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Restaurant review: Dunkin’s lackluster selections leave customers feeling more bitter than sweet

Located on Gayley Avenue, Dunkin’ claims to offer a convenient, on-the-go service for busy Bruins. But its impersonal service and lackluster menu bring nothing new to Westwood. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

"Dunkin'"

1001 Gayley Ave. 

Los Angeles, CA 90024

By Breanna Diaz

Jan. 20, 2023 2:25 p.m.

The bold claim that UCLA runs on Dunkin’ turns out to be quite a stretch.

National coffee chain Dunkin’ had its grand opening in Westwood on Jan. 12, adding yet another coffee option to the village’s repertoire. The restaurant has been operating since December and offers customers a selection of coffee, drinks, donuts and breakfast items. Overall, the quality of the drinks and donuts is mediocre, and the restaurant itself lacks a college-student-friendly ambiance.

Situated on the corner of Gayley Avenue and Weyburn Avenue, Dunkin’ is located away from the foot traffic and hubbub of Westwood Village. Upon stepping into the cafe, customers are greeted with a large glass case of donuts front and center, inviting them to browse the various flavors. For $1.86 per classic donut or $14.99 for a dozen, Dunkin’ offers a variety of flavors such as sour cream, chocolate butternut and lemon.

Within the cafe, the interior design is urban-industrial with a strip of colored LED lights stretching across the ceiling. Aside from a splashy UCLA mural, the decor is sparse and blandly corporate. Among the clamor of noise, the restaurant noticeably lacks the warm, enticing coffee scent that wafts from the doors of its competitor Starbucks.

[Related: Restaurant review: Egg Tuck’s new location scrambles to meet expectations]

Encouraging customers to grab and go rather than sit and sip, Dunkin’ forgoes table seating – likely because of the limited square footage – instead opting for stacked, bleacher-like benches. The stiff seating arrangement, which is placed directly behind the ordering kiosks, is distant from the pickup counter, so the counterintuitive layout encourages customers to get their drinks and leave as soon as possible. For those who wish to study while sipping on a latte, Dunkin’ is not the place to go.

As for the menu, Dunkin’ offers traditional hot and iced coffees, such as flavored lattes, Americanos and cold brew. Customers order at one of the large touchscreen kiosks, meaning no human interaction is required when seeking an early morning caffeine fix. However, those who have questions or issues with their order are left with no option but to awkwardly try to get the attention of the employees behind the counter.

Additionally, ordering on a screen is more time-consuming than ordering with a cashier. Searching through the myriad drop-down menus and categories for one specific donut is more tedious than saying the name aloud. That said, despite the steady flow of customers coming in and going out, the drinks and donuts are prepared quickly, perfect for busy students on the go.

(Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)
A disposable Dunkin' cup is displayed. While the lattes are satisfying, the ice blended drink left much to be desired. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

Ultimately, the drinks fall flat. The brown butter toffee latte has a delightful, smooth flavor, and the toasted nuttiness from both the brown butter and toffee mesh well together without becoming overbearing. The drink doesn’t get watery too soon, as it’s served with a conservative amount of ice. On the other hand, the almond milk latte disappoints, as it’s imbued with the flavor of burnt almond milk that masks the taste of coffee.

For the same price and size, the iced caramel cappuccino is a blended concoction of milk and coffee served with even more ice. While the caramel coffee and milky froth swirl together majestically, the drink itself is no more than a crunchy slurry of ice chips that fail to live up to expectations. A sip through the bright blue straw delivers a mouthful of bitter ice, completely losing the caramel flavor, and an unappetizing mush of frosted milk settles atop the drink.

[Related: Restaurant review: Primo’s Donuts caters to its college audience, diverse options sweeten experience]

Dunkin’s donuts are nothing to write home about, especially compared to more delectable local options such as Primo’s Donuts down the street. However, they are cheaper and taste good enough to satiate a sweetness craving. Eating them is no clean feat since they are delivered in a paper bag hastily stacked on top of each other. The frosting spreads all over the inside of the bag, making the snacking experience a sticky mess.

The Boston cream pie donut requires several bites before finding the cream filling. However, the filling has a mild vanilla flavor that balances the sweetness of the dough and the chalky but sugary chocolate frosting. Although not generously filled with cream, the donut base is chewy yet fluffy.

For a more classic donut option, the chocolate frosted donut offers familiar flavors of fried dough and frosting. Similar to the Boston cream pie donut, the chocolate topping has an artificial, waxy texture to it. However, it is not overbearingly sweet. Neither donut tastes fresh-made, but the flavors are passable enough to stand in as a quick snack.

Those looking for a coffee place that delivers quickly may enjoy Dunkin’, and its price range sits on the lower end compared to other coffee shops in town like Alfred. But without an inviting atmosphere tailored to college life, Dunkin’ brings an impersonal, uninspired presence true to its status as a chain restaurant.

Only time will tell if Dunkin’ becomes a Bruin go-to, or if the cafe runs out of steam.

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