America’s 25 Best Donuts
June 23, 2016
From plain glazed to maple bacon, there’s nothing like a perfect doughnut
America's 25 Best Doughnuts
There are few treats that are more delicious than a freshly fried donut. And from a plain glazed one in Texas that’s an essentially perfect representation of the form to a blueberry cake donut in California that has developed a legion of followers, we’ve tracked down the country’s 25 best.
#25 Psycho Donuts, San Jose, Calif: Dead Elvis
The doughnuts at this San Jose oddball are just that: psycho. Nothing is too outrageous for this cult favorite shop, perhaps best exemplified by the Dead Elvis: a custard-filled doughnut, topped with slices of banana, swirls of peanut butter and jelly, and topped off with a slice of bacon. We're not usually huge fans of bacon-topped doughnuts (they tend to be a little gimmicky), but on a doughnut this insane, all the flavors work surprisingly well together. Perhaps The King was on to something!
#24 Dinkel’s Bakery, Chicago: Chocolate Cake 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 the non-donut baked goods are legendary in their own right. But you haven’t truly experienced Dinkel’s until you’ve tasted its handmade donuts. While the bakery jumped on the maple-bacon bandwagon, you’re best off sticking with the classics: Try the best-selling chocolate cake donut and try to not to weep.
23) Bob’s Donut and Pastry Shop, San Francisco: Apple Fritter
Yelp/ emmalouise b
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.
#22 Mighty-O Donuts, Seattle: Lemon Poppy
Yelp/ Vena R.
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
#21 Ralph’s Donut Shop, Cookeville, Tenn.: Classic Glazed
Yelp/ Amy D.
The simple, old-school classic glazed 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.
#20 Dottie’s Diner, Woodbury, Conn: Cinnamon Donuts
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.
#19 The Donut Stop, St. Louis: Cinnamon Glob
Yelp/ Richy N.
St. Louis has no shortage of classic, old-fashioned doughnut 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.
#18 Top Pot Doughnuts, Seattle: Feather Boa
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 at this mini-chain, including stellar old-fashioned and cake varieties, but there’s nothing quite like the Feather Boa, a classic cake donut topped with chocolate icing and coconut shavings. Coconut heaven.
#17 Sublime Doughnuts, Atlanta: Fresh Strawberries and Cream
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.
#16 Dat Donut, Chicago: Big Dat
Yelp/ Michael U.
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 the "Big Dat," which is about the size of your head, will keep the tourists taking photos for years to come, it's also truly delicious. It's huge size kicks that pillowy fluffiness you look for in a yeast donut up to stratospheric levels. This is a donut that can double as a pillow.
#15 Voodoo Doughnut, Portland, Ore.: Portland Cream
Yelp/ Terry K.
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. There are a handful of other outposts, but you’ll want your first Portland Cream experience to be at the original.
#14 Doughnut Plant, New York City: Crème Brûlée Doughnut
This bakery essentially singlehandedly started the specialty doughnut boom that's gripping the nation, and now has four New York locations. Doughnuts 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.
#13 Do-Rite Donuts and Coffee, Chicago: Chocolate Glazed
Do-Rite fries its donuts in batches of only 36 at a time, so freshness is guaranteed. The shop turns out plenty of seasonal offerings, including Meyer lemon in the winter, and uses only high-quality ingredients in all of the dozen or so rotating offerings, which also include gluten-free and vegan options. Made with Valhrona chocolate, the chocolate glazed is about as perfect a chocolate donut as you’re likely to find.
#12 Gourdough’s, Austin: Funky Monkey
"Big. Fat. Donuts." are the name of the game at Gourdough’s, a vintage airstream trailer (now with a couple brick and mortar locations), 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.
#11 Britt’s Donuts, Carolina Beach, N.C.: Plain Glazed
Yelp/ Taryn R.
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.
#10 The Donut Man, Glendora, Calif.: Fresh Strawberry
Yelp/ Tiffany L.
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 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.
#9 Federal Donuts, Philadelphia: Cinnamon Brown Sugar
Yelp/ Joanne T.
Chef Michael Solomonov may be best known for his unique spins on traditional Israeli cuisine at his restaurants including Zahav, but he also knows how to make some astonishingly delicious donuts. Sure, Federal Donuts might have risen to fame thanks to its tasty fried chicken, but save room for dessert. Head for the "Hot Fresh" Cinnamon Brown Sugar donut, a fresh cake doughnut that's dredged in cinnamon and brown sugar and still warm when you receive it.
#8 Congdon’s Doughnuts, Wells, Maine: Blueberry Jelly
Family-run since it opened in 1945, this roadside diner and donut shop has seen tragedy and fire but is 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 Congdon's 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.
#7 Donut Bar, San Diego: Big Poppa Tart
This San Diego landmark (which has additional locations at the San Diego Airport and in Las Vegas) serves one of the most infamous (and delicious) dougnuts in America: the Big Poppa Tart. Clocking in at one pound, it's certainly big, but it's what's inside that really sets it apart from every other doughnut out there: a Pop-Tart. To construct this behemoth, the doughnut is stuffed with a whole Pop-Tart (usually strawberry, blueberry, or s'mores-flavored) and jam or chocolate fudge, and it's topped with marshmallow glaze, more jam or fudge, and crushed Pop-Tarts. It's delicious, but more important, it's no novelty: The soft Pop-Tart adds a new dimension to the pastry's texture, and while we suggest you share it, you probably won't want to. It's nothing short of ingenious.
#6 Danny’s Donuts, Vista, Calif.: Blueberry Cake
Yelp/ Kelli P.
Danny’s Donuts has a fiercely devoted fan base, and with good reason: Since 1973, it has 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.
#5 Stan’s Donuts, Los Angeles: Peanut Butter and Banana
Yelp/ Antho L.
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, Stan's ships nationwide; we advise taking it up on the offer.
#4 Bouchon Bakery, Yountville, Calif.: Jelly Donut With Seasonal Preserves
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.
#3 Dough, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Lemon Poppy
Yelp/ Mick L.
This little shop, nestled into a cozy corner of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood (now with an additional location in Manhattan), 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.
Find more on Dough here.
#2 Round Rock Donuts, Round Rock, Texas: Plain Glazed
Yelp/ Ken S.
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.
#1 The Doughnut Vault, Chicago: Buttermilk Old-Fashioned
Yelp/ Meghan H.
While not an easy place to score your donuts (the original location is only open until it sells out, and the second is closed on weekends), 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 glazed buttermilk old-fashioned should be all you need to change your opinion of cake donuts forever.