Godfrey Mister Donut – Godfrey, Illinois - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Godfrey Mister Donut

Godfrey, Illinois

Though it's thrived abroad, this forgotten Dunkin' rival has just one store left in the States. 

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Since its introduction in 1971, Mister Donut continues to be one of the most popular and beloved fast-food chains in Japan, even bigger than Dunkin’ Donuts, which has already withdrawn from the country decades ago. In fact, Mister Donut has become so mainstream there that many people don’t even know or have nearly forgotten that it’s an all-American brand.

The original Mister Donut was founded in Boston in 1956 by Harry Winokur, the brother-in-law and former business partner of the Dunkin’ Donuts founder Bill Rosenberg, following the dissolution of their partnership. It went on to become popular enough to compete well against Dunkin’, spawning about 550 stores across the States in its heyday. 

By the end of the 1980s, however, its popularity had waned in the U.S., largely overshadowed by its rival. As a result, the franchise was eventually taken over by Allied Lyons, Dunkin’ Donuts’ then-parent company, which replaced most of its U.S. locations with Dunkin’ outlets. In the meantime, some of the American Mister Donuts formed a new chain called Donut Connection.

Today, the last Mister Donut store in the States stands defiant in the quiet village of Godfrey, Illinois, serving the original doughnuts and what it claims to be the world’s best coffee. In a sense, this is the last true Mister Donut remaining, as its Asian cousins have replaced most of the typical American menu in favor of original creations such as chocolate-covered French crullers and signature mochi doughnuts called Pon-de-Ring.

The Godfrey store was purchased in 2004 by Caesar Blanco, who had returned to the States after 25 years of military service only to find that Mister Donut had all but disappeared back home. He went on to resuscitate the local business and continues to make doughnuts from the original recipes himself.

The last remaining American menu offers long johns, twists, homemade cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, biscuits and gravy, and the freshly-ground coffee that once gave Mister Donut its fame. It has since attracted many a Japanese tourist seeking novelty and nostalgia, something all too familiar but also wholly different.

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