Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Gail Ann Coffee Shop

10 Medford Street, Arlington, MA 02474
(781) 648-9584 Find location!

Photo of Gail Ann Coffee Shop, Arlington, MA It seems like some of the food trends of late have been of items that are anything but new, like cupcakes, burgers, tacos, and doughnuts. And while in many cases, the trends lean toward more modern and inventive (and more expensive) takes on these foods, you can certainly find places that still serve old-fashioned versions of them. Take the humble doughnut, for example; a number of new spots have opened up in the Greater Boston area over the past several years that lean toward (or fully embrace) gourmet and yes, almost upscale doughnuts with unusual flavors and toppings--and the prices can be quite steep, being at least twice as much as some of the more basic everyday doughnut shops that dot the region. And those basic doughnut shops still do exist--and really aren't all that basic, with a few offering what some consider to remain among the best doughnuts in the Boston area. Linda's in Belmont, Donut King in Quincy and Weymouth, Donuts With A Difference and Demet's Donuts in Medford, and Twin Donuts in Allston are a few such places, and one of the oldest (and best) is a humble little spot in Arlington Center called Gail Ann Coffee Shop, which continues to serve up inexpensive and freshly-made doughnuts after more than 50 years in business.

Arlington Center (and Arlington in general) is loaded with independent storefronts, and Gail Ann is no exception. Although it has had several different owners since opening back in the 1950s, it remains a local hangout and kind of an "anti-chain" where the space is simple, basic, and welcoming. The tiny shop includes some table seating and counter stools off to the side, a few more seats outside when the weather is nice, an ordering counter in the center, and, well, that's about it. Expect to see some real local characters as you walk in, with the people behind the counter and the customers often knowing each other on a first-name basis, but Gail Ann isn't cliquey or exclusive at all, instead welcoming both newcomers and regulars to the place.

Gail Ann is both a breakfast and lunch spot, offering such items as breakfast sandwiches, bagels, muffins, cinnamon rolls, croissants, and coffee along with some lunch sandwiches and soups, but the doughnuts here are front and center, with many if not most folks coming here for that reason. The handmade doughnuts are moderately big and tend not to come with inventive or offbeat ingredients, instead being familiar flavors; a few options here include honey dip, chocolate honey dip, chocolate frosted with (or without) jimmies, jelly-filled, cream-filled, butter crunch, and glazed crullers (also known as sticks or twisters) that come in plain, honey dip, and chocolate honey dip. Doughnuts can be ordered individually, by the half-dozen, or by the dozen, though keep in mind that this is a cash-only spot, so don't expect to grab a couple dozen doughnuts and put them on your credit card.

To those who live in Arlington, Gail Ann Coffee Shop is a local treasure, a place to go to see familiar faces and grab the types of doughnuts that recall the days of youth. There is nothing fancy about the place, and if you mention it to friends, there's a good chance that they may never have heard of the spot, but that's part of the charm of such neighborhood gems like this one; here's hoping it remains a local institution for years to come.