Leonard’s: Stellar Service Somewhat Compensates for Drab Donut Offerings

19 Nov

Chicago Magazine ran an article on the very last page of a recent issue that caught our eye.

Since we’re always on the lookout for new Donut Haunts, we scanned the article for familiar names.  Dat Donut?  Check.  Weber’s Bakery?  Check.  Old Fashioned Donuts?  Check.

But then, jackpot!  A new name!  And this is how we wound up at Leonard’s Bakery in Northbrook, IL, this morning.  According to the Segal-Loevy family (our kindred spirits, pastry-wise), the chocolate frosted donut at Leonard’s is the best in Chicagoland.

Well!  We had to see for ourselves.  So we headed up to Northbrook.

Upon entering, we were dismayed.  Leonard’s only regularly stocks two kinds of donuts: the aforementioned chocolate frosting and a cinnamon cake donut.  And they bake their donuts, something we have not had good luck with before.  In fact, had it not been for Marc, we might have walked back out the door.

Marc outside Leonard's. He's the man.

After finding out we had traveled a good ways to come to Leonard’s, Marc gave us a free kiddush cake (see below), something we’ve never had before.  We also picked up both kinds of donuts and a few other pastries, and chatted with Mark for a while.

We’ll speak more on the great vibe at Leonard’s, but first —

Here’s what we found:

______________________________________________________________________________________

Chocolate Frosted

Coffee Girl: Not a disappointment, yet un-stellar.  Excellent for a doughnut that has not been fried; but then again, what’s the point of a doughnut that has not been fried?  Leonard’s version of this classic boasts a delicious cake that gently melts in the mouth and an excellent chocolate frosting. We were starting to feel that flutter of Potential Donut Ecstasy, when — WHAM!  heartbreak. Where’s that oily crunch we love so much?  Sigh.  All in all, an excellent baked experience that lands somewhere between a cookie and a piece of cake.

Donut Boy: I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague.  This donut’s gentle, creamy chocolate frosting was not enough to compensate for its lack of cajones.  Tasty, sure, but it almost feels like you’re eating a round cupcake.  I hate to speak disparagingly of my fellow Donut Appreciators, but I can’t see how anyone would think this is the best donut in Chicagoland.  One could argue it’s not a true donut.

Score: 8.0

Cinnamon

Coffee Girl: Delicious.  I appreciated the granulated crunch of the cinnamon sugar coating, and, again, the cake was very nice indeed, if it weren’t trying to be a doughnut.

Donut Boy: Still can’t shake the this-isn’t-a-real-donut vibe, but pleasing nonetheless.  Since I hadn’t been told this was the best in Chicago, I lowered my expectations and found myself enjoying it.

Score: 8.0

Chocolate-Cinnamon Kiddush Cake

Coffee Girl: Excellent, for those not used to the hard-core stuff.  In other words, those bakery customers who wander in on the way to or from Saturday morning errands, planning to buy a little something to have later in the day, or even on Sunday morning — as opposed to Professional Donuteers such as ourselves, who charge in, already stoked on 7-11 coffee, pushing other customers out of the way as we search the counters desperately for all varieties of doughnuts.  This kiddush actually turned out to be quite tasty, in a patient sort of way.  Proves, I guess, that there is something to be said for patience and maturity in the approach of the True Donuteer.  Theoretically.

Donut Boy: Very tasty and very dense.  Each piece of kiddush was made up of layers and layers and layers of buttery dough folded over itself.  If you’re into coffee cake, this is what you want to go for.

Score: 8.3

Sour Cream Cinnamon Roll

Coffee Girl: Someone other than I would probably really like this pastry.  Flaky and gentle, it lacked the power punch of sweetness that I need to get a true Doughnut Buzz.

Donut Boy: Very no-frills.  I really liked its brittle, flaky crunch and its rudimentary sweetness.

Score: 7.8

Marshmallow Explosion

Coffee Girl: Now THIS entry packed a power punch of sweetness indeed.  Like a Hostess Twinkie that had, first, banished all preservatives and, second, been administered a healthy dose of steroids, this upside-down, chocolate-frosted, cream-filled number was a stunner, filling me with a killer sugar bliss.

Donut Boy: Truly remarkable.  Though I knew it was made up of several (delicious) components, the entire pastry enveloped my tongue in a swirly of chocolate and cream.  Divine.

Score: 9.0______________________________________________________________________________________

We feel conflicted.  On the one hand, the service at Leonard’s is the best we’ve ever had.  They clearly love their customers and are proud of their independence from major retailers.

On the other hand, Leonard’s only carries two donuts, neither of which are fried.  We won’t mince words: If you’re looking for donuts, look elsewhere.

OVERALL SCORE: 8.2

However, if you are a) not a total Donut Purist (we confess we are), or b) looking for other baked goods, Leonard’s is definitely worth a stop.  We do not regret going in the slightest, although we’d like to have words with the Segal-Loevy family regarding what constitutes a real donut and how they should be ranked.  As you know, ranking donuts is a passion of ours.

Until next week, Fair Readers!

-CG&DB

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