Who doesn't love doughnuts? Lunatics, that's who. Debate over doughnut quality is a serious and sometimes incendiary business. So, we're adding to the fray with this list of reliable winners and new hotness.
Blue Star Donuts, Portland, Ore.
"Doughnuts for grown-ups" is an apt description for the smells and subsequent drool flood triggered by these gourmet doughnuts and accompanying Stumptown Roasters coffee. Doughnuts made from a classic brioche recipe from southern France include the magazine photo-ready blueberry with bourbon and basil; Valhrona chocolate crunch filled with vanilla custard, maple bacon; and a knee-weakening Valrhona dark chocolate ganache with strawberries. Doughnuts are made fresh all day with exacting ingredients like sustainable bread flour, cage-free eggs, whole milk and European-style butter.
Glam Doll Donuts, Minneapolis, Minn.
Talk about charging out of the gate, mere months after they opened Glam Doll Doughnuts snatched the title of "Best Doughnuts in Minneapolis 2013" by local weekly and reliable arbiter of eating, CityPages. They've since collected name-checks in a number of other publications, including the Wall Street Journal. Their standout items include the "Chart Topper" (peanut butter and Sriracha sauce), "Daddy Dearest" (a cake doughnut with Surly beer, Surly Bender glaze and bacon crumb topping), "Flirty Frenchie" (with espresso cream cheese) and the almost too pretty to eat "Night Moves" (blackberry jam, blackberry Hennessy and brown sugar bits).
Donut Snob, Los Angeles, Calif.
When you call yourself "Donut Snob," people tend to expect great things and Janeen Gudelj delivers – and then some. Made in another era, this caliber of wretched excess, artistically sumptuous doughnuts could've started the French Revolution. Creations like "The Oinker" (coated with maple cinnamon and orange zest glaze with caramelized maple bacon bits), the "Rise + Shine" (espresso glaze and dark chocolate ganache), and the "Campfire" (a S'mores-inspired spectacle with chocolate ganache, Graham cracker crumbs and a molten marshmallow cap) have layers and subtleties worthy of a sommelier's scrutiny. Doughnuts are agonizingly handcrafted with ingredients like natural citrus zest, fresh berries, pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, bittersweet Belgian chocolate and freshly squeezed fruit juice.
Donut Bar, San Diego, Calif.
They are literally messing around in the kitchen at the Donut Bar. Recent flavors have included margarita, root beer float, mud pie and Nutella. In addition to their daily changing menu, regularly featured items include "Chocolate Euphoria," the "Cro-Bar" (their version of the cro-nut), and an apple fritter called the "Brad Fritter," so named because Brad Pitt allegedly ate one. Best not to dillydally; their closing hours each day are ominously listed as when "We sell out."
Federal Donuts, Philadelphia, Pa.
Doughnuts and fried chicken – together at last! This unlikely combination has been a hit for chef Michael Solomonov who, after what we assume was a powerfully inspirational fever dream, now enjoys crowds seeking his doughnuts like Chocolate Sea Salt, Marshmallow Marshmallow, and Indian Cinnamon standing in the same line as people jonesing for Korean-style fried chicken covered in rubs and glazes including coconut curry and cowboy coffee. Federal has blossomed into five Philadelphia locations in only three years, including the original in South Philly.
Sugar Shack Donuts, Richmond, Va.
The lovingly designed and run Sugar Shack, opened in June 2013, has won so many fans that they opened a second location in the heart of Downtown Richmond in March 2014. On a given day, the whimsical menu may have some or all of the following: Maple Bacon, Gingerbread, Apple Fritter, Espresso Glazed, Cookie Crumble, Babe Ruth Style, and more. They're prone to running fun promotions, like the "Freebie o' the day: April showers bring May flowers. Bring in a flower to score a free house doughnut!"
Gourdough's Speciality Doughnuts, Austin, Texas
Gourdough's serves handmade, fried-to-order doughnuts from both their vintage Airstream Trailer and their brick and mortar restaurant located on South Lamar. The inspired doughnut concoctions from their list of 23 "favorites" include the legendary Mother Clucker (topped with fried chicken and honey butter), the Funky Monkey (grilled bananas, cream cheese icing and brown sugar) and the mind-altering Black Out (brownie batter, chocolate fudge icing, chocolate covered brownie bites and chocolate syrup). The aforementioned restaurant, Gourdoug's Public House, incorporates doughnuts into menu items such as burgers, po' boys and desserts.
Doughnut Vault, Chicago, Ill.
The Daily Meal recently proclaimed the Doughnut Vault's plain glazed doughnut as the best doughnut in America, saying "simple, sugary glaze should be all you need to change your opinion of cake doughnuts forever." There's more where that came from; their enormous selection includes Chestnut Glazed, Brownie Softie, Pistachio Glazed, Birthday Cake and Salted Caramel Old Fashioned. Arrive as near to their opening as possible (8am weekdays, 9:30am weekends) as they've been known to totally sell out in under an hour. Cash only.
Brewnuts, Cleveland, Ohio
The inevitable melding of beer and doughnuts has been taken to the next level at the newly opened Brewnuts. Craft beer is infused into seasonal creations like "The Symon" (a chocolate peanut butter doughnut, with Peanut Butter Coffee Porter, topped with a peanut butter beer sauce and pork rind dust), "The Bumbler" (a Honey Blueberry Ale doughnut with whole blueberries, topped with a lemon glaze, poppy seeds and sanding sugar) and "The Dub Choc" (an Oatmeal Stout doughnut with a combination of 70% and 85% cocoa chocolate ganache). Due to the all-consuming attention they give to their product, they usually only have about six flavors at any given time.
World's Fair Donuts, St. Louis, Mo.
Owners Terry and Peggy Clanton started creating their legendarily light and sweet doughnuts over 30 years ago, with prices seemingly about the same now as the day they opened. The tiny, unassuming shop, facing a roundabout intersection on Shaw Avenue, coaxes cake and filling perfection from items like the Buttermilk, Cream Horn, Almond Crunch, Angel Cream, Blueberry Pie and Coconut Cream Pie. This is one of those you-snooze-you-lose places; people routinely arrive at the crack of 10:30am, only to learn that much of the day's creations have sold out. Note: this is a cash-only joint. 1940 South Vandeventer Avenue, 314-776-9975