This week, I reached out for a six-pack of Donut Sticks, new on the breakfast menu at McDonald's, with 14,000 restaurants just about everywhere.
These beg the comparison to, get ready, Donut Fries at Dunkin', Funnel Cake Fries at Burger King, Churros at Costco, French Toast Sticks in the frozen food aisle, beignets at the Café du Monde in New Orleans, and funnel cakes galore at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. At least at McDonald's, there is something new under the sunup.
Here's the Donut Sticks breakdown: strips of sweetened dough, fried fresh in the restaurant so they come out glistening hot and golden brown. Then they're sprinkled with cinnamon sugar so they're a little crunchy on the outside, but still doughy and warm inside. Let's play pick up sticks ... I'll go first.
Total calories: 280 (for six). Fat grams: 13. Sodium: 260 mg. Carbs: 34 g. Dietary fiber: 1 g. Protein: 6 g. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $1.69. A dozen go for $3.29.
We have a "Donut" controversy! True, Dunkin's introduced its Donut Fries as a limited-time-only special in July 2018, well ahead of McDonald's release this week of Donut Sticks.
But McDonald's snaps back that it test-marketed its Donut Sticks in January 2018, so really they were first. I'm not getting in the middle of that.
Let's talk bottom line. Dunkin' sold its Donut Fries 5 for $2, while McDonald's gives you six for $1.69, so the better value is clearly under the Arches. Here's the decider: McDonald's is frying Donut Sticks to order, while most Dunkin' locations got their Donut Fries in frozen and heated 'em up oven-style. Doughnuts should be a little greasy, otherwise why bother?
McDonald's Donut Sticks start with a yeast dough, so they're lighter and fluffier than a dense cake doughnut. The cinnamon sugar crunch offsets the soft interior. All tolled, this sugar shocker should keep you roaring till lunch.
These Donut Sticks have two roles in McDonald's scheme to rev up declining breakfast sales — which explains why they're available only until 10:30 am. Job one is to keep up with the competition offering similar morning sweets. The main objective, though, is to provide something to dunk into a cup of McCafe coffee.
McDonald's, like Dunkin', realizes that coffee is where the big bucks dwell. If you wonder why Dunkin' dropped "Donuts" from its name last year, consider that 60 percent of Dunkin's total intake is from coffee — as in 1.9 billion cups sold last year. Dunkin' is a coffee company, McDonald's wants a piece of that.
Donut Strips are available at McDonald's through April.
Ken Hoffman reviews a new fast food restaurant item every Wednesday. Have a suggestion or a drive-thru favorite? Let Ken know on Twitter.