The best doughnuts in Cookeville

Who doesn’t like a good, buttery taste of heaven?

When I think of Cookeville, I think of Tennessee Tech, the historic town square, 94.7 The Country Giant, Rib City and other local sites and restaurants. I also think about doughnuts.

Cookeville is rich with history and heritage. What some residents will tell you about, if you haven’t yet tried them yourself, are the doughnuts in Cookeville. There are a few places to get those yeasty rings of goodness, but the two shops most people have a fondness for are either Ralph’s Donuts or Big O’s Donuts.

My favorite place to go for a doughnut is Big O’s. When I came to Tech, I wasn’t aware of any doughnut shops, but when I was first introduced to Big O’s, I fell in love. They have good coffee, too. But the majority of my Tech friends vie with my tastes and side with Ralph’s.

Created in 1973, Big O’s is located at 209 N. Jefferson Ave. just right off the historic square. If you can’t sleep and you’re craving a cup of coffee, a biscuit or a doughnut of any kind, then Big O’s is the place for you. They’re open 24/7, which is a big reason why Tech students flock to this place. Their house coffee is recommended as well.

Ralph’s has been around a bit longer. Since 1962, Ralph’s Donuts has served coffee and doughnuts to the Upper Cumberland. They have a huge selection of doughnuts as well, larger than Big O’s, and the atmosphere is welcoming, like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. Also you get a free butter twist when you go to Ralph’s for the first time. They are open 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Both Big O’s and Ralph’s have free Wi-Fi for anyone who would need access to the Internet.

I got doughnuts from both Big O’s and Ralph’s, and a small panel was constructed. It was time to see which doughnuts were the real winners.

The panel consisted of four Tech students: Thomas Hunter, Samir Martins, Ayla Harrison and Tia Orbin.

HUNTER: Ralph’s — glazed, chocolate, cake, red velvet; Big O’s — glazed, chocolate, cake, blueberry.

Hunter, sophomore multidisciplinary elementary education major, said he didn’t care for the chocolate glaze from either place.

The glazed doughnut from Big O’s was bigger, denser and “the air spaces are a little more uniform.” He also said the glazed doughnut looked like a good doughnut, but he was still partial to the Big O’s glazed doughnut.

He said the cake doughnuts from Ralph’s had a nice flavor and good texture, and the Big O’s cake doughnuts were less uniform but had a more defined taste.

He said the red velvet has a similar texture to the blueberry doughnut, and that is what he liked about it.

His favorite doughnut was the blueberry doughnut from Big O’s.

“It tastes like a fried blueberry muffin,” Hunter said.

Martins: Ralph’s — glazed, cake, chocolate, red velvet; Big O’s — glazed, cake, chocolate, blueberry.

Martins, senior civil engineering major, said the glazed doughnut from Ralph’s looked very good, but the one from Big O’s was shinier.

“The glazed doughnuts from Big O’s doesn’t taste as good as Ralph’s,” Martins said.

He said that he liked the cake doughnuts from both places, but he preferred the cake doughnut from Ralph’s, commenting that the doughnut “chews better.”

After trying a red velvet doughnut from Ralph’s, he said he imagined it to be better, but he still enjoyed the doughnut.

He also tried a blueberry doughnut from Big O’s.

“I don’t like blueberry that much,” Martins said. “I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I did.”

He was very fond of the chocolate doughnuts from both places, but he said the one from Ralph’s “is the best.”

Harrison: Ralph’s — glazed, chocolate, cinnamon twist; Big O’s — glazed, chocolate, blueberry.

Harrison, sophomore basic business major, was initially torn between which glazed doughnut tasted better, but she finally decided that she liked the one from Big O’s.

When she tried both of the chocolate doughnuts, she said they tasted very similar and couldn’t see the difference.

The cinnamon twist from Ralph’s was a special treat for her because she’d never had one before.

“It’s so good,” Harrison said. “I love cinnamon stuff.”

She tried the blueberry last, and concluded that it was her favorite.

“I like these because they taste just like blueberry muffins, and I love blueberry muffins.”

One thing she did mention was she thought the glazed doughnuts from both places were more buttery than the chocolate doughnuts.

Orbin:    Ralph’s — glazed, chocolate, cake, red velvet; Big O’s — glazed, chocolate, cake, blueberry.

Orbin, senior zoology major, said she already had a preference for Ralph’s. She enjoyed both glazed doughnuts from both places.

“It’s just sweet enough to make it good,” Orbin said about Ralph’s glazed doughnut. “It doesn’t hurt your teeth.” She said the Big O’s doughnut has the “right bread to sweetness ratio.”

“I’m not a chocolate fan.” She didn’t find either of the chocolate doughnuts appealing, but she did say the chocolate doughnut from Ralph’s was better because it was “not as chocolatey as Big O’s.”

She tried a blueberry doughnut from Big O’s and said the blueberry offsets the sweetness.

She also tried a red velvet doughnut from Ralph’s, commenting that it was kind of bland.

“There’s nothing to it. It’s like I’m eating nothing at all.”

She concluded by eating cake doughnuts, preferring the one from Big O’s.

“It’s actually really good. There’s no basic flavor and it’s just like a cake.”


What I noticed was that the doughnuts from Big O’s were bigger than the ones from Ralph’s. Plus the price for a dozen is the same at both places: $9 a dozen. So you’re getting more for your money, but as Orbin said, it will feel like you’re eating more bread.

I’m still a Big O’s guy, but I now know that the general consensus is that more people think Ralph’s tastes better.

Eat your heart out Cookeville.