Let the French have their croissants. The real morning-pastry action is in doughnuts, and even if Americans can’t claim sole ownership over something as simple as frying dough, the United States can certainly stake a claim on doughnut shops, those beautiful, Technicolor gut-bomb oases that dot this great land of ours.
It’s not like doughnut shops ever went out of fashion (and a particular chain on which America supposedly “runs” has spent the last few decades squeezing franchises into any nook or cranny where they’ll fit), but doughnuts have been susceptible to the same recent culinary gentrification that raised the profile of burgers and pizza. Why? Because a plain doughnut is an essentially perfect canvas on which forward-thinking up-and-comers can apply their own distinct culinary sensibilities, a beloved foodstuff that is begging to be ennobled.
Happy to do just that are new-school doughnut shops like Glazed in Charleston, Top Pot in Seattle, or the much-celebrated Federal Donuts in Philly. And yet, the gleaming counters of old-school shops will never go out of fashion, either.
And so, when Grub Street set out to survey the current doughnut situation in America, we didn’t favor new over old. Instead, we looked for shops of all ages with street cred, spots that feel as immune to trends as doughnuts themselves. So this list is not the 101 best shops, per se, or even the buzziest; it is instead a guide to the places and people that we think are doing their damnedest to pay proper respect to one of our country’s greatest culinary traditions.
If you just want to see the list, just check it out straight ahead (it’s unranked, organized geographically). Then, to read about why each shop warrants inclusion — and to see all the requisite doughnut porn — click the slideshow link under the list. Lastly, head to the nearest spot and get a dozen for yourself and whoever else you think deserves a doughnut today.
1. Dough, New York City
2. The Cinnamon Snail, New York City
3. Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, New York City
4. Carpe Donut, New York City
5. Dough Loco , New York City
6. Leske’s, New York City
7. Doughnut Plant, New York City
8. Beach Donut Shop, Clinton, CT
9. The Orangeside on Temple, New Haven, CT
10. Speedy Doughnuts, Norwalk, CT
11. Atkins Farms, Amherst, MA
12. Kane’s, Saugus, MA
13. Union Square Donuts, Somerville, MA
14. Lyndell’s Bakery, Somerville, MA
15. Allie’s Donuts, North Kingstown, RI
16. The Holy Donut, Portland, ME
17. Willow Bake Shoppe, Rockland, ME
18. Congdon’s, Wells, ME
19. Beiler’s Donuts and Salads, Philadelphia, PA
20. Federal Donuts, Philadelphia, PA
21. Undrgrnd Donuts, Philadelphia, PA
22. Oram’s Donut Shop, Beaver Falls, PA
23. Shore Good Doughnuts, Ship Bottom, NJ
24. Ob-Co’s, Toms River, NJ
25. Uncle Dood’s Donuts, Toms River, NJ
26. Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Washington, DC
27. Golden Brown Delicious, Washington, DC
28. Heller’s Bakery, Washington, DC
29. Fractured Prune, Ocean City, MD
30. Donut King, Huntersville, NC
31. Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts, Charleston, SC
32. Sublime Doughnuts, Atlanta, GA
33. Dutch Monkey Doughnuts, Atlanta, GA
34. Gibson’s Donuts, Memphis, TN
35. The Heavenly Donut Co, Birmingham, AL
36. DoughWorks, Nashville, TN
37. Fox’s Donut Den, Nashville, TN
38. Monroe’s, Jackson, MS
39. Sweet Cheeks Donut & Sammich Shop, Fulton, MS
40. Grampa’s Bakery, Dania Beach, FL
41. Bennett’s Fresh Roast, Fort Meyers, FL
42. The Dandee Donut Factory, Pampano Beach, FL
43. Upper Nine Doughnut Company, New Orleans, LA
44. Blue Dot Donuts, New Orleans, LA
45. Freret Street Po-boys & Donuts, New Orleans, LA
46. Nord’s Bakery, Louisville, KY
47. Hi-Five Doughnuts, Louisville, KY
48. Polar Donuts, Oklahoma City, OK
49. Donut Stop, St. Louis, MO
50. World’s Fair Donuts, St. Louis, MO
51. Strange Donuts, St. Louis, MO
52. Bonomini Bakery, Cincinnati, OH
53. Presti’s Bakery, Cleveland, OH
54. Hotlman’s, Loveland, OH
55. LaMar’s, 27 shops across six states
56. Doughnut Vault, Chicago, IL
57. Firecakes, Chicago, IL
58. Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee, Chicago, IL
59. Dutch Girl Doughnuts, Detroit, MI
60. New Palace Bakery, Detroit, MI
61. Friske Orchards, Ellsworth, MI
62. Glam Doll, Minneapolis, MN
63. Bogart Doughnut Co, Minneapolis, MN
64. A Baker’s Wife, Minneapolis, MN
65. YoYo Donuts, Minnetonka, MN
66. Top Pot, Seattle, WA
67. FROST Doughnuts, Mill Creek, WA
68. Blue Star Doughnuts, Portland, OR
69. Voodoo Doughnut, Portland, OR
70. Helen Bernhad Bakery, Portland, OR
71. Dream Fluff Donuts, Berkeley, CA
72. Doughnut Hut, Burbank, CA
73. Peterson’s Donut Corner, Escondido, CA
74. The Donut Man, Glendora, CA
75. The Donut Wheel, Livermore, CA
76. Stan’s Donuts, Los Angeles, CA
77. Donut Friend, Los Angeles, CA
78. Boon Fly Cafe, Napa, CA
79. Doughnut Dolly, Oakland, CA
80. Donut Savant, Oakland, CA
81. Swiss Donut, Palm Springs, CA
82. Marie’s Donuts, Sacramento, CA
83. Doughbot, Sacramento, CA
84. Donut Bar, San Diego, CA
85. Bob’s Donuts, San Franciso, CA
86. Dynamo Donut, San Francisco, CA
87. Heartbaker, San Francisco, CA
88. Maple Leaf Donuts, San Jose, CA
89. Ferrell’s Donuts, Santa Cruz, CA
90. DK’s Donuts, Tustin, CA
91. Scotty’s Donuts, Visalia, CA
92. Pink Box Doughnuts, Las Vegas, NV
93. Ronald’s Donuts, Las Vegas, NV
94. Rebel Donut, Albuquerque, NM
95. Vovomeena, Phoenix, AZ
96. Gourdough Specialty Doughnuts, Austin, TX
97. laV, Austin, TX
98. Mustang Donuts, Dallas, TX
99. Hypnotic Donuts, Dallas, TX
100. Original Donut Shop, San Antonio, TX
101. Leonard’s Bakery, Honolulu, HI
Fany Gerson churns out yeast doughnuts in cool flavors like hibiscus, spiced chai, and blood orange, as well as traditional varieties like plain glazed. Whichever you choose, you’ll find a crunchy outside and perfectly pillowy inside. Visit Gerson’s Bed Stuy bakery to gaze at her glass-encased kitchen and eat doughnuts fresh from the fryer, or purchase her doughnuts at Smorgasburg, where they almost always sell out. These are bigger than most doughnuts, but they’re so fluffy and light that you’ll want (at least) one all to yourself.
What to Order: The brand-new black-and-white doughnut.
The Cinnamon Snail
Vegan doughnuts sound absolutely dismal, but this food truck has a cult following because theirs are spectacular. The Vendy Award-winning vanilla-bourbon-crème-brûlée doughnut is a must-order, but if that’s sold out, you can choose from other funky flavors like Thai-basil-coconut and cardamom-glazed-rose water with toasted pistachios.
What to Order: A vegan crème-brûlée doughnut.
Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop
Donna Siafakas’s beloved Greenpoint bakery specializes in traditional doughnuts that are far from fussy. Show up early for flavors like red-velvet-cake, Bavarian-cream, and paçzki — Polish doughnuts that are sort of like jelly doughnuts.
What to Order: A red-velvet cake doughnut.
This food truck only offers apple-cider doughnuts, which are dusted with cinnamon sugar and served warm. All ingredients are organic and locally sourced, and in the summer, you can even get a doughnut-ice-cream sandwich with Blue Marble
What to Order: An apple-cider doughnut — plus a cup of hot apple cider for dipping.
Chef Corey Cova embraces odd flavor pairings and delves into the experimental doughnut deep-end quite a lot — raspberry-Sriracha, anyone? But varieties like his mighty fine blueberry-glazed, which is laced with a high note of lime and a bit of rosemary, may put you off plain jelly forever.
What to Order: Miso, if available, or chocolate-coffee.
One of Bay Ridge’s last Nordic bakeries changed hands a few years ago and picked up some newfangled doughnut tricks. The peanut butter & jelly
specimen is less of an doughnut than a pastry-fied pillow filled with black-raspberry jelly and finished with a glossy, nutty glaze.
What to Order: Peanut butter & jelly.
In 1994, Mark Israel turned a Lower East Side tenement building into a bakery so that he could make his grandfather’s doughnut recipe. Years (and two above-ground shops later), his doughnuts have become a sensation. Even if you think they’re over-hyped, you’ll still find the jelly-filled square doughnut satisfying.
What to Order: The Blackout, a chocolate-cake doughnut filled with chocolate pudding, dipped in chocolate glaze, and sprinkled with chocolate cake crumbs.
Beach Donut Shop
This beloved shop favors flavors and ingredients that are rare in the age of Dunkin’, like sour cream, lemon sticks, and buttermilk. Its recipes haven’t changed in 60 years, and locals will tell you this is one of the finest mom-and-pop doughnut shops around.
What to Order: The chocolate-chocolate doughnut.
The Orangeside on Temple
Welcome to the “home of the square-cut donut,” where many flavors are candy-bar-themed, but there also plenty of great traditional varieties. The plain, straight-up buttermilk squares are made for dunking in hot, strong coffee. Legend has it that the shape was influenced by New Haven’s municipal grid.
What to Order: The cinnamon square, which is dusted with cinnamon sugar.
Go (early, very early) for the greasy-spoon vibe and stay for the exemplary jelly stick. Speaking of, this is one of the last few places that does a lemon jelly, and does it very well. No wonder it’s been an East Coast doughnut icon since 1969.
What to Order: Plain glazed, to start.
Atkins is a classic New England country farm, and its hot, chewy apple-cider donuts have been an autumnal rite of passage for generations of hungry Five College students. The top-secret doughnut mix is spiked with fresh apple cider, fried, and then topped with cinnamon and sugar. These doughnuts so popular that even nearby candle companies have scents based on their aroma.
What to Order: The classic cider doughnut.
In an area filled with Dunkin’ Donuts, Kane’s stands out as an adored indie stalwart. The friendly shop, which has been in business since 1955 in suburban Saugus, blends old-school with new: classic glazed, black raspberry, and jimmy-coated (that’s “sprinkle-coated” for non-locals) sit side by side with a trendy new Kane’s Kronut.
What to Order: A glazed, cream-filled Bismarck.
Union Square Donuts
Here, you’ll find oddities like maple-bacon, chocolate-chipotle, and brown-butter-hazelnut offered alongside savory flavors like potato-chip-and-pretzel and bacon-cheddar. Wash them down with hot chocolate, complete with homemade marshmallows.
What to Order: The brown-butter-hazelnut-crunch flavor, which is Union Square’s version of the Buttercrunch.
Lyndell’s has been Somerville’s go-to bakery since long before the hipsters descended. In fact, the Ball Square institution opened in 1887, and it’s still a haven for doughnut purists who scoff at toppings like bacon and Sriracha. The shop specializes in cheap, hand-cut doughnuts in turn-of-the-century flavors, like jelly and a very creamy Boston creme.
What to Order: A Boston-creme doughnut.
This could possibly be the friendliest, freshest doughnut shop in the country. The staff at this family-run business (operating since 1968) clearly love what they do, and it shows in the actual doughnuts, too. The maple-frosted flavor is the signature, but go big and order one of the gigantic frosted doughnut cakes, which have provided a sugar rush for generations of local kids’ birthday parties.
What to Order: Definitely the doughnut cake.
The Holy Donut
Owner Leigh Kellis started this doughnut business a few years ago in her apartment, when she got hit with a doughnut craving. Today, her shop churns out 3,000 scratch-made, hand-cut doughnuts daily. Each is made with mashed Maine potatoes or sweet potatoes (making for a hefty doughnut) and topped with all-natural fruit juice and veggie glazes — perfect for the virtuous sweet tooth.
What to Order: The sweet-potato-ginger doughnut.
Willow Bake Shoppe
This friendly little Maine bakery, around since 1949, specializes in cake doughnuts — specifically cake buttermilk, cinnamon-sugared buttermilk, and old-fashioned molasses. “They taste almost like deep-fried pancakes,” says head donut technician David Joseph. Which clearly explains the shop’s longevity.
What to Order: A cake-buttermilk doughnut.
This classic Downeast bake shop, in business since the ‘40s, claims to be the actual inventor of the doughnut with sprinkles. Today, it’d fit right in on the set of Murder, She Wrote. The staff always seem to know your name and your flavor of choice (which should probably be the extra large, fresh-made honey-dipped doughnut).
What to Order: The honey-dipped doughnut, or the black raspberry flavor.
Beiler’s Donuts and Salads
A new offshoot of old-fashioned, Amish-owned Beiler’s Bakery specializes in just Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts. These fresh-fried doughnuts aren’t fancy — expect classics like Boston cream and Dutch apple — but they’re exceptional, and they cost only 90 cents a pop.
What to Order: A Dutch apple doughnut.
There’s an all-star team behind this beloved shop: Zahav’
s Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook, Bodhi Coffee
owners Tom Henneman and Bob Logue, and food writer Felicia D’Ambrosio. Their simple concept — fried chicken, cake doughnuts, and coffee — is brilliant. Glazed “Fancy” doughnuts come in flavors like halvah-pistachio, blueberry muffin, and spicy PB&J, while “Hot Fresh” doughnuts are fried to order and rolled in seasoned sugars. Fortunately, two brand-new locations will open soon.
What to Order: The cookies & cream Fancy, or the Indian cinnamon Hot Fresh.
College kids chase down this gourmet food truck (in business only since September 2013) for its hot, specialty doughnuts that are dunked in glaze on the spot. They come in stoner-friendly flavors like Captain Kranky (strawberry dunk, Captain Crunch topping), French Toast (maple dunk, cinnamon sugar), and Trail Mix (banana dunk, granola-raisin coating). Best of all: You can mix-and-match dunks and toppings to create your own flavor.
What to Order: The Cinnamon Challenge, with a vanilla dunk, cinnamon-sugar coating, and Red Hots.
Oram’s Donut Shop
This 75-year-old doughnut shop focuses on traditional doughnuts that are very large. But the menu is small: You won’t find Sriracha or bacon flavors here; instead, gorge on enormous cinnamon rolls and a crème-filled treats with chocolate and vanilla icing. Strongly consider bring a friend so that you can share them all.
What to Order: The crème-filled blueberry flavor with powdered sugar.
Shore Good Doughnuts
This seasonal business garnishes doughnuts with kitschy toppings like M&M’s and Peeps, but it’s the “inside-out” flavors that shine here, like jelly and Boston cream. Shore Good, fittingly, flooded during Hurricane Sandy — see the YouTube video here
— but its owners rebuilt, thank goodness.
What to Order: The “inside-out” Boston cream doughnut.
Ob-Co’s is as famous for its apple fritters as it is for its old-school sugar-raised doughnuts, and there’s often a line outside this classic shop at 6 a.m. The old red-painted bakery, open since 1953, also excels at a pistachio-frosted flavor and Boston cream–filled minis.
What to Order: A sugar-raised doughnut.
Uncle Dood’s Donuts
This under-the-radar gem specializes in double-dipping. Novelty flavors include banana-iced, white “shark” sprinkled variety, mint-chocolate-chip, and the Jersey Devil, a chocolate-and-cayenne-iced doughnut that’s topped with cinnamon-sugar.
What to Order: The Jersey Devil.
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Astro is the carb-laden brainchild of Elliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern, the first native Washingtonian to play for the Washington Capitals. The friends grew up playing hockey together in the ‘burbs, and they rewarded themselves with post-game doughnuts. As grown-ups, crème brûlée is their flavor of choice (it should be yours, too). Wash it down with their other signature food, Sriracha wings.
What to Order: The crème-brûlée doughnut, which is injected with vanilla custard.
Golden Brown Delicious
Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac earned a following at Washington hangout Birch & Barley
, and now, she specializes in cake doughnuts made with sour-cream batter. Her dense, tangy treats satisfy late-night locals in search of a sugar high. The fruit flavors are the real stars here.
What to Order: The passion-fruit old-fashioned variety.
In a city where trends (and administrations) evaporate as fast as you can say “Cronut,” Heller’s Bakery has staying power: It’s been in business since 1922. The humble shop, located in rapidly gentrifying Mount Pleasant, specializes in glazed, cake, and twist doughnuts, baked daily at dawn. “You won’t find anything fresher,” says owner Aleks Duni. Believe him.
What to Order: A plain cake doughnut.
This Maryland-based chain announced last year that it will open 50 new stores by 2016. Proprietary flavors include the O.C. Sand, with honey glaze and cinnamon sugar, but dedicated fans will tell you there are many favorites. The company is also known for customized doughnuts with toppings like Froot Loops.
What to Order: The Orangsicle, with orange glaze and powdered sugar.
A father-and-daughter duo opened this shop in 2012 so they could eat fresh doughnuts every single day. Even though the shop’s new, there’s a ‘50s-themed, retro, mom-and-pop vibe. Throwback flavors include red-velvet-cream-cheese, sour cream, and glazed.
What to Order: The Maple Kevin Bacon.
Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
After pastry chef Allison Smith made a poached-pear doughnut with blue-cheese drizzle for the Wine and Food Festival in Charleston, she realized she had a hit on her hands, and opened Glazed in late 2011. Smith uses local ingredients whenever possible, and grows many of the herbs and berries in the garden behind her shop. Flavors include apple-pie-cheddar and curried-cocoa with candied ginger.
What to Order: The Purple Goat, with a berry-goat-cheese filling and lavender glaze.
While enlisted in the navy, Sublime’s chef-owner Kamal Grant’s fresh-baked cinnamon rolls were beloved by his shipmates. After his tour, Grant wisely chose to study at the Culinary Institute. Now, he specializes in ice-cream-doughnut sandwiches piled with Oreos, peanut butter, and fresh strawberries and cream.
What to Order: The strawberry ice-cream burger.
Dutch Monkey Doughnuts
Owner Arpana Satyu is an alum of Craft
, while her partner, Martin Burge, has worked at Gotham Bar and Grill
. Their cheffed-up doughnut flavors include lemon Bismarck, Nutella twist, and raisin-glazed. Bonus: They serve Counter Culture
coffee at their Cumming shop.
What to Order: A seasonal jelly-filled doughnut.
Don DeWeese grew up eating Gibson’s doughnuts, and when the original owner had to retire because of health issues, DeWeese stepped in to save the shop. Every night at 11 p.m., he puts day-old doughnuts on sale (six for $1.40), and kids line up. These doughnuts are so popular that the street in front of the shop has been re-named Don DeWeese Boulevard.
What to Order: The New Orleans Buttermilk Drop.
The Heavenly Donut Co.
The Heavenly husband-and-wife duo, Kimberly and Brock Beiersdoerfer, specialize in cake and yeast donuts with a loving focus on chocolate-hazelnut-cream Bismarcks (Kimberly’s secret recipe). The couple always dreamed of opening a doughnut shop, and after they apprenticed at Memphis’ famous Gibsons, they made it happen. Now, customers line up for 45 varieties that are all made from scratch each morning — plus beignets on Saturdays.
What to Order: The chocolate-hazelnut-cream Bismarck.
Finally, a food truck that slings beer-caramel doughnuts instead of mediocre tacos, served with or without a scoop of ice cream in the center. The specialty is salted-caramel bacon, but DoughWorks isn’t afraid to geek out with a Doctor Who–themed flavor, or something called the Avocango, which combines avocado and mango cream atop a hot doughnut.
What to Order: Start with the salted-caramel bacon.
Fox’s Donut Den
Fox’s is a Nashville classic, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself in the company of devotees in line for hot coffee and a cherry fritter at 5:30 in the morning. Fruity flavors like strawberry are crowned with a ridge of fruit-glazed dough bumps, and they’re fun to eat one-by-one.
What to Order: The blueberry-cake doughnut.
As a teenager, Monroe Jackson studied doughnut-making at German bakeries in Chicago. Now, he wakes up before dawn to bake his closely guarded brand of thick, dense, thickly glazed cake doughnuts and lumpy apple fritters. He’s a local pro.
What to Order: The “big braid” doughnut.
Sweet Cheeks Donut & Sammich Shop
How could you not love a place that calls itself a “sammich” shop? This doughnut haven is as down-home as the name indicates, with delicacies like hamburger steak, pimento-cheese salad, and pork-chop biscuits. As for the doughnuts, flavors include blueberry-cake, caramel-iced, and peanut-butter-chocolate. Best to go early, especially on weekend mornings, because the shop tends to run out by 10 a.m.
What to Order: The blueberry-cake doughnut, with a “sammich” on the side.
Doughnuts reign supreme at this cheery restaurant, where pastries come free with each meal. Boston cream is made with homemade custard and topped with chocolate ganache; the lemon-filled flavor is stuffed with buttercream; and the jelly doughnut has raspberry filling. Doughnut historians should sample the homemade glazed: The recipe won Best Doughnut at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933.
What to Order: The Boston-cream doughnut with homemade custard.
Bennett’s Fresh Roast
Bennett’s might be relatively new on the doughnut scene (a Fort Myers shop opened six years ago; a new location on nearby Sanibel Island opened last month), but the appeal is as old-school as it gets: A straightforward concept — coffee and doughnuts, with some lunch items served in the early afternoon — taken to a higher standard through simple dedication to high-quality ingredients. The doughnuts, which come in approximately a zillion different flavors, are made from scratch each day, and coffee beans are fresh-roasted, hence the name, in each location. The shops are universally beloved in Southwest Florida and evidence that even with new doughnut shops, innovation can sometimes take a back seat to proper execution.
What to Order: The honeyberry-mascarpone doughnut if it’s available — and a cup of coffee.
The Dandee Donut Factory
If you picture a classic doughnut shop, chances are good you’ll imagine a place that looks a lot like the two Dandee locations (one in Pampano Beach, the other in nearby Hollywood). In addition to pure nostalgia, there’s also a mind-blowing number of flavor options at either shop, which is probably just one more reason why neighbors return to Dandee again and again.
What to Order: A Key Lime doughnut
Upper Nine Doughnut Company
Locals prowl the streets of New Orleans for this pop-up doughnut shop that specializes in curious flavors like the Elvis, a yeast Bismarck stuffed with roasted-banana pudding and topped with a spicy Thai peanut glaze. In a town known for beignets, Upper Nine’s a welcome favorite — and you can often find the doughnuts at old-time po’boy favorite Tracey’s on Magazine
What to Order: The weirder flavor, the better.
Blue Dot Donuts
A doughnut shop run by actual police officers? Too good to be true. Blue Dot sells doughnut-ice-cream sandwiches, specialty flavors like peanut-butter-and-jelly, and hand-cut glazed and cake varieties. In true hometown spirit, the shop also makes a vibrantly hued king-cake doughnut.
What to Order: Peanut butter & jelly.
Freret Street Po-boys & Donuts
Locals consider this New Orleans’s best breakfast: For under $5 at this humble neighborhood hangout, you can get your liver and grits on, complete with fresh-made doughnuts. Glazed doughnuts are made fresh daily, and the dough is light and the glaze is sugary and thick. Try dipping the doughnuts in hot sauce, or pairing them with a shrimp po’ boy.
What to Order: The classic glazed doughnut.
This Kentucky bakery’s maple-bacon specimen is famous, and not at all what’d you’d expect: Thick maple-glaze is spread across the long plank of fried and yeasted dough, and a whole, somewhat chewy strip of bacon is set atop the glaze. It’s the countrified, O.G. maple-bacon, for short.
What to Order: The beloved maple-bacon flavor.
This up-and-comer, which makes regular flea-market appearances, specializes in a build-your-own doughnut option with cool toppings like candied ginger. You can even order your doughnut double-glazed and end up with something like a strawberry-balsamic-flavored one.
What to Order: The bourbon-caramel doughnut with candied pecans.
Younts Waters’s 22-year-old bakery serves doughnuts made out of Idaho potato spuds. There are 65-cent cake, filled, and classic round doughnuts on offer, but what you really need is a strategically shaped bear-claw named “Strong Pimp Hands” or “Camel Toes.”
What to Order: Strong Pimp Hands, obviously.
St. Louis has a formidable doughnut scene, and the primal fried thing at Donut Stop (which has been in business since 1953) is called the “Cinnamon Glob.” It’s half-bun, half-doughnut, and all glorious. Otherwise, go early and remember that the cherry-custard filling is genuine custard. Considering that you can land a half-dozen for less than $5, this makes this gold standard of classic doughnut shops.
What to Order: The Cinnamon Glob.
World’s Fair Donuts
Here’s another American doughnut titan: It’s telling that some locals get here just after 5 a.m., when they can be sure that their favorite flavor is in stock. Start with the glazed cake doughnut made with buttermilk, and then go crazy. Doughnuts are only 50 cents a pop.
What to Order: The sour-cream cake doughnut.
It’s not all traditional, old-school shops in St. Louis: Upstart bakery Strange Donuts is a major innovator. Do stout pecan cake and caramel-covered pretzels go together? Why not? Strange forays into vegan varieties and things like pizza and seaweed, making a strong case that the doughnut vanguard is not afraid to fly a pretty colorful, if not one-part savory, freak flag.
What to Order: The Gooey Butter Cake.
Come here for the exceptional cake doughnuts of Germanic origin, which are called “Clunkers.” They might be deep-fried and hermetically sealed in sugar glaze, but these specialty doughnuts are shockingly light.
What to Order: The Clunker.
This 111-year-old Italian bakery in Cleveland’s Little Italy has been famous for its sour-cream-cake doughnuts for decades. Lately, the well-guarded recipe only gets put to use on Saturdays by pastry chef Michael Vaccarino (the fourth generation in the Presti’s family to bake in this kitchen), and they sell out fast.
What to Order: The sour-cream doughnut.
The local chain, which turns 55 next year, is expanding its old- and new-school doughnut repertoire. Order anything “kettle”-cooked or cinnamon-sugared, and note that Holtman’s also does great alt doughnuts like snowballs, jumbos, and custard- and cream-filled Long Johns.
What to Order: Cherry fritters, as well as the plain “kettle”-cooked doughnut.
Ray LaMar and his family have been making doughnuts from scratch since 1933: Their first retail shop opened in 1960 in Kansas City, and now, there are 27 shops in six Midwestern states. There are plenty of fun flavors, but purists should opt for that buttery glazed doughnut. It’s crisp and plump on the outside, mystifyingly sweet, and tender within.
What to Order: The original glazed, of course.
owner Brendan Sodikoff is a pioneer of the hipster-doughnut craze: His tiny shop has space for an antique brass crash register, but nowhere for people to actually sit. Still, customers consistently line up in the early morning until flavors sell out, and even though there are only a few varieties (buttermilk old-fashioned, glazed, gingerbread, and whatever’s on special that day), they’re all absolutely fantastic. And at least coffee’s only $1.
What to Order: Start with a chocolate-glazed doughnut.
At this River North shop, chef-owner Jonathan Fox (an alum of Pump Room
) uses an heirloom recipe that his wife’s great-grandfather created in the early 1900s. It’s a modern shop, but his flavors are nostalgic: old-fashioned buttermilk, classic jelly, and peanut-butter cup. In the warmer months, order an ice-cream sandwich made with a glazed doughnut.
What to Order: The butterscotch-praline flavor.
Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee
Chefs Jeff Mahin and Francis Brennan met while working at Michelin-starred L20 Restaurant, and broke off to make small-batch doughnuts fresh every hour. (They have a strict rule to never make more than 36 doughnuts at a time.) The 10 or so rotating flavors include carrot cake and pistachio-meyer-lemon, and there are always a few vegan and gluten-free varieties on offer, too.
What to Order: The buttermilk-old-fashioned doughnut, which is dipped in a vanilla-bean glaze.
Dutch Girl Doughnuts
This business has been around since 1947, and it’s stayed in the family: The original owner’s son now serves up glazed doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and other old-fashioned recipes. Even better: The shop looks pretty much the same as it did in the fifties.
What to Order: The raisin bun, which is made with cinnamon dough and studded with raisins.
New Palace Bakery
Polish paçzki have a name that’s spelled oddly and pronounced just as goofily (it’s like “punch-kee”), but the speciment itself is like a super doughnut, rich and dense and filled with jelly or cream. In Detroit, where paçzki are a Fat Tuesday tradition, the best place to get them is this classic Polish bakery in Hamtramck. Don’t worry if you can’t make it here right on Paçzki day: The doughnuts are sold year-round.
What to Order: Paçkzi, as many as you can eat (plus a box for the road).
The apple-orchard doughnut is a specific kind of pleasure, often craved in the autumn but satisfying year-round. In Michigan — a state with its fair share of excellent orchards (and doughnuts) — the go-to is this family-owned operation on the northern tip of the state’s lower peninsula. Flavors range from cherry to pumpkin to (of course) apple cider, but you shouldn’t miss the apple fritters, either.
What to Order: Apple fritters.
Best friends Arwyn Birch and Teresa Fox own this pin-up-style vintage doughnut shop, and Fox says their goal is to make doughnuts “sexy.” To that end, the duo hosts swing dancing parties, live DJs, and gallery openings to complement their sweets. Their signature is the made-from-scratch “Chart Topper,” a cake doughnut with peanut butter and Sriracha icing, topped with peanuts and crushed red peppers.
What to Order: The aforementioned Chart Topper.
Bogart Doughnut Co.
Anne Rucker is a reformed attorney who grew tired of her job and decided to sell baked goods at her local farmer’s market instead. She earned a huge following, and this spring, she’ll open her first shop, Bogart Doughnut Co. Rucker uses 18-hour aged brioche dough for her raised doughnuts, which gives them a rich, yeasty flavor.
What to Order: The brown-butter-glazed brioche doughnut.
A Baker’s Wife
This no-frills shop is slightly kitschy in an endearing, Midwestern way. Traditional signature flavors include thickly chocolate-frosted and cinnamon-sugar cake doughnuts, which are a steal at under $1. Bring cash.
What to Order: The cinnamon-sugar cake doughnut.
YoYo is a Twin Cities favorite, but the independent shop got its start 60 years ago in South Dakota, when owner Chris Moquist’s grandfather started his own doughnut business. Four decades later, Moquist resurrected his granddad’s potato-flour recipe, which was inspired by
the local Spudnut shop
. Now, though, the younger Moquist has a following all his own.
What to Order: A maple-bacon Long John.
In the 12 years since Top Pot got its start in Seattle, the brand — which now includes 15 locations — has become synonymous in the Emerald City with outstanding doughnuts (and top flight coffee, which is no small accomplishment here). The premise (and the appeal) is simple: Take excellent doughnuts and coffee and put them in a contemporary setting. And soon, the Top Pot empire will expand out of Washington State: A Dallas location is planned for this spring
What to Order: An old-fashioned doughnut and a cup of joe.
Three best friends who worked in the corporate world opened FROST 20 miles north of Seattle in 2009, and in their first year, they sold 1 million doughnuts. It’s become one of Seattle’s top dessert destinations, and their second store (twice the size of the current location) is already under construction.
What to Order: The salted-caramel doughnut: a traditional vanilla old-fashioned doughnut with handmade caramel and Fleur de Sel.
Blue Star Doughnuts
At this two-year-old shop, owners Katie Poppe and Micah Camden start with a classic, buttery brioche recipe that originated in the south of France. The dough takes 18 hours to make, and then, they pile on seasonal, made-from-scratch toppings to make flavors like blackberry compote with peanut butter, and pistachio cheesecake with a raspberry-hibiscus glaze. It’s a good thing they’re about to open a second Blue Star location, as well as a fried-chicken restaurant called Son of a Biscuit.
What to Order: The blueberry-bourbon-basil doughnut.
This Old Town shop embodies the new-school vibe that many others around the country try to imitate. The four shops are open 24/7, offering stoner-friendly yeast- and cake-based flavors like “the Loop” with Fruit Loops, “Voodoo Doll,” and an elegant “Cock-N-Balls.” Sure, it’s a shtick, but these doughnuts actually taste fantastic.
What to Order: The “Captain My Captain,” a raised-yeast doughnut with vanilla frosting and Captain Crunch.
Helen Bernhard Bakery
In a city filled with cool-kids doughnut shops, a bakery that opened in 1924 still stands out: You’ll find throwback prices (many pastries are under $1), great service, and perfect versions of old-timey flavors like old-fashioned glazed and raspberry-filled glazed.
What to Order: An old-fashioned glazed doughnut.
Dream Fluff Donuts
Part doughnut shop, part diner, and part ice-cream parlor, Dream Fluff has served the basics to Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood for decades: glazed, jelly, and old-fashioned doughnuts, plus apple fritters. Most locals agree that Dream Fluff beats out the equally old-school, slightly greasier King Pin donuts, found next to the UC Berkeley campus.
What to Order: The raspberry-filled jelly doughnut.
A favorite of road-food mavens Jane and Michael Stern, Burbank’s unassuming Doughnut Hut is actually only a walk-up window. It specializes in French crullers (“Frenchies”). The Sterns, and many other fans, like Doughnut Hut’s version of a doughnut seen frequently around Southern California, the orange-glazed Frenchie specked with bits of orange zest.
What to Order: The orange-glazed Frenchie.
Peterson’s Donut Corner
For an old-school doughnut fix, in-the-know San Diegans will direct you about 30 miles north to this humble stand that’s been serving this beach town 24 hours a day for decades. Old-fashioned doughnuts and apple fritters are good bets, but this shop’s jumped on the bacon trend wagon too, with some great results.
What to Order: The maple-bacon bar.
The Donut Man
This 40-year-old-plus shop is a local institution, drawing people from the Los Angeles basin to make regular pilgrimages. Doughnut man Jim Nakano’s heavenly treats always land on best-of lists for L.A., and even though he makes a large variety of old-school, potato-flour doughnuts, his specialty is a sliced-open glazed doughnut filled with seasonal fresh fruit.
What to Order: The strawberry- or peach-filled seasonal doughnuts.
The Donut Wheel
This 1960s-era suburban shop on the eastern outskirts of the Bay Area is as old-school as they come, even though it has added some trendy new-school items like red-velvet doughnuts and a bacon-and-egg breakfast sandwich served on a sliced-open glazed doughnut. The shop also makes doughnut-ice-cream sandwiches, but opt for the standard, undeniably perfect, glazed doughnut just by itself.
What to Order: A classic glazed doughnut.
Stan Berman opened his UCLA-adjacent doughnut stand in 1965, and the place remains a thriving doughnut destination for Angelenos almost 50 years later. The place is well-known for fantastic filled and cake doughnuts, but the unique specialty is the “Chocolate Cheese,” which is basically a chocolate-glazed cheese danish disguised as a doughnut.
What to Order: One Chocolate Cheese, please.
Drummer Mark Trombino (Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World) opened this spot in L.A.’s Highland Park last year, offering cheekily named doughnuts like the Bacon 182 and Jimmy Eats Swirl. His shop features over 30 different topping and filling options for customizing doughnuts (candied lime, cayenne pepper, goat cheese), as well as some pre-made combos like the Fudgegazi, a chocolate-glazed doughnut filled with chocolate mousse and covered in chocolate shavings.
What to Order: The Jets to Basil, a glazed doughnut with goat cheese, strawberry jam, fresh basil, and balsamic reduction.
Boon Fly Café
At the cafe inside Napa’s Carneros Inn, you can find locally famous, made-to-order cinnamon doughnuts at brunch. A baker’s dozen come to the table hot in a big paper, and these doughnuts definitely rival the cinnamon doughnuts sold at Bouchon Bakery in nearby Yountville.
What to Order: The cinnamon doughnuts.
Named for the nickname given to women who served coffee and doughnuts to troops during World War I, this tiny shop in North Oakland offers airy, filled-to-order doughnuts with four rotating filling options. There’s always “Naughty Cream” (vanilla pastry cream with crème fraiche), and other options include Mexican chocolate, lemon curd, and coconut cream.
What to Order: The seasonal apricot- or strawberry-filled doughnuts.
You won’t find any standard fare at this new-school spot, where it’s all about sliced-open doughnut sandwiches with wacky flavor combinations. There’s the Chocolate Bomb (dark-chocolate cake filled with Irish whiskey ganache and topped with a Guinness-and-Bailey’s glaze), salted maple “Cronuts,” and peanut-butter-filled chocolate doughnuts glazed in chocolate.
What to Order: A German chocolate cake doughnut, otherwise known as schokoladenkuchen.
In the land of strip malls around the desert cities of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, you’ll find a couple of branches of Swiss Donut, where the apple fritters and cinnamon-buttermilk doughnuts are some of the greatest around.
What to Order: The apple fritter.
This late-night spot (open from 10 p.m. until 4 p.m. the next day) is a right of passage for Sacramento teenagers out past curfew. Fresh doughnut holes, maple bars, and cinnamon “butterflies” are big hits, but the specialty of the house is a sliced-open, whipped-cream-filled glazed doughnut.
What to Order: The chocolate-glazed doughnut with whipped-cream filling.
Inspired by the creativity of Voodoo in Portland, husband-and-wife team Bryan Widener and Dannah O’Donnell launched their own venture in 2010. They pride themselves on new and odd combinations like lemon lavender, Creme Brulacon, and S’mored Sweet Potato with brown sugar.
What to Order: The Dude, one of the signatures, is a White Russian–Bavarian-cream-filled doughnut with a White Russian glaze.
This one-year-old, gourmet-leaning doughnut spot in downtown San Diego has won legions of fans with its daily changing menu of salted-caramel, crème-brulee, and maple-bacon doughnuts. It only stays open each morning until doughnuts sell out, which they generally do, but lately, Donut Bar has opened on Friday nights with a new batch.
What to Order: The Strawberry Split.
Everyone in San Francisco will point you to this 24-hour, family-run Polk Street institution for some of the city’s top doughnuts. Now surrounded by a major glut of bars, Bob’s is a frequent destination for drunk people after last call. Pretty much every doughnut in the house is great, but if you want to know what’s freshest, and still warm, Bob’s keeps customers informed via Twitter
What to Order: The oversize glazed doughnut, which serves at least four and is made only after midnight.
The go-to spot for new-aged doughnut wackiness is this Mission hangout, where you can find cool flavors like cardamom and passionfruit. Dynamo even offers a Monte Cristo doughnut, which is a ham-and-gruyere raised doughnut filled with homemade plum-ginger jam.
What to Order: The Lemon Sichuan, a vanilla doughnut filled with lemon curd and dusted with a mixture of sugar and a Sichuan peppercorns.
This tiny bakeshop in San Francisco’s Sunset district does a lot of things well, but baker Sybil Johnson has gotten some well-deserved attention for her filled, Italian-style bombolinis. They’re small and airy and not overly sweet, and on any given day, fillings include amaretto custard, rum custard, lemon curd, Nutella, and seasonal-fruit preserves.
What to Order: The Nutella-filled bombolini, if it’s available.
Maple Leaf Donuts
At this strip-mall coffee-and-doughnut shop in West San Jose, you won’t find anything with bacon on it, but you will often find a line out the door and a doughnut selection that’s almost sold out by 10 a.m. The same family has kept this place consistent for four decades, and there’s a hyper-loyal fan base.
What to Order: A glazed old-fashioned doughnut.
As one of the only businesses in Santa Cruz that’s open 24 hours, Ferrell’s holds a special place in the hearts of many UCSC alums who have spent many a stoned or drunken night here. The shop’s known for its dense but delicious apple fritters and fluffy glazed doughnuts.
What to Order: The apple fritter.
This suburban Orange County drive-through institution still nails all the basics after decades in business. Come for the excellent glazed-blueberry-cake and old-fashioned doughnuts, and don’t be put off by the Cronut knockoffs: DK’s jumped on the bandwagon big time, and makes a cream-filled strawberry Cronut with fresh strawberries inside.
What to Order: An orange-glazed French cruller, or a blueberry doughnut.
Few doughnut shops in California’s Central Valley have as much street cred and local love as this place — so much love that Scotty’s put a nearby Krispy Kreme location out of business a few years ago. You can’t wrong with the buttermilk bars, or the house specialty, the Cinnamon Butterfly.
What to Order: The Cinnamon Butterfly.
Pink Box Doughnuts
This super-popular bakery recently opened up a second location to keep up with demand: Locals and tourists can’t get enough of flavors like pink sprinkles, sweet-potato cake, and chipotle-caramel. The owners are even dabbling in savory doughnuts, like the Nutty Pig with dates, almonds, blue cheese, bacon, balsamic glaze, and a date-balsamic-reduction filling.
What to Order: The Fat Elvis, with homemade peanut-butter-and-banana filling, chocolate, and caramelized bananas.
Strangely enough, you can find excellent vegan doughnuts at a shop owned by a Buddhist couple inside a strip mall in Las Vegas’s Chinatown district. Not all of the doughnuts are vegan, but locals swear that the apple fritter rivals any doughnut made with dairy.
What to Order: The apple fritter.
If a doughnut shop had a secret desire to be a tattoo parlor, it might look like Rebel. Staying true to its name, this shop doesn’t necessarily conform to the ideals of the traditional doughnut stand, instead selling booze-infused options and flavors like Chocolate Potato Chip and Creamsicle. This being New Mexico, there is of course a Breaking Bad–inspired “Blue Sky” flavor, too.
What to Order: If you’re over 21, you might as well give the boozy doughnuts a shot.
Vovomeena specializes in Portuguese doughnuts, also known as “fillozes.” Order one atop the shop’s signature dish: the Big Man on Campus (BMOC for short). It’s comprised of a Belgian waffle, smoked and grilled pork chop, two eggs over easy, apple maple compote, and a sugar-dusted, yeasty Portuguese doughnut, stacked and ready to party.
What to Order: Definitely the BMOC.
Gourdough Specialty Doughnuts
Paula Samford and Ryan Palmer launched Gourdough in a vintage airstream trailer, and their doughnuts became so popular that they decided to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Gourdough’s Public House, last October. There, you can find savory doughnut entrees (like slow-cooked chicken with doughnut-hole dumplings), but hit one of two trailers for doughnuts topped with gummy rattlesnakes, grilled bananas, and habanero-pepper jelly.
What to Order: The Mother Clucker, a doughnut topped with a fried-chicken strip and honey butter.
The Say LaV food truck debuted at the 2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival to build hype for a new restaurant called laV, which opens this month. Chef Allison Jenkins’ sweet-potato doughnut holes were a huge hit at the festival, and now, she’s hired James Beard semi-finalist Janina O’Leary (a Del Posto
alum) to add warm brioche doughnut holes to the menu.
What to Order: The sweet-potato doughnut holes.
This doughnut shop in University Park is a college kid’s dream come true, and students regularly roll in at 5 a.m. for bear claws, fresh-fried apple fritters, strawberry-iced with sprinkles, and iced-chocolate cream-filled treats. Both the cake and the yeast doughnuts are excellent.
What to Order: The apple fritter.
This doughnuts-and-fried-chicken shop first launched in 2010 out of the back of a SUV, and then operated out of a pizza shop on weekend mornings. Now, out of a standalone, award-winning store (which just celebrated its one-year anniversary), you’ll find flavors like Vampire Weekend, a long-john doughnut filled with chocolate-cayenne mousse and topped with horchata icing.
What to Order: The blueberry cake doughnut — there are real blueberries in the cake and in the icing.
Original Donut Shop
This quirky, cash-only shop has two drive-thru lanes: doughnuts on the left, and tacos on the right. It’s been open since 1954, and wisely keeps things simple by perfecting the art of the plain glazed doughnut.
What to Order: A bear claw, with a breakfast taco on the side.
This 62-year-old, family-run bakery specializes in malasadas, Portuguese yeast-based doughnuts without holes. They’re light, fluffy, coated in sugar, and at Leonard’s, always served hot out of the fryer. Leonard’s even has Malasadamobiles that you can rent out for parties.
What to Order: The classic malasada.