Can we settle the debate once and for all—doughnut or donut? “I really can’t,” says Paul R. Mullins, professor and author of Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut. “Donut is much better suited for neon signs, but I think it even predates that. You get the shorter spelling overseas too, so it’s not just an American laziness thing.”
Much of the pastry’s history is similar to its spelling: hotly contested and wrapped up in myths that are too far gone to be unraveled. For as many doughnuts as we eat (approximately 10 billion per year), there are still many holes (ahem) in its story.
But one thing is certain: Other than the hot dog and burger, no other food conjures images of American nostalgia quite like it. “Every culture has a version of fried dough,” says Mullins. “It’s comfort food.”
America’s love for doughnuts, however, begins with the flat disks olykoeks (“oily cakes”) that were popular in New Amsterdam in the late-18th and early-19th century. Those primitive forms eventually evolved into the ubiquitous yeast-raised doughnuts with a hole in middle, later immortalized in pop culture by J Dilla and Homer Simpson.
And why the hole? “One notion that makes sense is that they would cook more evenly this way,” says Mullins. Doughnut chains began to multiply with the rise of car culture and suburbanization in the 1930s, and very quickly storefronts began popping up on routes that went in and out of city centers.
Like fried chicken or ramen, doughnuts have experienced their own renaissance—not only in terms of flavor, like hibiscus or matcha, but also in how they function (sometimes, they’re even used as vessels to sandwich together fried chicken or bacon). Virtually every town in every state has a worthy doughnut stand, with trays carrying everything from Long Johns to fritters, glazed to old-fashioned. Which is why we’ve summoned an experienced panel of fried-dough fanatics to get us started on our search for the greatest doughnut experiences in America.
Our contributors include:
- Paul R. Mullins, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University; @mullins_paul
- Gabriella Gershenson, food features editor at Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine; @gabiwrites
- Andrew Zimmern, writer and TV host of Bizarre Foods, Monday nights at 9 pm on Travel Channel; andrewzimmern.com
- Corey Cova, chef at Lord Hamm’s and New Leaf; @coreycova
- Dominique Ansel, chef/owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery; @DominiqueAnsel
- Michael Krondl, author of The Donut: History, Recipes and Lore from Boston to Berlin
- Jessica Koslow, chef/owner at Sqirl; @SQIRLLA
- Kathy YL Chan, food and travel writer; @kathyylchan
- Allison Robicelli, chef/owner at Robicelli’s Bakery; @robicellis
- Jamie Lamonde, editor-in-chief of Edible Madison
- Joseph “JJ” Johnson, chef de cuisne at The Cecil and Minton’s; @chefjoejohnson
- Summer Bailey, pastry chef at The Dutch
- Richard Parks, filmmaker and writer featured in Lucky Peach and The New York Times; @reechardparks
- Bill Corbett, pastry chef at Absinthe; @elcuchillo
- John Birdsall, James Beard Award-winning food writer; @John_Birdsall
- Lesley Balla, Los Angeles Editor for Zagat.com, contributing food editor for Angeleno Magazine; @LesleyLA
- Chris Schonberger, editor-in-chief at First We Feast; @cschonberger
- Max Falkowitz, senior features editor at Serious Eats; @maxfalkowitz
- Erin Mosbaugh, news editor at First We Feast; @jayblague
Here are 19 doughnut shops to visit before you perish:
Where: New York, NY; Japan, Korea
Address and phone: 379 Grand St (212-505-3700)
Gershenson says: “I have been a Doughnut Plant enthusiast for so many years that at this point, you might as well call me a Doughnut Plant evangelist. I am convinced that there is no better doughnut in the world. There may be other good doughnuts, but there is no greater doughnut. Sure, I like Doughnut Plant’s industrial motif and doughnut-shaped décor (the brightly-colored doughnut tiles are pretty enough to eat). It’s the kind of place that sells fair-trade coffee, grass-fed milk, and my favorite, spicy homemade chai. This is not an old-school doughnut joint, and that is totally okay with me. Because really, it’s all about the doughnuts. Take the peanut butter and jelly variety. Owner Mark Isreal was concerned the jam he was buying for the filling (from Italy!) wasn’t fresh enough, so he decided to make his own. Then he started making the peanut butter for the glaze, too. In fact, most of his doughnuts involve some absurd level of perfectionism—whole coconuts are cracked open for the coconut cream, blueberry cake incorporates wild blueberries in the batter and glaze, creme brûlée are torched one at a time. This attention to detail is not artisan-style posturing. It’s because Isreal cares so much, and this cannot be overstated. That devotion is what you see in the network of tiny bubbles in his buoyant yeast doughnuts, in the tender crumb of his cake rounds, and in the fragrant elegance of his orange-blossom cashew doughseed, a custard-filled fritter fit for a princess.” (Photos: Landon Nordeman, Liz Barclay)
Where: Indianapolis, IN
Address and phone: 1453 N Tremont St (317-632-3741)
Mullins says: “An orderly line snakes out of Long’s Bakery in Indianapolis, IN each morning, representing nearly every group in the city: working people, professionals, rich, poor, black, and white, all united in the celebration of Long’s big, light, handmade doughnuts. The family bakery was established in 1955 along a commuter route between the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and downtown, its oversized ‘Hot Do-Nuts’ sign a fixture for countless residents over more than half a century. Long’s sweet yeast glazed doughnuts are the headliner, a relatively straightforward but massive doughnut best secured warm when it gently dissolves in your mouth. Yet the bakery’s racks often include massive crème horns, blueberry-cake doughnuts, and a host of familiar pastry staples. While artisan doughnuts have attempted to capture some local consumers, Long’s continues to attract many more people seeking a straightforward yeast doughnut that is reasonably priced (cash only), and has a rich local heritage.” (Photo: Wade Terrell Tharp)
Michelle’s Doughnut House
Where: Hollywood, CA
Address and phone: 4862 Santa Monica Blvd (323-662-9581)
Parks says: “In a strip mall in East Hollywood that plays host to a medical supply store, a Mexican restaurant, and a beauty salon, you’ll also find Michelle’s Donut house. An affable Cambodian woman presides behind the counter here. Is Michelle in? She laughs. She is quick to laugh, quick to smile. She tells you her name is Annie, but that’s not really true. Like so many proprietors of California’s doughnut shops, Annie is a refugee, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide that claimed the lives of dozens of her family members, including two children. So Annie is an assumed name. As is Michelle’s, which is an upside-down “W” riff on Winchell’s, the once-formidable California chain the Cambodian doughnut takeover nearly toppled.
The atmosphere at Michelle’s is unmistakably that of a repurposed Winchell’s: yellow-and-brown color scheme, triangular street-facing signage, low-low prices. The doughnuts themselves are straightforward, unpretentious, and delicious. Annie recommends the chocolate-glazed ($0.85), as well as the old-fashioned ($0.75), and the sugar-coated donut holes ($0.10). At $1.45, the bearclaw is the most expensive doughnut on the menu here. Annie says she tried experimenting with doughnut trends like the maple-bacon—even the cronut—but they didn’t take. Since I wrote a 5,000-word article about doughnuts for Lucky Peach, people often ask me about the place not far from here where you can get a fudge-stuffed doughnut named after a post-rock band. There isn’t anything clever like that going on at Michelle’s, but there is a great deal more than meets the eye.” (Photo: Richard Parks)
Where: New York, NY
Address and phone: 17 W 32nd St
Cova says: “Webster’s dictionary defines doughnut as a toroidal cushion commonly used by hemorrhoid patients, but I always like to think of them as a premium, fried sweet treat for my number-one face hole. Having grown up on maple bars and bags and bags of Hostess “donettes,” as well as having opened a doughnut shop that allowed me to bastardize everything I ever knew about doughnuts for personal gain, a point was reached where I believed the entire fried-dough-with-a-hole thing had jumped the shark. I actually started to feel like a less doctor-y Sam Neil in Jurassic Park, like, “What the fuck is up with this unnatural cloning shit!” and just burned out on the abominations and copies of copies that are out there.
Then one faithful day I wrapped my sullen, jaded mouth around one of Grace Street’s ho-dduk—a Korean-style doughnut, which I believe literally translates to “crispy, sweet mouth pillow of a thousand side boobs.” Located in NYC’s Koreatown, Grace Street does some excellent shaved ice and classy espresso and coffee drinks. But the showstopper are these airy, light doughnuts that will renew any cynics faith in the simple joy of hot, fluffy dough with a sugary sweet filling, oozing with fragrant hints of walnut and cinnamon. Each order of ho-dduk comes cut in four and can—nay, should—be served with a pleasantly balancing vanilla ice cream to sooth any tongue scorching you may incur.
Part of the reason Grace Street is set so far apart from the rest of the everyday, jobroni-mustachioed, intellectually-douchey, post-diner, ironic doughnut shops around is the fact it’s not a doughnut shop at all. The scene: about a thousand tall, beautiful, young Korean ladies sipping on coffee in a large open space filled with stools and couches; and everyone either on laptops or in conversation in a frantic excitement that comes only with caffeine-fueled anticipation of ho-dduk.” (Photo: Yelp/Jessie L.)
Where: Honolulu, HI
Address and phone: 1284 Kalani St, Ste D106 (808-845-5831)
Ansel says: “They look like dark lava rocks from a distance, but when you take a first bite, it’s vividly purple inside. The poi malasadas—poi is a staple of Hawaii and comes from the root of a taro plant—at Kamehameha Bakery in Honolulu sell out early, and for good reason. The one I had was still warm in my hands, lightly glazed on the outside with bits of the icing that break off into almost crunchy flakes. The inside is incredibly light and moist with small bubbles that you can see running through the whole crumb. It definitely has won the hearts of the locals as well as a visitor like me. As a chef, I’ve always tried to look at the chemistry behind it all and how certain potato flours can make for a softer doughnut. Poi opens up a whole world of opportunities.” (Photos: Thomas Schauer, Kathy YL Chan)
Cartem’s Donuterie Vancouver
Where: Vancouver, Canada
Address and phone: 534 W Pender St (+1 778-708-0996)
Krondl says: “Cartem’s was founded by Vancouverite Jordan Cash in 2012. As he tells it, it all came to him in a dream some years earlier while he was working in Korea. He awoke, and it was all there: the doughnuts, the name. In the absence of any formal training though, it took him many years and the help of a couple of pros to perfect his fried-dough rings.
When I first visited Cartems, Vancouver’s hipster donut boutique, it was located in a pop-up-shop in what real-estate agents refer to as a ‘transitional’ neighborhood. The shop was tiny and the doughnuts quirky—not only in their flavors, but their shape. Instead of the compact, orderly rhomboids typical of extruded cake doughnuts, these were more like shrunken-down, drunken hula hoops. The dough used to be piped (rather than rolled and cut) which gave them a noticeably hand-made appearance. The technique has been updated some, but the result is still much the same. I recall the flavors included Bee Sting, flavored with parmesan and black pepper, which was absolutely delicious and surprisingly not weird, as well as carrot, which was, well, just not carroty enough.
Today, the shop has fancier digs right downtown and offers dougnuts and yoga classes (this the Northwest coast after all). While they do make yeast dougnuts, it’s the cake dougnuts that are worth the calories. The Bee Sting is still on the menu and the earl grey merits a taste, but my absolute favorite is the crème brulée which—defying all culinary science—is entirely covered with a crunchy caramel exterior.” (Photo: Facebook/Cartem’s)
Dynamo Donut + Coffee
Where: San Francisco, CA
Address and phone: 2760 24th St (415-920-1978)
Birdsall says: “When Sara Spearin started Dynamo in 2008, a lot of new American doughnuts were about bombast—blowing them up, paving the tops with Fruit Loops or Cap’n Crunch, giving them cartoon names. Spearin approached them like a pastry chef, aware of flavor, texture, and respecting the doughnuts as this small, perfectible thing. My favorite is Chocolate Star Anise. It has a sophistication that surprises you, a perfume that enhances the chocolateness of the thing rather than screaming novelty. It also goes really well with coffee, which is a doughnut’s first responsibility. Spearin respects that—knows what a doughnuts should do, knows what it should probably never try to do. It’s a very San Francisco doughnut, expressing craft and intelligence over ego. It’s quietly remarkable.” (Photo: Yelp/Mike C.)
Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop
Where: Brooklyn, NY
Address and phone: 727 Manhattan Ave (718-389-3676)
Koslow says: “As a child of the ’80s and a resident of Southern California, I grew up surrounded by the boom of Cambodian-run strip-mall doughnut shops. My childhood memories are at odds: four-hour figure skating training sessions, followed by the walk to the doughnut shop for ‘breakfast.’ I enjoy classics in this life—I’m a Howlin’ Wolf, Calder, glazed-doughnut type of gal. But the doughnuts at this shop were never remarkable, the glaze was never fresh—always white and crackled—and the dough was dense. It was more a location-specific ritual that fueled my consumption than a love for doughnuts.
Those deep-seated memories, however, landed me at the most nostalgic doughnut shop of all: Peter Pan Donuts in Greenpoint. I was living there in 2007 when I passed by the pastel-painted shop with pastel-uniformed employees, and a large glass window with a jumble of doughnut varieties on display. I heeded the call and went inside. This shop has been operating since the 1950s with a period interior that remains the same, just like the decade-long regulars that occupy the counter seats. Its staff is still largely Polish (and female), as are those who consistently occupy it, and it remains a place that defines this neighborhood even with the youthful energy swirling around it.
Their glazed doughnut is everything a Krispy Kreme donut has taught us to want—finely covered in an opaque glaze, with an airy dough, and often still warm. My favorite one, perhaps in all of the U.S., is their Glazed Blueberry Buttermilk. A soft cake doughnut made with tangy buttermilk, tart blueberries, and finished with ‘that’ glaze. It’s a new nostalgia, and every time I’m back in New York, I find myself getting off the G train at Nassau for a reminder of what it meant to be 20-something, living in New York, and having a great doughnut for the first time.” (Photo: Liz Barclay)
Where: Honolulu, HI
Address and phone: 1601 Punahou St (808-944-5711)
Chan says: “In Hawaii, our version of doughnuts are extra special. We call them malasadas, these poofy, big and golden wonders. Think classic yeast doughnut but with an eggier, more brioche-like dough. You’ll find them at bakeries all over the island like Leonard’s Bakery (perhaps the most popular with locals and tourists lining out the door) and Champion Malasadas. You’ll even find them at upscale restaurants, stuffed with lilikoi (passionfruit) curd or served with a side of warm chocolate for dipping. But the best malasadas in Hawaii are also the most elusive. They’re served for just two days out of the year. Mark your calendars for the Punahou Carnival, which takes the first Friday and Saturday of every February. Hosted by Punahou School (a.k.a., Obama’s alma mater), these malasadas are made by a team of volunteers—alumni, current students, and parents. Punahou malasadas are more flavorful than most places, with an extra crunchy exterior rolled in sugar—unabashedly indulgent. You can find the recipe online, but we all know the actual recipe, which seems to have a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, will never be revealed. Head to the ‘Malasada Booth’ (follow your nose to the fried dough and sugar), where malasadas are fried by the dozen in giant wok-like contraptions. Thousands of malasadas are sold each weekend and locals are known to scoop up several dozen and freeze them for the dry spell (the other 363 days of the year).” (Photo: Yelp/Paige I.)
Where: Philadelphia, PA
Address and phone: 1632 Sansom St
Robicelli says: “The first time I visited Federal Donuts was a fluke. We had just wrapped three days of family fun at Sesame Place. Perhaps it was the sweltering July heat, or the realization that we would be spending the coming years living vicariously through childless friends’ vacation photos while spending our own having singalongs to The Wiggles in our no-frills Honda Civic; but when I turned to my husband Matt and mentioned I had read on some long-forgotten blog about a new doughnut place down in Philly that, while supposedly great, was a two-hour detour on our way home—and then as a side dish to the doughnuts, they apparently had this amazing fried chicken. Well, I didn’t even finish the sentence before he blurted out, ‘Let’s go.’
There are moments where you have to grab those rare chances for spontaneity, to remind yourselves that you were once two people who would, on a whim, drive through Long Island looking for the perfect piece of pie, or spend the night on Brighton Beach drinking Kvass and looking up at the three stars that are visible in New York City. Before you were parents and had to be responsible. Back when the phrase “doughnut pilgrimage” was a part of everyday life.
Federal had been open just a few months, hidden on a corner in an unremarkable seeming Philadelphia neighborhood, selling nothing but doughnuts and fried chicken in a pared-down space. When we arrived, they had already sold out of their ‘fancy’ donuts, something I always take as a good sign, as I know not to trust any sort of bakehouse that has seemingly unlimited inventory. If you are going to do something, you do it right—even if it takes longer, even if it means you can’t sell a million doughnuts a day, even if it means turning away customers (and turning away money) because you won’t serve anything less than perfect.
Our consolation for our lateness was having to settle for their ‘hot fresh’ doughnuts—plucked straight from the fryer and tossed in different blends of sugar and spices. All these years later, I cannot understand how Philadelphians were, at the time, bemoaning the limited availability of the fancies. That hot doughnut—cusped in my hands, torturing me as I inhaled the vanilla-spice–scented steam for what seemed like hours until it was cool enough to eat—was as close as you can get to God through carbohydrates. We sat there for an hour, eating through each flavor, then eating through them a second time. We teared up as we experienced the genius of pairing za’atar-fried chicken with a hot honey cake doughnut. We grabbed a box filled with hot chicken and doughnut to put in the car for the long drive back to Brooklyn—our post-children version of hotboxing.” (Photo: Facebook/Federal Donuts)
Morning Call Coffee Stand
Where: New Orleans, LA
Address and phone: 56 Dreyfous Dr (504-300-1157)
Falkowitz says: “Pretty much everyone who does a trip to New Orleans hits Cafe Du Monde, and hey, their beignets and open-air people-watching in the Quarter are a wonderful thing. But Cafe Du Monde is big. It’s impersonal. It’s not the kind of place to truly enjoy doughnuts. Morning Call in nearby Metairie is. It’s a dinette where your server may call you ‘hon.’ It’s open 24/7. Its UNIVAC-era cash register hasn’t been reappropriated from an antiques store. Oh, and its beignets are killer, even a little better than Cafe Du Monde’s: burnished, crackly crunch giving way to a thicker crust beneath of chewy skin, then all fluffy, steamy insides and enough superfine sugar (no cornstarch allowed) to set your teeth on edge. Look, it’s great that talented bakers around the country are dedicating their knowledge and labor to making great doughnuts. But no matter how good your passionfruit-glazed yuzu Boston cream is, it’ll never beat the ineffable, unreplicable charm of a good, no-nonsense doughnut shop. Cafe Du Monde will be fine without you. It’s the local shops like Morning Call (140 years and counting) that are living on borrowed time.” (Photos: Vicky Wasik, Max Falkowitz)
The Donut Man
Where: Glendora, CA
Address and phone: (626-335-9111)
Balla says: “When I first moved to L.A., one of the funniest things that struck me was the overwhelming abundance of doughnut shops. I, like just about everyone else not living here, assumed everyone was a health-food freak. So not true. People are definitely eating doughnuts. Not only have some of the city’s top chefs made gourmet doughnuts trendy, but there’s a doughnut shop in just about every strip mall. Hell, one of our more significant architectural gems is an iconic 30-foot doughnut in Inglewood.
When it comes to the random doughnut shops, no one really cares if the pastries are particularly tasty. They’re doughnuts: even bad, they’re still pretty good. So with so many options close by, why would anyone need to drive 30-plus miles for a doughnut? The Donut Man’s strawberry doughnut in Glendora—that’s why. It’s as iconic to Southern California as the sunsets.
Owner Jim Nakano was on to something when he decided to make a glazed raised doughnut bun (no hole), slice it open, and fill it with whole fresh strawberries topped with strawberry glaze they make there. The fact that it’s not some sort of fake strawberry-goop filling is what makes this doughnut stand out. That doughnut has been featured on numerous TV shows and in countless articles and lists, named as an essential stop for any true doughnut aficionado. It lives up to its notoriety not only for uniqueness (a doughnut sandwich!), but also for its pure scale. A fork comes in handy.
When strawberries are gone, the doughnut is stuffed with peaches, but peaches are a far more fickle fruit. Whenever I’ve tried it, they’re not super sweet and soft. Maybe it’s the glaze, or the sugar, or delicious fattiness from the puffy doughnut itself, but the strawberries, even if a bit tart, always taste perfect. The Route 66 staple has been around since 1972, and the little brown hut isn’t much to look at. There’s a big yellow sign on top with a quirky little bow tie-wearing man mascot, and faded hand-painted signs touting the popular strawberry doughnut. Inside, bakers are usually baking—it’s open 24 hours a day—filling the racks with every classic doughnut imaginable, which we ogle hungrily from the walk-up window. You may go just for a strawberry doughnut, but I dare you to try and walk away without a couple maple bars, buttermilk bars, and foot-long tiger tails, too. It’s a long a drive for just one doughnut, after all.” (Photo: Yelp/James T.)
Bloom Bake Shop
Where: Madison, WI
Address and phone: 1834 Parmenter St (608-831-5797)
Lamonde says: “You’ve probably had your fair share of doughnuts over the years, but ever since my wedding day, there is only one doughnut that reigns above the rest in my book. Doughnut-lover, meet the Peanut Butter and Honey Doughnut made by Annemarie Maitri of small-batch local, organic, and fair-trade Bloom Bake Shop. What makes this one so special? Besides being (unnoticeably) gluten-free, it’s baked not fried, leaving it lighter with a just-right crispness on the outside and perfect moisture on the interior. Annemarie’s flour blend is a big part of what makes this doughnut standout—particularly because she cuts in coconut flour. The peanut butter is made in-house, and the honey is from a local, sustainable source. To make matters all the more awesome, she finishes off the doughnut with a dusting of bee pollen.” (Photo: Jim Klousia)
Bailey says: “The scent of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop takes me back to my freshman year at LSU. I fell in love with the Chocolate Iced with Kreme filling, and it remains my favorite in the pantheon of fried pastries. It is so good, in fact, that I am willing to travel to the depths of the commuter hell that is Penn Station, where the last remaining Krispy Kreme shop in NYC stands, between a pizzeria and an ATM. Coated with chocolate glaze that cracks when you touch it, and over-filled with vanilla creme that tastes like the center of an Oreo, these bad boys fill me with a warm feeling of nostalgia for simpler days where ingredient labels weren’t so important. I learned in my ‘research’ that the original recipe came from a New Orleans chef, and as a pastry chef from Louisiana, this fact warms my Kreole heart. By way of comparison, I sampled some of NYC’s more upscale doughnut shops. Today’s gourmet doughnut tends to be denser, more brioche-like. Eating one can be very labor-intensive. But biting into a hot Krispy Kreme is like slicing through butter with a hot knife.” (Photo: Sweeties Reviews)
World’s Best Donuts
Where: Grand Marais, MN
Address and phone: 10 Wisconsin St (218-387-1345)
Zimmern says: “World’s Best. It’s a grandiose phrase. What narcissistic food dork would ever open themselves up to any sort of tweet-shaming or blog-bashing by using that kind of ridiculous platitude? It’s an indefensible position at best. Who can really call something like a doughnut ‘the best.’ Too many variables. Too much ego involved in saying that you know well enough to even suggest it. And I’m going to go there.
Minnesota’s Merieta ‘Gramma Rita’ Altrichter opened her first doughnut shop in 1969 at the age of 47. She called it Grand Marais Donut Shop. All the doughnut were made by hand, mixing dough in a plastic bowl. A few years later she moved the store down the street where the front counter offered three varietals: plain, sugared, and cinnamon. Merieta made the doughnuts early in the morning and then went to work at a local clothing store. She had a friend come in during the day to manage sales. In 1975, she finally gave up her day job and devoted herself to her shop, and within two years the store relocated a final time to its current location at 10 East Wisconsin Street. At that point she also decided to change the name, and if you want to take up the semantics of it all, you can address your concerns to Merieta’s family, who continue to operate World’s Best Donuts today. Now, I can tell you this, the two greatest doughnuts I have ever eaten over the course of my 53 years on this planet are the Dreesen’s Market donuts in East Hampton circa 1968-74, when Rudy was still making them every day, and World’s Best.
World’s Best is all about the family and the people they serve. Merietas great grandchildren even work at the shop, and apparently they started doing that when some of them were just five years old—which is why the paper towel holder in the coffee room is positioned at knee height. How can you top that story? You can’t. When I moved to Minnesota in 1992, one of the first places I visited was World’s Best. The menu by that point had grown, but despite the variety, all the raised and cake doughnuts were beyond delicious; there were Bismarcks and Long Johns, cinnamon swirls and pull-aparts, jelly donuts and something that caught my eye right away, called a Skizzle.
Before I go any further, let me tell you as a transplanted globe-trotting New Yorker, I applaud any skill set sturdy enough to make great doughnuts. I’ve had some pretty amazing versions all over the world. Our culture isn’t the only one to lay claim to perfecting the art of frying dough. I will say this: Try going to Grand Marais, the gateway to the Boundary Waters, the head of the Mississippi River, entry point to the Gunflint Trail; then find Lake Superior— it’s pretty easy. Look for the little red wooden shop with the welcoming porch. Go inside on a cold fall morning; order a Skizzle. Merieta created them in the late seventies: sweet raised dough, rolled thin and fried flat, like a crisp beret. Made to order, there is nothing that beats these over-sized, sugar dusted, crisp-soft stunners. The lakefront, the family, the coffee room, the incredible doughnuts NEVER served cold or old, will never disappoint. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted a doughnut more than I do right now, and I am on a plane headed to Croatia from Paris; and all I can muster up are some pretty shitty peanuts.” (Photo: Trip Advisor)
Where: Oakland, CA
Address and phone: 3318 Lakeshore Ave (510-893-2503)
Corbett says: “Colonial Donuts is an Oakland mainstay that dates back to the mid-’70s. There are three locations, but the one I know to be best is on Lakeshore Ave. It’s open 24 hours, and sometime after 9pm, the smell of freshly fried dough will start to permeate Lakeshore’s shopping district. This is a no-nonsense doughnut shop. You won’t find flavors pandering to ‘foodies’ and the like (i.e., no bacon or cereal-covered doughnuts). All you’ll find here are classic doughnuts, done well. The scene at night can read a little shady, but it’s not—usually it just consists of a few regulars playing chess or the lottery. The later it gets, the more apt you are to find one or more people passed out at tables. But you’re not there for the ambiance, you’re there to get a doughnut and continue on your way. They serve the classic array—everything from old-fashioned to jelly-filled, to bear claws and éclairs. For me, the bucket list doughnut is the buttermilk glazed. It’s a big, knobby buttermilk-cake doughnut full of nooks and crannies. It almost acts like monkey bread, with crunchy pieces you can pull away, revealing a soft, tender cake crumb. All of the cake-based doughnuts come out of the fryer first, so if you go between 9–10 pm you can usually get a warm one.” (Photo: Yelp/ Mrs C.)
Where: Atlanta, GA
Address and phone: 535 10th St NW (404-897-1801)
Johnson says: “Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta is hands down an essential experience for any doughnut fan. Kamal Grant—who was also a baker during his stint in the Navy—layers flavors of fresh ingredients with modern technique (check out the Oreo Ice Cream Burger and A-town Creams). The doughnuts are light and fluffy, and he uses top-quality ingredients. The fact that he has a shop in the ATL and one in Thailand is pretty dope—and it also says a lot about the appeal of his product. My favorite ones to order there are the fresh strawberries ‘n’ cream doughnut and the Orange Dream Star. Maybe we can get one in NYC soon.” (Photo: Facebook/Sublime Doughnuts)
Where: Memphis, TN
Address and phone: 760 Mount Moriah Rd (901-682-8200)
Schonberger says: “When my brother and I went to a friend’s bachelor party in Memphis, we embarked on a gratuitous and at times painful meat march through the city’s requisite BBQ haunts: Cozy Corner, Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, Corky’s, et al. But what I remember best is that between each stop—stomachs distended, all of us packed like sardines onto a tour bus helmed by a guitar-toting maniac named “Memphis Jones”—we couldn’t stop eating the addictive, dissolve-on-your-tongue glazed doughnuts from Gibson’s, an all-American pastry shop about 20 minutes out of town.
Our buddy’s grandfather, Seymour, had discovered it on the first day of the trip, and every morning before the group roused from its pork-induced slumber, he would hail a cab out to Gibson’s and pick up dozens upon dozens of doughnuts—cakey old-fashioneds, cruellers, éclairs, and (most unnecessary of all) bacon-topped and maple-glazed yeast doughnuts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ate more than 40 on this own over the course of three days, and he almost missed his flight on the last morning of the trip after demanding a detour to the shop. Apparently, he rolled up to security with stacks of boxes in his arms, much to the chagrin of his family.
Seymour passed away a few years ago, but this vision quest–style doughnut-eating spree remains one of my favorite memories of him. It also left me with fond memories of one of my favorite doughnuts of all time: Gibson’s New Orleans-inspired buttermilk drop, a peach-shaped ball of cakey fried dough coated with a simple buttermilk icing.
The lesson here is clear: Always bring granddads to the bachelor party—they wake up early and find all the good stuff.” (Photo: Facebook/Gibson’s Donuts)
Where: Los Angeles, CA
Address and phone: 2918 Sawtelle Blvd (310-478-6930)
Mosbaugh says: “Los Angeles has the most doghnut shops per capita of any major city the United States, but not all L.A. doughnut shops are created equal. Sure, SK’s maple-bacon yeast doughnut is fantastic, Bob’s apple fritters can’t be beat, and Stan’s Donuts in Westwood has next-level custard puffs. But when you’re after a truly old-school doughnut experience, head to Primo’s on the Westside. Celia and Ralph Primo have run the small storefront since 1956, and the space is a preserved slice of vintage L.A. There’s no faux-Cronut here or Fruit Loop-topped pastries—just immaculate crumb doughnuts, cinnamon-dusted twists, and coconut-covered beauties, not to mention the best old-fashioned buttermilk bars on the planet. I speak for most Angelenos when I say: FOH, Dunkin’. Long live Primo’s.” (Photo: Yelp/Angie Y.)