The sun was setting and sugar cravings were setting in. There was only one thing for the two On The Menu editors to do: hop in a car, drive to Crumbl Cookies and attempt to drown our midterm anxieties in dessert.
Crumbl Cookies opened a new location in Goleta at 5660 Calle Real last month. For those who don’t know, Crumbl Cookies is a chain of bakeries that specializes in baking a variety of enormous cookies. Their rotating menu of over 200 cookies serves up five unique flavors each week, plus their classic Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunk cookie and some ice cream flavors. The cookie empire rarely repeats flavors, meaning that if you discover a drool-worthy cookie flavor one week, there’s a very low chance that you’ll be able to experience those flavors again in the foreseeable future. Originally based in Utah, Crumbl was founded in 2017 and now has over 800 stores across the United States.
With over 7 million followers on TikTok and 4 million followers on Instagram, Crumbl Cookies is nothing less than a viral phenomenon. Their devoted fans are more than just followers: Crumbl enthusiasts live and breathe their cookies. And for good reason: their aesthetic photos and videos of gorgeously decadent cookies promise to deliver world peace with nothing but butter and sugar.
But do they really live up to the hype? We didn’t think so.
A single cookie comes with a hefty price tag of $5. Customers can also choose from box orders of four cookies, six cookies and twelve cookies. As the number of cookies increases, the price drops incrementally, but not much. We will admit that the massive size of these cookies could justify their high price point: each are easily five inches in diameter and loaded with toppings like icing, pudding, sprinkles, cookie crumbles and more. But are they too massive? With all their piled toppings, the cookies are too heavy and wide to bite comfortably into. Yet, inexplicably, Crumbl does not ask if you want forks or knives with your order. They don’t even provide them in a public location to grab on your way out, ostensibly encouraging customers to eat their cookies at home. However, we were able to obtain a pair of utensils from the cashier after realizing there was no other feasible way to consume our order. But our request for napkins — another vital tool for eating these monstrous treats — went in vain: they didn’t have any. An employee kindly offered us a sheet of paper towels instead and while we appreciated the gesture, their lack of napkins seems incredibly weird for a bakery that serves hazardously messy baked goods.
But our problems with Crumbl did not stop there. Adding to the inconvenience of eating their cookies was Crumbl’s complete lack of seating. The store front, which looked like a sterile dentist’s office with only a pink wall to break up the fluorescent-lit white paint, was rather small. Inside the door, there was only space for a short line for ordering, a spot for pick-up and a trash can. Outside, there was even less — in order to eat our cookies, we were forced to steal seating from their neighboring Thai restaurant.
But of course, the actual cookies were the main event.
For our box of four cookies, the flavors we selected were Pink Velvet, Brookie, Milk Chocolate Chip and Banana Cream Pie. To our extreme disappointment, the special seasonal flavor of Pumpkin Cheesecake was sold out by the time we arrived to Crumbl at 6 p.m. We found it shocking that Crumbl did not anticipate the increased demand for pumpkin-flavored treats in the fall, but let this be a testament to the chain’s popularity.
The Pink Velvet cookie’s texture was very doughy and soft — perhaps too soft actually. While Red Velvet isn’t a particularly strong flavor, Crumbl’s interpretation of it was reminiscent of a glorified supermarket sugar cookie. From the soft cookie base to the very sweet frosting, we would struggle telling the Crumbl cookie apart from a generic grocery store one in a blind taste test, giving Pink Velvet a score of three out of five.
The Banana Cream Pie also left us thoroughly unimpressed. Yet the Banana Cream Pie cookie was a literal hockey puck and impossible to eat without a knife and fork, defeating the main purpose of ordering a cookie in the first place. The cookie’s thick base was nothing special, but things got weird once we moved on to try the chilled banana-flavored topping. Made of an indiscernible combination of ingredients, we didn’t taste a hint of banana at all. Nonetheless, the creativity was there — shown in the interesting presentation and Nilla wafer topping — but flavor was absent, awarding the Banana Cream Pie cookie a two out of five.
Crumbl redeemed itself with its cookie variations that were the least adventurous, but for a company whose schtick is mastering the art of the unconventional cookie, this felt like a cop-out. The Brookie, which featured an even split of double chocolate and chocolate chip, was nothing special, but it was arguably good. The double chocolate flavor was weak due to its failure to include dark chocolate chips; the chocolate chip side was just okay. We did think the cookie’s texture was the perfect balance of soft and crispy, resulting in a score of a three out of five.
Chocolate Chip is Crumbl’s signature flavor, and it lived up to those expectations. We loved that it was larger in size than the others in the box. With each bite, we got bites of melty chocolate and a richer flavor profile than the other cookies. Chocolate Chip felt familiar, like the taste of your grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. The fact that Chocolate Chip was our favorite flavor made this entire experience a bit underwhelming. We would have rated this cookie a five out of five, but with it being such a foolproof dessert item that you can get at other bakeries for a better price, we reduced its score to a four out of five.
Overall, the On The Menu editors will likely not visit Crumbl Cookies again soon. While the bakery chain has redeeming factors, their high prices, take-out only atmosphere and unexceptional flavors did not live up to their promise.
A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the November 9, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.