As the Globe’s resident retail reporter, I can expect to receive a breathless e-mail about Dunkin’ Donuts’ latest menu offerings about once a week. This past month alone, I’ve gotten missives from its public relations team about Girl Scout cookie-flavored coffee drinks, mint brownie doughnuts, and something about a brown sugar chipotle bacon breakfast sandwich. Rarely do these e-mails make me bat an eye . . . until last week, when I saw Dunkin’ was experimenting with a completely “new” product, donut fries.
These “fries” are part of Dunkin’s new “Gotta Have $2 Snacks” afternoon menu, which is being tested in a few select locations in Boston.
As someone who appreciates a delicious churro — the cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted fried dough treat native to Spain and now found across Latin America — I was intrigued.
It turns out, so was the rest of the Internet. “Dunkin’ Donuts ‘inventing’ donut fries is the gentrification of the churro,” wrote one Twitter user.
“You dorks just made a churro and pretended you didn't just steal the idea from Spanish-speakers,” wrote another.
Could a retail chain come close to recreating the sublime crunchy-sweet confection I first sampled in the late-night churrerías of Madrid? I had to find out. And since my editors wanted to know how the rest of the menu stacked up, I decided to test it too. Which is how I came to spend $42 on an armful of $2 treats on Monday afternoon.
I recruited some colleagues, who represented a full range in terms of their declared degree of Dunkin’ appreciation. The full snack menu attempts to cover your cravings from savory to sweet, and so we worked our way through the menu with that in mind.
Ham and cheese wrap
If you’ve ever rolled up a slice of ham and American cheese in a flour tortilla, and then microwaved it for 20 seconds, then congratulations! — you’re now qualified to sell them to America for $2 a pop. The wraps were “underwhelming” according to testers. “It is simply a wake-up wrap without the egg that has been rolled into a cigar-like shape,” said one Dunkin’ aficionado, “there is nothing new in the taste or components other than the shape.”
Pretzel bites with honey mustard dipping sauce
The small pretzel nubs are about the size of a Munchkin, but don’t deliver nearly the same degree of pleasure. The consensus was they were too dry and doughy. “It's very dense, it’s like somebody compacted a dinner roll,” one tester said. Another pretzel expert opined: “The whole point of a pretzel is to maximize the surface area — the brown coating that you put salt on — relative to the amount of dough used. These are spheres, so you get the least amount of brown surface that’s mathematically possible for a given lump of dough. Literally any other shape would produce a better pretzel.”
Waffle breaded chicken tenders
The manager of the Dunkin’ Donuts store at 265 Franklin St., Fahima Jahan, said the tenders became a best-selling item as soon as they were introduced last week. We managed to score the last two orders, and among the savory selections, these were a clear favorite among the test group. “The chicken was moist, and the coating tasted like frozen waffles, and not in a bad way. I’d eat these as a guilty pleasure,” said one tester.
Have you ever eaten a Munchkin and thought: Hmm, I wish I had a way to add more calories to this snack? You’re now in luck. The half-dozen dough balls come with their own chocolate dipping sauce, which is really the only thing that distinguishes them from other Munchkins. Unfortunately, the sauce was underwhelming and watery. “The chocolate sauce is too runny and doesn’t enhance the Munchkins,” was a common complaint.
Warm chocolate chip cookies
Dunkin’ has rolled out cookies in the past, and these were totally serviceable for an afternoon pick-me-up. The chocolate was still melty, while the cookie itself was crunchier than it looked. “I dipped a half a cookie in the chocolate dipping sauce and am still having a sugar rush,” said one tester.
Amid the sugar binge, the gluten-free brownies were a bit of an afterthought, but they shouldn’t be. Moist and chewy, they were satisfying, though a teeny bit oily. They’re also the only new snack item that is in the grab-and-go section of the stores and come pre-wrapped for freshness.
As we worked our way through the taste-test, morale was lagging, as too few snacks were stacking up to expectations. Then we got to the donut fries and recruited Brian McGrory, the Globe’s editor and a certified foodie, to step in. His reaction upon the first bite was immediate: “Holy s*&% these are good.” The consensus among the testers was that the fries were a worthy snack, though those who have experienced the true beauty of a deeply fried churro said they don’t come close to what you’ll find in Spain.
But it’s America that runs on Dunkin’, so they may have to suffice.