried to get a decent variety to try a bunch of stuff. I ended up with a half dozen donuts: Glazed, Oreo, Cheesecake, Blueberry, and then two frosted with sprinkles because Ava REQUIRES sprinkles and will get the bottle of sprinkles out of the pantry and pour them into her mouth like an insane person if given the chance.
I started with the glazed. I always feel like the glazed donut is the best barometer for a donut shop. Anyone can make frosting taste good, glazed leans a lot more heavily on the actual structure of the donut. The Donut Box glazed donuts are the real deal my dudes. Somehow dense and airy at the same time, a very well executed glaze that’s not overly sweet, and the perfect amount of chew. After one bite of their plain glazed donut, I knew the rest were going to be awesome. This donut is honestly slightly better than a Gibson’s glazed to me. I know that’s heresy in Memphis, but it’s true.
Next up the blueberry. It’s a cake type donut, and it’s a favorite of both me and Daisy. It was also excellent. Good texture, and the glaze on it has a subtle crisp to it, kinda like breaking into a creme brûlée. Nice blueberry flavor, but REAL and subtle blueberry, not artificial blueberry, at least according to my taste buds.
Next up was the Oreo. I’ve had these before and usually don’t really care for them. I’m honestly not a big fan of chocolate on donuts, it’s just a really heavy and bold flavor that seems to weigh down the lightness of a good donut. This one totally changed my mind. There’s a bit of a cream on top of the donut, and then a very light layer of chocolate. It ends up being very nicely balanced in a way that most donuts with chocolate are not. It might honestly disappoint hardcore chocolate lovers, but to me it’s absolutely perfect.
As I mentioned earlier, Ava is a sprinkle fiend, so I got a couple of frosted donuts with sprinkles. I honestly didn’t expect much from them, at pretty much any other donut place, that’s just going to be a sugar bomb with no depth of flavor. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried a little sample of it, though. Like the other toppings, the frosting is actually very well balanced. It’s there, and it’s a nice flavor, but it doesn’t just taste like pure sugar to the point that it overwhelms you. You can still taste the actual donut, and it’s fantastic. Notice that this one was so damn big I couldn’t even get it to sit up like the others for the photo.
I totes saved the best for last: The cheesecake donut. Daisy actually took a bite of it and said “Oh god, we’re in trouble, I want these every day!”. They’re like, life changing. It’s a donut with a cheesecake glaze and graham cracker crumble. I think I’m a reasonably decent writer, at least coherent, but I don’t honestly think I have the words to describe how awesome the cheesecake donut is. Maybe it’s just my taste buds, but it strikes a perfect balance of sweet and slightly tangy, soft and slightly crunchy. It’s legitimately one of the best donuts I’ve ever eaten in my life. If you only get one donut from The Donut Box, get the damn cheesecake donut, for the love of god.
Overall, I’m INSANELY impressed with The Donut Box. The donuts themselves are amazingly well done in every aspect, and their light-handed use of sugar in the frostings, glazes, and creams is right up my alley, producing a balanced taste as opposed to the sugar bombs you get from most places.
I legitimately think, gun to my head, I’m picking The Donut Box over Gibson’s. They both have fantastic donuts, and the plain glazed offering from them are neck and neck, but I feel like Donut Box edges out Gibson’s when it comes to anything with a topping or frosting. Gibson’s are much more loaded with sugar and the sweetness can be overwhelming. The Donut Box nails the balance on every single one I tried today, letting the donut shine and the topping be a nice little accompanying note. You really can’t go wrong with either, but if you live closer to The Donut Box, there’s no reason to drive to east Memphis.