Why Dunkin’ Donuts Is Philly’s True Coffee Soulmate
The cup of coffee you carry around Philly says a lot about you. In a city where no one smiles or, God forbid, says hello, it can quickly relay a good amount of information about strangers. I like to think of it as the human equivalent of a butt sniff – or rather, the Philadelphian’s equivalent of a butt sniff.
When I see Red Hook’s cute little cup parading down Fourth Street, I can’t help but admire its drinker. Not only did she resist the best muffin in town, but she went to a locally owned café and spent a little extra to support her neighbors. She’s socially conscious and expensive smelling, but not so much better than me that she remembered her reusable travel mug.
Wawa fans are just that – fans. They will blindly and obsessively defend their coffee’s honor no matter what, so you never want to question their cup (see also: their sports teams). These are great people to have on your side if you need to dump a body in the Delaware, but they can be a little intense for everyday life.
I don’t like it, but I will admit that I can relate to the Starbucks cup. It was feeling really ambitious and confident 10 years ago, so much so that it didn’t even realize it had already peaked. That a few fancy syrups wouldn’t be enough. That the next decade would belong to the French presses and the cold drips and the impossibly fresh-faced intern who keeps trying to Snapchat me like that’s a word I know. Out-of-touch Starbucks patron, hold that grande frap tight, for you only have each other in this new world.
The food truck coffee crowd can really go either way. Some of them are merely late for work. Some of them are serial killers. It stands to reason that some of them are both, so perhaps be extra nice to your office manager.
My favorite cup to spot? The most perfectly well-adjusted, most perfectly Philadelphia cup? The cup that screams, “I can fix your transmission, but I also call my mom twice a week and think your dog is really intuitive” from across Market Street?
That would be the Dunkin’ Donuts cup.
I’m not sure why I associate Dunkin’ Donuts with Philadelphia so strongly, as the chain actually originated in Boston. A more accurate Patron Saint of Philly Coffee would probably be home-grown empire La Colombe. But when you walk into La Colombe’s lovely cafes, you could easily be in Paris or Madrid (which, I assume, is exactly the point). When you walk into a Dunkin’ Donuts, you know exactly where you are.
The Dunkin’ Donuts of my youth is, quite clearly, in Northeast Philadelphia. You will get sassed for ordering three Munchkins, you will get six tablespoons of sugar in your black coffee, you will find a pregnancy test in the bathroom. Most importantly, you will like it.
One of the strangest and most beautiful nooks of the city, the 15th Street Station Dunkin’ Donuts is a testament to Philly’s own scrappy brand of evolution. Only the strongest have survived working in this subterranean franchise, so the woman toasting your bagel is likely doing it through sheer, superhuman will. Tip her well, because at least two more people will fully undress in her line before the morning rush is over.
Although the menu is exactly the same, the Southampton Dunkin’ Donuts thinks it’s better than yours with its fancy fireplace and cushy lounge area. The upscale paneling screams, “This is flatbread, egg-white country,” but what zip code do you think it’ll claim when it goes off to college?
It’s only been open for a couple weeks, but my favorite Dunkin’ Donuts is just a couple blocks from my apartment on the 300 block of South Street. It was a pretty perfect stretch of the city before – if you want more than what this corridor is offering, you simply want too much – but now it feels complete in every sense of the word. In a nod to the location’s prime people-watching real estate, there’s some comfy window seating. In a nod to Philly, there’s a grumpy cashier who will direct you across the street to Starbucks if your order gets too tricky.
Welcome, as always, to the neighborhood, Dunkin’ Donuts. Never change — because we’re sure as hell not going to.
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