The Best Doughnuts in Every State
Doughnuts, donuts, crullers, beignets, malasadas—by any name, these are the finest fried dough treats in America.
As 2020 lumbered to a close, I cannot have been the only one craving a modicum of quiet. That was my plan, peace and quiet, somewhere not too far away from civilization, but also with relatively few people. When the real estate agent told me over the phone that his condo in Maine, just up from the beach, was next door to one of the state's most popular doughnut shops, I was already there in my mind.
Since the 1950s, Congdon's Doughnuts has been a fixture in the town of Wells, which isn't so much a town as it is a collection of classic New England beach sprawl, spread out along the Post Road between quaint Ogunquit and the stiff upper lip Kennebunks. When I moved in, I had a perfect view of the drive-thru, by now the preferred pick-up method. I quickly learned the schedule, and Thursdays became my favorite day of the week. I'd wake up while it was still dark out to see the cars waiting patiently, quietly, on the first morning back after the shop's weekly break. At a time when Maine was finally experiencing the full weight of the pandemic, something so benign as a line of cars at a drive-through, viewed from the windows of my four-season porch, felt communal, shared.
I hadn't hated Mondays since my school years, but now they meant one, two, three days of no doughnuts, no occasional spice-scented waft on the breeze, no positive energy of people anticipating nice things, because when doughnuts are literally just around the corner, and you're cozy and safe in your car, who wouldn't be feeling good?
There have been so many doughnut temptations over the years, so many little obsessions, going all the way back to proper Boston creams and frothy hot chocolate at horseshoe-shaped counters with the spinning-top stools in New York City, cider doughnuts on the farm all over Hudson Valley and New England, malasadas in Honolulu and Fall River, too, beignets in Baton Rouge, pre-trend croissant doughnuts in time-capsule Midwestern bakeries, biscuit doughnuts in the Deep South, and now, big, brioche dough beauties everywhere.
The American doughnut is as varied as we are, and there's almost no corner of the country that hasn't been hooked for generations, or failed to put their own stamp on the genre. This list of the best doughnuts in America is, fair warning, intensely personal, assembled after several years of doughnut eating in the name of research. Pull up a chair, and let's do some traveling.
Is there such a thing as the perfect doughnut? The delicate, plain-glazed beauties we've been sneaking from Hero Doughnuts in Birmingham make a strong case, even when Will Drake's fledgling empire was just a farmers' market pop-up. Let's say these two-day, brioche-style babies were screenplays—they'd be Tootsie or Chinatown, the ones that show everybody else how it's done. These doughnuts remind you that sometimes a plain glazed is so much more than a plain glazed. Marrying classic taste and feel with sophisticated modern technique, the result is the best of all possible worlds.
After joining forces with a local restaurant group, Hero Doughnut shops have now opened elsewhere in the South, though we're guessing there are few towns in Alabama they'll want to steer clear of—in this part of the world, people can be very territorial about their doughnuts. For more glazed magic, it's The Donut King in Eufaula, and has been for quite some time, or through the screen doors at the half-century-old Duchess Bakery in Cullman, which managed a seamless handoff right in the middle of 2020, when long-time owner Larry Bontrager decided he'd seen enough.
You don't move to a place with long, exceptionally dark winters without good coffee. A fixture in downtown Anchorage since the 1950s, The Kobuk was selling high-quality, imported beans to its customers well before the state acquired the robust roasting scene it enjoys today. No longer do you have to look far for a bracing shot (or two) of black gold in the neighborhood, but there's only one coffee shop—that's also a pretty serious tea shop and gift shop, as well—known for making Alaska's best doughnuts. Krinkly, glazed old fashioneds are the ones you're looking for—simple and straightforward, they will never let you down. During the pandemic, they've been taking advance doughnut orders on Thursdays for Friday pickup; talk about TGIF.
There is a school of thought that says overstuffing a ball of fried dough with chocolate cream is probably plenty, that a quick dusting of confectioner's sugar is plenty—something simple, ever so slightly demure. Arkansas did not go to this school. At Dale's Donuts in Benton, a suburb on the fringes of Little Rock, there's often a line out the door for the day's product, with many customers here for the chocolate filled, one of the brightest stars in the Dale's firmament. Hand-cut and generously proportioned, this doughnut is a master class on the topic. For the final, over-the-top flourish, the thing is essentially drowned in a sugar glaze. Bring your dentist; bring us.
The best conchas in town, or the finest bear claw doughnut for miles—¿porque no los dos? Tucson's legendary La Estrella Bakery, serving the community since 1986, has long been a destination for the city's iconic, giant-sized flour tortillas, some of the best pan dulce in the state, killer tamales, and—last but definitely not least—the city's finest classic doughnuts, glazed or sugar-dusted to get you started. The original store is for serious shoppers, and there are plenty of them, particularly on weekends. The newer, second location facing the interior courtyard of the beautiful Mercado San Agustin—right next door to the best espresso in town at Presta—is the perfect outdoor meeting point for pandemic-era quality time with friends. And, sure, maybe baked sweet empanadas aren't doughnuts, but we're nominating them for membership anyway. (They're superb here; go for the pumpkin.)
There is much to be said about Southern California's Sidecar Donuts & Coffee, which started out in a Costa Mesa strip mall, just a short ride from the pier in Newport Beach, but we'll start with the cake doughnuts. There are some excellent ones out there, but few more elegant than the brilliantly simple butter and salt doughnut made here throughout the day. The country is plagued with overpriced designer doughnut shops these days, where cute toppings and the bells and whistles are designed to distract us. With a doughnut like the butter and salt at Sidecar, no distraction is needed. These are as straightforward as doughnuts come, perfectly fried every time, remarkably delicate, made of vanilla bean cake, kissed with a brown butter glaze and fleur de sel. Looks-wise, it might have come from a classic bakery in the Midwest. Taste-wise and quality-wise, there's almost none better in its class.
A visible dedication to detail pays off at Sidecar, time and again; small-batch production ensures freshness throughout the day. And if you were ever going to experiment with vegan or gluten-free, you're in expert hands here—vegan chocolate truffle is a firm favorite, even with the kind of people who might normally go for maple bacon. Which they also have. It's a whole experience. There are now four locations, with a fifth coming soon.
Rare is the big city west of the Continental Divide mostly unchanged by the last fifty years, but here we are in Pueblo, as classic as you please, a city that feels mostly uninterested in modern Colorado. This is a state known for having some of the fittest residents, and as such, you do not find an embarrassment of doughnut riches, but count on Pueblo to go against the grain. Up above downtown and the Arkansas River in the Mesa Junction neighborhood, residents living in some of the city's most beautiful old homes can walk over to Banquet Schusters Bakery on Abriendo Avenue, as they have been doing for generations, for chiffon cakes, potato rolls, loaves of Slovenian walnut bread, and the house Pecan Sandies. A good deal many of them can be found here first thing in the morning for cinnamon roll doughnuts, for cream-filled long johns, and classic glazeds by the dozen.
Only weeks before things went completely sideways last year, there was good news for the many fans of Neil's Donuts in Wallingford: Central Connecticut's best doughnut shop was expanding, with a spiffy new location in Middletown, complete with drive-thru, due to open within months. Things moved a little slower than normal, but by Thanksgiving, pandemic be damned, Neil Bukowski's sophomore effort was up and running and drawing the expected hordes. A couple of decades back, Bukowski was a salesman, known for bringing doughnuts to his client meetings, except that he could never find a doughnut shop that met his exacting standards. After tiring of hearing himself complain, Bukowski started making his own doughnuts, eventually quitting his job to manage the wildly popular Neil's—an impressive feat to pull off as recently as twenty years ago, considering the rather entrenched doughnut habits of your typical New Englander. Neil's has some of the best old fashioneds in the region, crispy wheels of perfection, and filled doughnuts so generously portioned that sometimes they don't even bother with the pastry bag, slicing into the fresh yeast bombs before slathering them with cream and jam. Come fall, a magical pumpkin spice cake and preserve-filled, cinnamon sugar-dusted apple will make you forget all about every average cider doughnut you've ever tried.
On a playlist of classic covered markets serving towns and cities of the Mid-Atlantic region, the markets in the Wilmington area (and other parts of the state) would be the deep cuts—utilitarian, hard-working, zero glamour, dripping with the kind of authenticity that is not always terribly cute but is essential for the hardcore fan. The New Castle Farmers Market is the finest example of this glorious sub-genre, a low-slung cinder block structure dating back to the 1950s, hosting a serious flea market in the parking lot ("No Guns, No Ammo, No Porn") and housing everything from dollar stores to barber shops, dueling wig emporiums, and one of Delaware's best taquerias, Los Jarritos. No area market, of course, is complete without a handful of businesses either loosely or directly associated with the area's Amish and Mennonite communities, and New Castle's doesn't disappoint, offering up a selection of the usual suspects, from fresh produce to unfussy breads to quality, never-frozen rotisserie chicken. For dessert times, it has to be the classic, hand-rolled doughnuts at Dutch Country Donuts; you'll find them right next to the Indian take-out joint. (Obviously.)
Further south in Middletown, you're looking for the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market, home to A&R Bakery—you can't miss with their peanut butter creme-filled doughnuts, which come either sugar dusted or topped with chocolate icing. Way south in Laurel, make a beeline straight for the in-house bakery at the Dutch Country Market.
Five years isn't a very long time to go from selling sweet treats out of a camping trailer in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood to presiding over a mini-empire extending as far west as Austin, Texas, but that's just how much people like The Salty. Founded with local chef Max Santiago, who's now moved on and has his own doughnut thing going, this is a very modern operation, using a 24-hour brioche dough recipe and featuring lots of brightly colored glazes and elaborate flavor profiles. It's a gimmick that by now we're all very familiar with but rarely has the concept been executed this capably. The guava cheese doughnut, topped with a puff pastry streusel, is everything you could want from a doughnut in today's Miami.
Was anybody out there seriously asking for a Creamsicle-flavored doughnut? Guessing no, but that's the entire point of Kamal Grant's Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta—finally, somebody knows what kind of doughnuts we want before we even ask. The Culinary Institute of America graduate (and local doughnut celebrity) has built a following on creativity and quality, serving the city with two 24/7 locations. Grant's orange star doughnut has become a house favorite; the star-shaped yeast number is filled with citrus-infused cream and topped with orange glaze. Having a bad day? Bad weather harshing your buzz? One of these bright beauties will perk you right up. Grant's culinary school roots are forever showing—we love those doughnuts sliced open and filled with strawberries, or the A-shaped Boston creams, topped with a Callebaut chocolate glaze. Fun fact: There's a location in Bangkok.
Here's a bet: Long after the specifics of your first, magical Aloha State adventure fade into a happy haze of sun and sand and supermarket poke, we're guessing you'll remember the time you chomped down on your first malasada at the no-frills Leonard's Bakery in Honolulu, and you'll remember like it was yesterday. Brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants long ago, most malasadas we've found in Hawaii don't bear much of a resemblance to the scraggly pieces of fried dough served up sugared and hot in the old country—but never call the golden brown orbs, which they have been selling at Leonard's since the 1950s, just another doughnut, either. Classic cinnamon sugar-dusted will always be a fine accompaniment to a bold cup of 100% Hawaiian coffee, but the custard-filled puffs are gorgeously extravagant, good for any (and every) time, and still sold cheaper than you can imagine.
Since World War II, the Martinson family had been a fixture in the Highland Park neighborhood of Des Moines, where they operated the Hiland Bakery, purveyor of champagne cakes, almond paste-filled Dutch letters, cream puffs, and the other things that Iowans crave. They have doughnuts, too—for years, anybody who really knew the lay of the land would tell you that the best doughnuts in town, in Iowa, came from the Hiland Bakery. Fritters, long johns, simple glazed, you name it, this was your spot, at least until the tail end of 2019, when the family—perhaps presciently—decided to hang up their aprons for good. As welcome-to-the-neighborhood gifts go, a pandemic probably wasn't on new owner Tracy Adamson's wish list, but here we are a year on, and here is the Hiland, back and better than ever. Champagne doughnuts—pretty in frosted pink, with a squirt of cream at the center—are worth a journey.
From the 100% vegan dough used for the yeast doughnuts to gluten-free rings enriched with the state's most famous crop (potatoes, you know this), Guru Donuts in Boise may be all about sustainability and inclusiveness, but it's also about a range of flavors, toppings, and fillings so colorful and inventive, you won't even notice what's missing. From bismarks sliced in half and stuffed with Chantilly cream (okay, not vegan) to doughnuts topped with macarons or stuffed with cheesecake filling, this is nearly patisserie-level work. Keep eyes peeled for the weekly biscuit doughnut special; known as the Winnie The Pooh, this flaky-delicious beast comes dipped in a honey butter glaze.
Fifty years ago, Buritt and Mamie Bulloch followed a well-trodden path north from Mississippi to Chicago's South Side with big plans for a better life. In 1972, the couple opened Old Fashioned Donuts on South Michigan Avenue, many miles away from the Michigan Avenue that most visitors to Chicago see, over time becoming a fixture in the Roseland neighborhood, and then a survivor, as the surrounding commercial district withered away. Then came 2020, a pandemic, and a summer of unrest. The famous front window where Mr. B., now 82 years old, can be observed most mornings making some of the most elegant glazed doughnuts in the Midwest, was smashed. The shop was in serious trouble, but the doughnut-loving community turned out, raising more than $25,000, enough for long-needed improvements. You'll never go wrong here, but don't ever go away without an apple fritter. Downtown, the methods may be old fashioned, but everything else is very up-to-date at Firecakes Donuts, now rounding the corner on a decade of serving up some of the city's favorite nouveau doughnuts. Their wildflower honey glazed old fashioneds are a beautiful blend of tradition and innovation, and you can have them delivered to your door via Goldbelly.
We all love a fritter, do we not, with its crags and dips and textures, but they can be formidable creatures, and you're not always up for the challenge. At Long's Bakery, an Indianapolis essential since the 1950s (the prices feel like they haven't changed all that much), you go for a fry instead, and you'll start simple, with the cinnamon-flavored. This hybrid creature takes the best of a fritter and a regular yeast doughnut, resulting in something you could easily eat more than one of. This is a recurring theme in a shop turning out scores of worthy classics, drawing lines out the door in a neighborhood that has seen far better days. There are other locations now, but the original remains the holy grail. Bring cash; you won't need much.
Massive cinnamon twists covered in glaze, maple-frosted long johns that barely fit in your standard doughnut box, Boston creams with real cream and real chocolate on top ... long-time fans of Fluffy Fresh Donuts in Mission, a classic suburb of Kansas City, will rattle off a whole list of reasons why you ought to get there on time, which means early. This is one of those places that can sell out fairly quickly, and then they're done for the day. Not that you're out of options. Barely five minutes away, nationally-renowned chocolatier/local celeb Christopher Elbow has been exploring one of his other passions at the recently-opened Fairway Creamery, an irresistible neighborhood sweet shop where doughnuts share the stage with inventive soft-serve ice creams and far above average coffee. Simple doughnuts, these are, where the magic is in the details—think old fashioneds with a hit of citrus, pink champagne glazed, and bismarcks stuffed with lemon meringue filling. Don't get lazy, because they sell out here, too.
Mike Nord grew up in the St. Joseph section of Louisville, settled by immigrants from southern Germany over a century ago, and like so many other children growing up in the neighborhood, he remembered admiring the cakes and cookies and everything else at Klein's Bakery, which served the local community well. When the latest owners decided to retire nearly a decade ago, Nord and his wife bought the place, making a few changes, starting with the name. These days, Nord's Bakery might be more popular than ever, drawing a crowd for everything from the old fashioned (classic kuchens, those good German cookies at Christmas) and the best doughnuts around. Nord's decidedly new-fashioned bacon maple long john was at one point their best seller and might still be. Light but dangerous Holland Creams, stuffed with fluffy buttercream and then frosted for good measure, are awfully repeatable.
To locals of a certain age, the best doughnut in New Orleans is always going to be a beignet, fresh off the line and buried in a bank of powdered sugar snow. The only further discussion needed was where to get one, and for many years, those same locals, at least the lion's share, would head in the opposite direction of the French Quarter, out to suburban Metairie, to a little strip mall that for years held one of the last great newsstands in town. At the Morning Call Coffee Stand, where the staff would pour rich, strong cafe au lait from twin metal pitchers, the beignets were nearly always above reproach, and the old timers mostly just called it coffee and doughnuts, like this bit of morning magic was no big deal. Morning Call's triumphant return to the city—a renovated pavilion in City Park, across from the New Orleans' Museum of Art's spectacular sculpture garden—was a beautiful moment, albeit one that ended in tears, and legal battles, after a certain high-profile competitor decided the town wasn't big enough for the two of them.
Now comes, once more, good news: As of this writing, the finishing touches are going into their newest and hopefully forever home, way up top of Canal Street, right at Cemeteries. Peek through the window, and you can see the original, iconic arch that always stood at the center of the shop, just waiting to be lit up again. While you wait, take a trip out to Baton Rouge, where the highly underrated Coffee Call—once again, tucked into a suburban strip mall—sells generously portioned plates of beignet fingers, liberally dusted with sugar. The coffee's great, too.
Cake doughnuts are a New England specialty. From the New York City suburbs of Connecticut to deep into Maine, this is one of those parts of the country where you'll stumble upon a fine example of the genre without exerting even the slightest effort. Not that you have to feel your way around in the dark—there are three standouts waiting for you, just minutes from the Maine Turnpike, starting right when you enter the state. Begin with one of the lightest chocolate cake doughnuts you'll ever try (but with enough crispy bits on the outside, for textural pleasure) at Congdon's Doughnuts in Wells, just up from the beach. Come summer, the parking lot brims with families that will often have traveled across at least one or two state lines, sometimes more, to get here.
In the Portland area, there's The Holy Donut, which has achieved no small amount of fame for using Maine-grown potatoes in the batter. It makes a noticeable difference, but it's not until you get to the sweet potato donuts, deceptively simple creatures with a wonderful hit of ginger, that you really see the full potential. Glazed or sugared, you can't go wrong—maybe even ask if they've got any plain, the taste is just that good. And finally, should you arrive early enough in the morning, hop off the highway just as you cross the bridge from Portsmouth into Kittery, where Lil's Cafe sells some of the finest crullers in the state. See if you can't get your hands on one, or two, before they're gone.
There's a block of Maryland Avenue in Hagerstown that looks like so many others in this compact, historic city—lines of well-kept homes, most of them of a certain age, nothing to see here, really. Locals know better. In the alley behind No. 912 is one of Hagerstown's hottest, most enduring nightlife destinations: Krumpe's Do-Nuts. You don't find a destination-worthy doughnut shop in a residential alley every day, let alone one that has remained in business for generations, opening in 1950 on the tail of a family legacy that dates back even further. And it's not every day you find a doughnut shop that sleeps in this late—Krumpe's opens at 7 p.m. every night, and shuts its doors by 11. Most of the time, you'll jump into the line snaking its way down the narrow thoroughfare known as DoNut Alley, and you'll have at least a few minutes to think about your order. Twists are excellent here, topped with peanut butter frosting, coconut, or dusted in cinnamon sugar. During the summer months, doughnuts topped with fresh strawberries and then peaches (they grow some beautiful ones around here), are quick sellers. True to regional tradition, the shop does a brisk business in the Pennsylvania Dutch-style Fastnacht doughnuts at the end of Carnival (Feb 15 to 16), an event so popular the shop opens early in the morning for a change.
Lent is supposed to be a bummer, that's the whole point, but for fans of Donut Dip in East Longmeadow, strategically located only seconds from the crowded junction of the Massachusetts Turnpike and I-91, it's actually something to look forward to. Lent is when the Springfield institution, serving the region since the 1950s out of a purpose-built (and by now retro-fab) home, rolls out their hot cross—wait for it—doughnuts. You know hot cross buns, if you grew up celebrating Easter; hot cross doughnuts, however, maybe you don't know, at least not yet. Raisin-studded and topped with the trademark icing cross, one of these fresh on the line is way too much fun for this time of year. No need to time it right for another thing the Donut Dip does exceptionally well—their cider doughnuts, some of New England's finest, are available year-round. "What foods these morsels be," says the slogan on the box. Verily.
There's only one Tuesday every year when you will find Hinkley's Bakery open in Jackson, and that's Fat Tuesday (Feb. 16 this year), which in Michigan is pretty much universally celebrated as Paczki Day, when you'll find even more doughnuts than usual in a state that can't ever seem to get enough. Historically a day when bakers in Poland would use up extravagant ingredients for one final indulgence before Lent, paczek dough is typically richer than your average doughnut, with lots of eggs and butter; jam is the typical filling. Thought the lines outside Hinkley's were wild on a normal day? This you've got to see. Any time, however, is a good time for a visit to Brian and Connie Hinkley's landmark establishment, a Jackson essential for over a century. Nothing here is standard issue, from the top-selling crescent cake donuts topped with chocolate to road trip-worthy glazed walnut fritters, standing tall beneath heaps of crushed nuts.
In the Detroit area, Paczki Day isn't complete without a trip to New Palace Bakery in Hamtramck, which typically opens in the earliest hours of the morning to accommodate the annual crush. (In normal years, Hamtramck has even been known to throw a Paczki Day parade.)
Just 45 minutes or so from the Cities, the small town of Lindstrom is almost as Swedish as it gets this side of actual Sweden. This is a place where the locals complain when the highway department forgets the umlauts on local road signs, because as one concerned neighbor pointed out to the newspaper, how else are people supposed to know how to pronounce the names correctly? For a very long time, the Lindstrom Bakery has been at the heart of local life. Bernie Coulombe has owned and operated the place for half a century now, baking rye, and rusks, and fruit cakes at Christmas, and treats for the graduating seniors of Chisago Lakes High this past year, because she felt bad that they weren't going to have the usual celebrations. On a typical morning, many of the patrons are here for Coulombe's unique Scandinavian cake donuts: crispy-crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, made with an egg-enriched dough, and topped in a small, sensible selection of fillings. Years ago, the great Michael Stern (of Roadfood fame) asked Coulombe what made these donuts Scandinavian. Her response: I'm Scandinavian, and I make them. No further questions.
Step into a shop where they're too busy to get the fresh product into a display case, and you already know you're somewhere good. At The Donut Stop in St. Louis, around since the 1950s, that's exactly how it goes, morning after morning, with the tree of cooling racks emptied out, again and again, by the line of customers snaking its way through the door. The faithful are here for singular cherry fritters, fry pies, and French crullers, and they are also here for the least dainty thing on the menu, the cinnamon glob, which is like a cinnamon roll, if somebody ran out of time to make it nice. Lacking in finesse, absolutely, but gorgeous all the same—a whack of spice, butter, and sweet, sweet sugar.
David Mohler, owner of The Tatonut Shop in Ocean Springs, died in January from complications related to COVID-19; he was 61 years old. A prominent figure in the quaint Gulf Coast town, Mohler grew up around the business his parents started roughly half a century ago, for much of his life rising as early as 3 a.m. to begin the day's work. He inherited the shop, known widely for cloud-like, classic glazed rings enriched with potato flour, in the 1980s. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Mohler family was one of the first to be seen up and running again along Government Street, deftly engineering flour deliveries and other supply drops from unaffected places up north. More recently, the Mohler family suffered a personal tragedy, when doctors diagnosed daughter Sophia, aged 7, with a rare brain tumor known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. She died the following year. Mohler is survived by his wife, Theresa, and daughter, Katelyn. The shop is temporarily closed.
There's no grandmother hanging around Granny's Gourmet Donuts in Bozeman, but proprietor Robert McWilliams knows a thing or two about loading you up with sugar when your parents aren't looking. Then again, who knows—you might end up running into your parents here, sneaking raspberry and strawberry jam bismarcks topped with fresh fruit, or one of the ever-changing selection of inventive flavors, from Meyer lemon to blue Pop Rocks, which topped a memorable Breaking Bad tribute doughnut. Classics, like a maple long John and a simple, kettle-cooked old fashioned, are far above reproach.
Starting life as a truck in 2014, Hole Doughnuts in Asheville has evolved to become one of the South's most ambitious shops, aspiring to the highest levels of sustainability, working with quality local flour, cooking in rice bran oil, and turning out delightfully non-uniform, everything-by-hand product that also happens to be damn delicious. At Christmas time, if you can get your hands on one, pair one of the panettone doughnuts, stuffed with booze-soaked fruit and topped with vanilla almond glaze, with a cup of the very fine house coffee. There is no discussion of the best doughnuts in North Carolina without the (sadly!) seasonal Britts Donut Shop in Carolina Beach. Getting a word in edgeways in the home of Krispy Kreme, founded in Winston-Salem back in 1937, can be difficult, but the plain glazed at Britt's—the only doughnut they sell, because it is the only doughnut they have to sell—is the one you really want.
Finding yourself on the home stretch toward retirement and then losing your job at the eleventh hour ranks high on a list of things too many people over the age of 50 have to worry about. When Sandy Ostlund found himself out of work at 55, back in the early 1980s, he went from running a trucking company to running Sandy's Donuts. He most likely didn't set out assuming they'd become a firm Fargo favorite, but that is exactly what happened. Sandy passed in 2008, and these days, his son Mark presides over a three-location mini empire. These are top-notch classic doughnuts, but in the modern style, with a flair for creativity: super-sized glazed hearts, jelly filled, are a Valentine's Day essential.
Long before the Cronut, anybody who grew up in small towns across the United States could tell you about the croissant donut, a simpler, but equally delicious American hybrid found at many a local bakery. Whether actually fried or merely embalmed in sugary glaze and put out on trays with the rest of the fancies, the original article is not particularly elegant, but rip one apart, flakes flying everywhere, and chow down. The Olsen Bake Shop in South Omaha, serving its neighborhood since the 1940s, is one of those bare bones places that you'd drive by a million times before somebody tipped you off. Everything they make here—strudel, kolaches, cookies—you'll want it, but make all the time in the world for their doughnuts, made in fairly small batches and often vanished from the display case well before lunch. Get there in time, and a dozen of their croissants will still run you just $15.
When Francis and Muriel Maville opened their little doughnut shop on a back street in Lebanon over half a century ago, you either liked old fashioneds or you didn't come at all, because that was all they were making. Francis reportedly liked to joke that they chose the name Muriel's Donuts so people knew who to blame if the business failed, but as anybody in this busy corner of Grafton County can tell you, it did not. Muriel, now past her 80th birthday, is still here, still making the donuts, as she has done for over fifty years. There's more than just the old fashioned now, but the whole operation is still one of delicious simplicity. Nicely fried cake jelly sticks come unadorned, injected with an apple-raspberry mixture; the only concession to modernity is Muriel no longer has to fill every single one of them by hand.
Can we just take a moment to say: How great are rainbow cookies? Also known as the tricolor, they are one of the greatest gifts Italian-American bakers ever gave this country, yet still are mostly unappreciated, with some blessed exceptions, in too many parts of the country. Maybe you had to grow up with them, maybe it's because they're a pain to make—three thin layers of almond-scented sponge in the bright colors of the Italian flag, spread with raspberry and apricot jam and then stacked high, slathered in chocolate, and cut into small squares. To this day, these little marvels are taken for granted in places like the suburbs of New York City, and places where people from the suburbs of New York City end up retiring to. Now, if only the rest of the country could get on board. In recent years, bakers in the Northeast have taken to tinkering with the classic cookie, creating birthday cakes, cupcakes, and what have you. The inventive crew at Glaze Donuts, with locations in New Milford and elsewhere, is the only one we know of to attempt a rainbow doughnut. They succeeded, wildly. We're talking thousands sold, every day they're available (weekends only). Slice through the generous chocolate coating, and there it is—all three layers, the jam, just beautiful.
Maybe even more than luminarias, Christmastime in the Land of Enchantment means bizcochitos: crisp, butter-rich sugar cookies scented with cinnamon and anise that are so important to local tradition, they've been designated the New Mexico state cookie. Come holiday times at Whoo's Donuts in Santa Fe, the bizcochito is a big deal, and it arrives in the form of a fine, sugar-dusted cake doughnut. Attention to local tradition is par for the course at the state's most interesting shop, where blue corn, chiles, and other local staples make regular appearances.
Back when Henry and Janie Kang took their places behind the counter at Ronald's Donuts in the Chinatown section of Las Vegas, you could pretty much count the number of American doughnut shops catering to vegans on one or two hands. There were many reasons to drop by, from curiously delicious soy cream-filled Bavarians, to craggy apple fritters, acclaimed for good reason. The fritters, especially, have always been some of the best you'll ever try, at least in the middle of a desert. Many modern doughnut shops around the country have climbed aboard the train now; real ones know the Kangs were there, long before vegan was trending.
By all accounts, the cannoli doughnut at Paula's Donuts in Tonawanda (and West Seneca and Clarence) was supposed to be a one-off, made to benefit a Buffalo charity back in 2019. Western New York's favorite doughnut shop had a hit on their hands, selling more than 45,000 of the powdered bismarcks stuffed with cannoli-style filling, resulting in an all-hands-on-deck situation, just to meet the demand. Lucky for us all, they brought it back, and it's now the shop's most famous offering, even though they've been around since the 1990s and pretty much everything they make is worth fawning over.
New York had no idea what it started back in 1994, when a 31-year-old Mark Isreal began making doughnuts with organic flour and Ronnybrook Farms milk in a tiny wholesale-only space on the Lower East Side, selling them for a then-astonishing $1.75 apiece at places like Balducci's and Gourmet Garage. More than a quarter of a century later, the pioneering Doughnut Plant is mostly taken for granted, but their husky-sized yeast doughnuts, made with an all-natural wild yeast starter, are still the real deal.
Cincinnati's Northside is one of a number of neighborhoods in the Queen City where you could film a movie set in the 1970s and not have to do very much set dressing at all. One might imagine an entire story set around the old Bonomini Bakery, with its vintage neon sign hanging prominently above the sidewalk. Early in the morning, even in the dead of winter, don't be surprised to find a small crowd angling for entry to one of the most charming family-owned bakeries around, three generations and counting, where you can go for wedding cakes and other similarly serious purchases, but you can also just drop by for the city's finest doughnut, which is the Clunker. Roughly the size of an average fist and about as daintily shaped, most people go for the ones covered in glaze, though in the past we've seen plain and powdered sugar-dusted as well. In a surprise twist, the cake on the inside will be wonderfully light. You'll find Clunkers sold around town; Bonomini's are the best.
Shadowed by the fortress-like capitol complex, Oklahoma City's Eastside is home to the state's largest Black community, and for half a century now, Geronimo's Bakery has been not only a neighborhood essential, but also a destination for what has been called one of the best, if not the best, burgers in the entire city. No bells, no whistles, just a beautifully grilled burger with thick-cut bacon, too much cheese, and all the trimmings (and maybe a bright red Kool-Aid pickle on the side). There are other reasons to find yourself at Geronimo's, however, beginning with the doughnuts, which enjoy the same cult status around town. Once again, on the surface, nothing out of the ordinary, but go ahead, try waiting until lunch time to have your pick of the classic crop of melt-on-your-tongue glazed rings, fluffy twists, and expert-level cinnamon roll doughnuts—chances are, they disappeared hours ago. Same goes for the limited but noteworthy selection of handmade beauties fried up most days at Quoc Bao Bakery, across I-235 in OKC's Asian District—you snooze, you lose out on some of the best plain glazed doughnut holes around. This side of Geronimo's, anyway.
Barely twenty years have gone by since an enterprising duo opened a doughnut shop in the fried dough desert that was downtown Portland at the time, for the care and feeding of the nightclub crowd. In the ensuing years, the wild and woolly Voodoo Doughnuts, and later on, the smart and sophisticated Blue Star Donuts, would make the city famous around the world for doughnuts, because Portland wasn't already famous enough for food, drink, and that lifestyle everybody apparently wished they were living at the time. Ask any serious, doughnut-loving local, though—for the most part, a discussion of the best doughnuts in town would have centered (and still centers, to this day) around other places, simple mom-and-pops where the actual product is the extent of the brand. Founded in 2005 just over the Burnside Bridge from the original Voodoo, Delicious Donuts looks like any of the other classic hangs gracing lucky neighborhoods up and down the West Coast, and like so many of them, this one's family owned, too. But not everybody works as carefully and attentively as Boun Saribout, who owns the shop with wife Penny Nguyen. Their cinnamon roll doughnuts, crunchy fritters, and apple-filled bear claws are famously good, the blueberry cake is like some gorgeous, deep-fried muffin, but don't get too comfortable, because unless you time it right, you'll typically take what you can get. Good news, however—you'll be totally fine with this, because it's all good.
In an age when even the most stubbornly classic doughnut makers have capitulated to the visually-minded crowd, not that there's anything wrong with bright colors and brioche dough (if you know what you're doing), one of the finest doughnuts in America comes from a charming little relic called Oram's Donut Shop, in a relic of a town called Beaver Falls, up the road from Pittsburgh. Plenty of people know that for the best doughnuts around, you've got to make a little bit of a drive. If you've ever had a cinnamon roll doughnut before—which is exactly what it sounds like: two delicious things at once—chances are you've never had one as epically gargantuan as the number one seller at Oram's, in business since the 1930s. That and a selection of their classic cream-filled, with a schmear of frosting on top—they're absolutely worth a drive, and from a lot farther than Pittsburgh.
Back in 2011, Mike Solomonov (and pals) rocked the Philadelphia doughnut-eating world with the opening of Federal Donuts, a humble little shop selling not only the most carefully-crafted doughnuts—not extravagant, no gimmicks (at least not silly ones), just really good—to come down the pike in these parts for some time, but also fried chicken. You're wondering, perhaps, how did it all turn out? There are now nine locations around town. Also? They have za'atar fries.
From Watch Hill to Weekapaug to Point Judith to Narragansett to Newport, there are plenty of ways to go to the beach in the smallest state, but no matter your destination, those warm summer weekend mornings will often begin, as they have for generations, in one specific spot: the parking lot of Allie's Donuts, just off the highway in North Kingstown, right before everybody heads off in different directions. For decades, the jelly sticks and crullers and chocolate glazed have been considered Rhode Island's best doughnuts, and for good reason, too; it's been said that the humble shop—no seating, not even in the before times—is as important to the local food culture as Del's lemonade or the locally-treasured coffee milk. Last year presented no shortage of challenges, but it's 2021, Allie's is still here, these are still some of the finest doughnuts in New England, and if you don't want yours, that's fine, pass them over, because we're still hungry.
Big squares of fluffy brioche dough—with just the right amount of chew so you know it's the real deal—make a fine foundation for the extremely current doughnuts at BKEDSHOP in Charleston, one of the most designer shops on this list, with a visually arresting interior, proper espresso bar, and on-premises plant shop, separated by giant picture windows from the usually-bustling bakery. This is a cheerful place, passionate about its mission, and you'll immediately get the picture, chowing down on their absolutely stunning fruit fritters that just so happen to be vegan, not that you'd be able to tell, unless somebody had said something. Meanwhile, the bear claws and banana fritters at the classic mom-and-pop Sunny's Bakeshop up in Gaffney aren't modern in any way, but we're taking bets on who's got the longer line Saturday mornings.
There aren't even one thousand people living in the small town of Centerville, but on busy weekends, the Royal Bake Shop, a local favorite for years now, turns out at least that, if not more, of their most famous item, the Zebra doughnut. This is your standard plain yeast ring, but with a key twist—there's a band of chocolate dough running through the middle. Fried and topped with chocolate glaze, they're irresistible, they're fun, and this tiny bakery draws fans from nearby cities like Sioux Falls, nearly forty minutes away, for all the Zebras they can carry, plus terrific turnovers, which aren't your usual flaky turnover, but rather yeast dough rolled out, folded over, fried, glazed, and crammed full of jam or preserves. In future, we'd be grateful if all turnovers were like this.
Lowell Gibson had one wish when he sold Gibson's Donuts back in the 1990s, to his buddy Don DeWeese—don't expand, don't franchise, don't screw it up. Having served East Memphis for roughly twenty five years by that time, the shop had carved out a comfortable little niche for itself. In the ensuing years, DeWeese turned Gibson's into one of the city's best-loved businesses, a destination for doughnut lovers from all over the region. City workers, local and national celebrities, 97-year-old Miss Louise, who still comes in every morning for her breakfast—hang around long enough, they're open 24 hours so that's easily accomplished, and you'll run into what feels like half of Memphis, a good portion of them the first thing in the morning. We'll always go for the New Orleans-style buttermilk—less like your classic cake, and more like a spiced cake bomb, thickly glazed. In summertime, keep your eyes peeled for Watermelon Kool-Aid frosted.
On a busy day, the tireless crew at Round Rock Donuts (in Austin-adjacent Round Rock, not that anyone within a few hundred miles doesn't already know the precise location) turns out roughly 500 dozen of the state's favorite doughnut, and they still do it the old-fashioned way, which is by hand, start to finish. Renowned for the golden-orange color of the dough, rich with egg yolks, this is a doughnut with a past, dating back to the early days of the business, which began in the 1920s in downtown Round Rock as the Lone Star Bakery. The original glazed—normal sized, or Texas-sized, and yes, it's probably the biggest doughnut you've ever seen—is iconic, but their buttercream-filled Bismarcks and custard-crammed eclair doughnuts are equally beautiful. For a complete breakfast, pair it with a jalapeño cheddar sausage kolache. Round Rock announced some good news in 2020—for the first time ever, of a branch location in Cedar Park, even closer to Austin.
There's probably a perfectly good reason why you don't find peach fritters available everywhere apple fritters are sold, not that we've been able to come up with one. Never mind—that just makes places like the otherwise modest, family-owned Donut Boy in West Valley City more special. You can keep your apple, at least for the moment. Here, the tang of the peach (yes, Utah grows plenty of their own) brightens and sharpens your experience of the fritter. No stranger to the less-obvious, the shop also makes a great mango curd-filled, dusted with confectioner's sugar.
A few years back, a Mennonite family that recently moved to Central Virginia began turning up at a local farmers' market with their sourdough glazed doughnuts—hand-formed, scraggly things, beautiful in their way, hanging on dowels like ornaments, looking every bit like a snack, breakfast, lunch, whatever. By now, the truck based Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen is something of a Richmond-area institution, selling nearly year-round at multiple locations around town—follow their Instagram for the latest coordinates. Managing to bridge the sometimes cavernous divide between old-style simplicity and modern standards, this is the rare new arrival that already feels like a classic.
Autumn is a magical time of year—the heat of summer receding, leaves changing, farm stands groaning with beautiful produce, pumpkin spice everything, everywhere. Perhaps most important, at least to some of us: there is hardly a corner of the country where you can't find a cider mill or farm frying up cider doughnuts. Leave it to the state whose brand is nearly inseparable from The Finest Season to keep the fun going year-round. No matter the weather outdoors, at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, there are always fresh cider doughnuts, and many days, even in the dead of winter, someone's at the cider press too. During peak season, they're cranking out roughly 800 dozen per day—simple, straightforward, some of the best in the country. Interested in less crowding, and who isn't these days? The seasonal Shelburne Orchards is a true find. Last fall, they inaugurated a drive-thru, because the only thing better than perfect, crunchy-soft, sugar-dusted cider doughnuts is not having to get out of your car to buy them.
Early to the artisanal doughnut game—can you believe the pioneering Top Pot has already been around for nearly twenty years?—and more recently a hotbed of elegant (and pricey) artisanry, Seattle is hardly short on doughnuts these days, and never really was. Like anyplace else on the West Coast, the Puget Sound region is a wonderland of mom-and-pop shops, some of them—like the legendary King Donuts in Seattle's Rainier Beach neighborhood—pulling double duty and serving teriyaki, that other regional obsession. But when your state borders directly on one of the country's doughnut capitals, looking south is always going to be a temptation, and while the city of Vancouver, Washington, may dedicate an extraordinary amount of effort to being everything neighboring Portland, Oregon, is not, some cultural overlaps are inescapable. The classic doughnut shops north of the Columbia River might not be tourist destinations quite yet, but some of them certainly deserve closer attention. Inventive, layered cinnamon yeast doughnuts filled with cream, and classic, handmade fruit fritters at 1970s time capsule Donut Nook, where old-timer regulars (who can often be found occupying the hunting lodge-vibes seating area next to the counter) leave their coffee cups hanging on the wall, are but one reason why Vancouverites have kept this place in business for roughly half a century.
A quarter of a century after Marv and Barb Miller took over a struggling doughnut shop in Madison, they'll tell you that the secret to their success at Greenbush Bakery isn't really a secret at all. They just decided, from the very start, to make really good, high quality doughnuts, and then trusted that people would notice. People did. The only certified kosher bakery in the state isn't known for experimentation; the best seller is a classic sour cream old fashioned, so popular that they've built a whole line of flavors around it: blueberry, cherry, chocolate and apple cinnamon. In parochial Milwaukee, the best doughnuts in town might very well come from the bakery you remember from childhood, some of them in business for generations. Grebe's Bakery has served the area since the 1930s, and they do a variety of things well. Their giant glazed cruller sticks require an extra large cup of coffee—one of the best doughnuts around, whether or not you grew up in the neighborhood.
Being home to some of the finest hot dogs in the country isn't enough apparently, and seriously, if you've never had a West Virginia-style slaw dog, you are missing out. But West Virginia has another kind of hot dog, at least if you're around the Charleston area, and that hot dog is actually a doughnut. Made famous by the Spring Hill Pastry Shop, tucked into a South Charleston neighborhood, around since the 1940s and the sort of place where you drop by for everything from Italian cookies to three-layer cakes, the house hot dog is a doughnut that looks like a hot dog bun, split and filled with cream, and sometimes drizzled with chocolate. The original, however—with a light dusting of powdered sugar—is everything you need and more.
Dedicated doughnut hounds in Cheyenne have over the years come to count on the enduring presence of a smiling Vanny Leas, and they'd most likely follow Leas and her husband just about anywhere they went, if only for another bite of the those superb apple fritters. These days, you'll find Vanny behind the counter at the Donut Shop on Central—impossible to miss, it's the only building on the block painted in hot pink—serving up not only an exemplary fritter, but the best Bavarian cream for many a mile.