America’s 25 Best Donuts (Slideshow)
A newcomer to the donut world, GBD (short for "Golden Brown and Delicious") was opened earlier this year by the husband-and-wife duo of chef Kyle Bailey and pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, and they’ve already raised the bar when it comes to D.C. donuts. Open from early in the morning to very late at night, they serve some insanely delicious fried chicken, but the crowds are flocking for the donuts. With a brioche base and the deft hand of a truly skilled pastry chef, available varieties include grapefruit Campari, coffee cake, and peanut butter and jelly, but the award goes to the square maple-bourbon glazed donut topped with crumbled bacon. Airy, sticky, and perfectly balanced, the bacon is no gimmick: it perfectly complements the maple and bourbon and makes for a truly craveable donut.
German immigrant Joseph Dinkel opened this Chicago institution in 1922, and it’s remained in the family ever since. It’s changed very little in the past 91 years, and their non-donut baked goods are legendary in their own right. But you haven’t truly experienced Dinkel’s until you’ve tasted their handmade donuts. While they’ve jumped on the maple-bacon bandwagon, you’re best off sticking with the classics: try the chocolate cake donut and try to not to weep.
Bob’s, a San Francisco landmark, serves world-class donuts 24 hours a day, but the best time to visit is in the late evening, when the donuts are at their freshest. The friendly staff will walk you through their selection of freshly fried rings of gooey deliciousness, but forgo the giant glazed donut in favor of the apple fritter. Big, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and filled with apple and cinnamon, it’s nothing short of crave-worthy.
Yelp/ emmalouise b
Vegan and organic might not be two words you associate with world-class donuts, but Mighty-O’s are the best ones out there that meet those criteria. These perfect little rings of dough and sugar are egg-, dairy-, and cholesterol-free, and come in standout flavors including lemon poppy, made with the perfect amount of lemon juice for a bright, tangy zip. You just might never go back to the non-vegan variety.
The giant, lumpy apple fritter at local landmark Ralph’s has been a favorite of Tennessee Tech students and locals alike for more than 50 years. It’s a classic donut shop, complete with a counter and stools, and a throwback to an earlier time. Ralph’s is a little tricky to find, but it’s a true small-town gem and a place where time stands still.
Ralph's Donut Shop
If you’re looking for a diner with real soul, drop into Dottie’s in Woodbury. A no-frills menu of simple New England diner classics, including a world-class chicken pot pie, is topped off by stunningly delicious, simple donuts. The selection isn’t huge, but it doesn’t need to be: order the cinnamon-sugar donut. It’ll most likely be still warm from the fryer, not too big, creamy and cakey inside, crunchy and sugary on the outside… this is a donut you won’t soon forget.
St. Louis has no shortage of classic, old-fashioned donut shops, but one offering at the legendary Donut Stop, which looks exactly like a donut shop should, sets it apart from the pack: the Cinnamon Glob. It looks exactly how it sounds: a giant, bumpy ball of fried dough, crispy on the outside and dense, buttery, and cinnamon-y on the inside. A true St. Louis culinary gem, and an absolute must-eat.
Top Pot’s donuts are made by hand, the old-fashioned way, and the care and attention put into every batch really shines through. More than 40 different types of donuts are on offer, including stellar old-fashioned and cake varieties, but there’s nothing quite like the Feather Boa, a classic cake donut topped with pink or chocolate icing and coconut shavings. Coconut heaven.
Pastry chef Kamal Grant is a donut genius-at-work in this charming Atlanta donut shop, and his creations are some of the most original in the country. It’s nearly impossible to not walk out of Sublime Doughnuts without four or five of his trademark donuts, in varieties like Oreo ice cream "burger," s’mores, and salted caramel balsamic. But if you see the fresh strawberries and cream variety, go for it: fresh strawberries and strawberry cream cheese between two halves of a glazed donut? Simply unreal, and better than any strawberry cheesecake.
This no-frills donut stand in the front of a barbecue shop is as simple as it gets, and that approach makes for some of the best donuts ever created. While their "Big Dat," which is about the size of your head, will keep the tourists taking photos for years to come, a bite of Dat Donut’s handmade plain glazed will send you into a state of quiet contemplation.
One of the most famous donut shops in the country, this tiny, quirky donut stand is never without a line, and customers are rewarded for their patience with some of the most outlandish donut creations in existence. Voodoo Doughnut’s Portland Cream, a luscious take on Boston Cream, has been named the city’s official donut by the mayor, and is so beloved that it’s even inspired its own lip balm flavor. There are currently two other outposts, but you’ll want your first Portland Cream experience to be at the original.
Flickr/ vmax137, beth77
This bakery essentially singlehandedly started the specialty donut boom that's gripping the nation. Donuts have been a part of owner Mark Isreal’s family for more than 100 years, and in 1994 he opened Doughnut Plant using that same recipe his grandfather used. By building on that classic recipe, he’s made a name for himself and his bakery, and he’s also created a few now-legendary inventions, like the crème brûlée doughnut, which has developed a cult following. The smallish yeast doughnut is topped with a crust of caramelized sugar, and creamy custard waits within. We’ll take this over the real thing any day.
Do-Rite fries their donuts in batches of only 36 at a time, so freshness is guaranteed. They turn out plenty of seasonal offerings, including Meyer lemon in the winter, and use only high-quality ingredients in all their dozen or so rotating offerings, which also include gluten-free and vegan options. Made with Valhrona chocolate, their chocolate glazed is about as perfect a chocolate donut as you’re likely to find.
Do Rite Donuts
"Big. Fat. Donuts." are the name of the game at Gourdough’s, a vintage airstream trailer where the fried-to-order donuts are about as creative as humanly possible (and delicious, to boot). There’s the "Porkey’s," topped with Canadian bacon, cream cheese, and jalapeño jelly; "The Carney," topped with apple pie filling, cream cheese icing, caramel, and dry-roasted peanuts; and the "Boss Hog," topped with pulled pork, potato salad, and honey barbecue sauce. But one bite of the "Funky Monkey," topped with grilled bananas, cream cheese icing, and brown sugar, is all you need to learn that these gut-bombs aren’t just in it for the gimmick: it’s perfectly balanced, not too sweet, shows a real chef’s hand, and, most of all, it’s delicious. Be careful, though: you can create your own, and this place can quickly become an addiction.
Every year from May to September, the crowds flock to Britt’s on the boardwalk for one thing, and one thing only: the plain glazed donut, washed down with a cup of milk or coffee. The setup hasn’t changed since the stand opened in 1939, and neither has the menu, which is just one item long, as long as it needs to be. The closely guarded recipe is nothing short of the Platonic donut ideal: soft, gooey, melt-in-your mouth, and delicious enough that you’ll never forget it, and will be talking about it to everyone who will listen.
Offering stellar donuts 24 hours a day, seven days a week for more than 40 years, the Donut Man is a Southern California legend. The Donut Man himself is Bill Nakano, who churns out world-class donuts using only the finest, seasonal ingredients. During the autumn months he uses ingredients like pumpkin, but drop in during the summer and you’ll encounter his fresh peach and strawberry donuts: raised donuts cut in half and stuffed until absolutely brimming with fresh fruit. If you’re a fan of donuts, no visit to the area is complete without a trip to The Donut Man; it’ll be the first place you head when you return.
The decision last year to open a second Philadelphia location was met with an insane amount of joy, and for a good reason: these are some astonishingly delicious donuts. Sure, Federal Donuts might have risen to infamy thanks to its tasty Korean-style fried chicken, but save room for dessert. Head for the Cookies and Cream donut, which takes the popular ice cream flavor and elevates it to new heights: doughnuts gets a coat of Oreo cream-flavored glaze and a perfect dusting of powdered chocolate cookies.
Family-run since it opened in 1945, this roadside diner and donut shop has seen tragedy and fire but it still going strong, turning out home-style breakfasts and lunches as well as more than 30 donut varieties made fresh throughout the day. You’ll never have another donut that’s quite like their blueberry jelly donut: filled with fresh-made blueberry jam and topped with a hit of powdered sugar, it’s almost singlehandedly put the town of Wells on the map.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more delicious donut in the Boston area than the chocolate honey-dipped at Verna’s, a no-frills cash-only donut and coffee shop that makes their donuts fresh every morning and has inspired a cult-like devotion among its fans. For more than 60 years they’ve been turning out the simple and delicious honey-dipped donut, recently renamed the "Honey Tip" in honor of Tip O’Neill. While it’s delicious as-is, the addition of chocolate glaze raises the level of deliciousness to the stratosphere.
Danny’s Donuts has a fiercely devoted fan base, and with good reason: Since 1973, they’ve been turning out some of Southern California’s finest donuts. The claim to fame, however, is the deceptively simple blueberry cake donut. Similar in flavor to the best blueberry muffin you’ll ever have, fluffy, topped with a sticky, oozing glaze, and loaded with fresh blueberries. Get there early, though: it’s only open until noon during the week and 1 p.m. on the weekends.
There’s a lot to love about Stan’s, which has been holding down its Westwood Village corner since 1965, and owner Stan Berman still comes in early every morning to make them by hand in dozens of varieties. His most famous creations are the ones with peanut butter (including a Reese’s peanut butter pocket), and his peanut butter and banana donut, topped with chocolate chips, will haunt your dreams. Thankfully, they ship nationwide; we advise taking them up on their offer.
Flickr/ manda wong
Every Saturday and Sunday morning, a handful of donuts in several varieties are fried up at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro before it opens for lunch and are served (very quickly) at his next-door bakery. At about $3 each, they’re certainly not cheap, but the rich confections of brioche-like, buttery dough filled with fresh-made, seasonal preserves demonstrate creative ingenuity and an adherence to only fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the end result is something the country’s most renowned chef can be proud to tack his name to.
This little shop, nestled into a cozy corner of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, is quietly turning out some spectacular doughnuts. The owners of Dough stick to yeast as opposed to cake donuts, and it’s a recipe that they’ve perfected. The key is freshness, and freshly fried donuts are near-constantly being brought out of the kitchen. The offerings are continuously changing, but never cease to surprise. Passion fruit, hibiscus, Earl Grey, blood orange, chocolate glazed… you might just have to return a few times before your cravings for these donuts will be satisfied. But they most likely never will be. If you see the lemon poppy donut on offer, make sure you buy a couple: big, light, fluffy, and bursting with bright, lemony goodness, one bite of these will put a smile on your face 100 percent of the time.
The unique orange-yellow yeast-risen donut that put Round Rock on the map gets is color from the high-quality fresh eggs that go into it. The recipes and ovens used to create these rings of perfection haven’t changed since the 1920s, and they sell for only $0.59 apiece. Forgo the "Texas Size" giant for the classic plain glazed. Simple and delicious.
While not an easy place to score your donuts (they're only open until they sell out, which can take less than an hour), once you’ve made your precious purchase it’s nearly impossible to not leave The Doughnut Vault a very happy camper, in proud possession of the best doughnuts in America. The menu is gigantic, but narrow down your options to the cake donuts, which are surprisingly light and fresh. From there your best bet is to keep it simple; a simple, sugary glaze should be all you need to change your opinion of cake donuts forever.