Take away all the fancy egg dishes, flavored pancakes and fruit-topped waffles. A good old American breakfast consists of two key ingredients: coffee and donuts. But the hole-iest of breakfast foods is no longer just an early morning indulgence. In recent years the donut has transformed itself into a work of culinary art, tinkered with by pastry chefs all over the world; baked or fried, topped or stuffed, sweet or savory, the donut has morphed into an anytime-of-day kind of snack. And if you want to taste the best of what’s out there, we suggest you try one of our picks for America’s 10 Best Donut Shops, just in time for National Donut Day. —By Jennifer M. Wood
Location: Multiple locations in Seattle, WA
Top Pot Doughnuts
Old-fashioned sensibilities meet newfangled flavors at Top Pot Doughnuts, the perfectly sweet complement to Seattle’s bustling coffee scene. Founded in 2002 by brothers Mark and Michael Klebeck, the mini-chain serves up handmade goodies—including hand-roasted coffee and more than 40 kinds of hand-forged donuts—in vintage-inspired digs throughout The Emerald City.
Maple, pumpkin, raspberry, lemon and Bavarian cream are just a few of the many flavors you’ll find at Top Pot, but the signature doughnut is the Pink Feather Boa. “This is a slightly sweet spice cake doughnut with pink vanilla icing and draped with a dusting of sweet coconut flakes,” says co-founder Mark Klebeck, who says the secret to creating the perfect donut is “a combination of quality ingredients and care when assembling all of the components.”
Location: Portland & Eugene, OR
Website: Voodoo Doughnut
After learning the tricks of the donut trade in California, longtime friends and aspiring business partners Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon set up shop in Portland’s Old Town neighborhood in 2003 with an eye toward raising eyebrows and pleasing taste buds. Their collaboration has yielded an array of one-of-a-kind doughnut and bar varieties, including their signature Voodoo Doll (a doll-shaped yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly, topped with chocolate frosting and staked through the heart with a pretzel) and popular Bacon Maple Bar.
When it comes to their success, Pogson claims, “The perfect doughnut starts at the base, the nut itself. Soft and risen with plenty of gas bubbles to make it light and fluffy with a perfect ‘skunk’ line down the middle where the doughnut floated above the oil while frying. Golden brown and lightly cooled, it is ready for a perfect dip into frosting, then a second dip into something that takes it over the edge, like Oreos.” Shannon has a slightly different recipe for the perfect donut: “A buttermilk bar with one end dipped in chocolate frosting and toasted coconut. The score line would be perfectly horizontal and the top would be flakey and soft.”
Location: Atlanta, GA
Website: Sublime Doughnuts
Kamal Grant—chef and owner of Atlanta’s Sublime Doughnuts—has always equated baking with happiness. After attending the Culinary Institute of America and working under some of the world’s top pastry chefs—including Keegan Gerhard, for whom he interned at New Orleans’ venerable Windsor Court Hotel—Grant used his classical training to elevate the art of donut-making when he opened Sublime Doughnuts in 2008.
Hailed one of “America’s Best Doughnuts” by Food & Wine and countless other media outlets, Grant’s take on the all-American treat is a fresh one—literally. Sublime’s Fresh Strawberry N Cream concoction proved so popular that it spawned a frozen variety, the Strawberry Ice Cream Burger. “The key to the perfect doughnut is to be able to master time and temperature,” says Grant.
Location: Round Rock, TX
Website: Round Rock Donuts
The old adage that “Everything’s bigger in Texas” is no joke. Especially when it comes to the donuts. For more than 85 years, native Texans and visitors to the Lone Star State alike have been making a beeline to Round Rock Donuts, about 20 miles north of Austin, for a taste of Texas history.
You won’t find any fancy flavors here; Round Rock’s golden glazed donut is its staple offering (and even the menu boasts that it is “world famous”). But what you will find is a healthy dose of southern hospitality, early-morning hours (4 a.m. is the standard opening time) and a donut the size of your head if you opt for the Texas Sized treat, which comes glazed or in chocolate.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Website: Dun-Well Doughnuts
If your idea of vegan eating is all tofu all the time, think again! Fed up with the lack of sweet-tooth offerings available to dairy-conscious epicures—even in New York City—longtime friends Dan Dunbar and Christopher Hollowell (“Dun” and “Well”) decided to turn their craving into a brick-and-mortar bakery. In 2011, they opened Dun-Well Doughnuts in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood. With more than 200 flavors (and counting) on their roster, it’s the kind of place where even the most daring of eaters will forget what they’re missing (read: milk and eggs).
The menu at Dun-Well changes weekly, but a visit may yield such gourmet flavors as PB&J, lavender lemon, cherry pie, peanut butter cup or avocado chocolate mousse. What never changes is Dun-Well’s commitment to excellence. “The secret to the perfect doughnut is using the best quality ingredients and not compromising,” says Hollowell. “We source local and organic ingredients and make all of our doughnuts by hand. There has never been a doughnut served at Dun-Well that Dan or I have not personally made for our patrons. We love what we do and you can taste it!”
Location: Glendora, CA
Website: The Donut Man
From the outside, The Donut Man—which is located along Route 66 in Glendora, California—looks like just the kind of unassuming spot where one might pop in to refuel on java and sugar in the midst of a road trip. And it is that kind of place. But it’s much, much more (as its frequent appearances on The Food Network and The Cooking Channel attest).
For more than 40 years, The Donut Man—a.k.a. Jim Nakano—has been cooking up some of the area’s most innovative breakfast treats with a focus on top-quality ingredients, and making them available to his legion of fans 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Among The Donut Man’s most famous creations are the fresh fruit varietals, including peach- and strawberry-stuffed. “Quality ingredients make quality products,” offers Nakano. “The trick to a perfect donut is in the ingredients." The custom-blended coffee, which is roasted locally twice a week to ensure maximum freshness, makes for perfect dipping, too.
Location: Center City & South Philadelphia, PA
Website: Federal Donuts
No matter which Federal Donuts location you choose—Center City or South Philly—you’ve got two choices when it comes to the sweet stuff: Fancy or Hot Fresh. “Hot Fresh Donuts are made to order and rolled in seasoned sugars,” says partner Felicia D'Ambrosio. “Our signature is Appollonia, a blend of cocoa, clove, orange blossom powder and sugar. We also serve Fancy donuts, which are glazed and topped in original flavors like Pomegranate Nutella, Banana Cream and Lucky Peach.”
Come for the donuts, but stay for the chicken. Korean-style fried chicken is the restaurant’s other specialty, which is served from 11 a.m. until it’s all gone (usually around 3 p.m. during the week and until 7 p.m. on Sundays). The same “sell until they sell out” rule applies to the donuts, too, so get there early!
Location: Yountville & Beverly Hills, CA; New York, NY; Las Vegas, NV
Website: Bouchon Bakery
You’ve got to get up pretty early if you want the best chance at getting a taste of renowned chef Thomas Keller’s Parisian-inspired take on the donut. While they’re one of the bakery’s most frequently lauded creations, they’re not a regular menu item. Meaning that they’re baked up only a few times a week and in limited numbers.
Your best bet for getting your lips around one of these gourmet treats is to arrive early and on a weekend. If you’re lucky, you’ll come face to face with one of these legendary (and rather rare) treats, which make use of local and seasonal ingredients, resulting in such flavors as custard and jam, Silverado trail strawberries and tart rhubarb or chocolate pastry cream and crunchy pearls. They’re well worth the effort!
Location: Multiple locations in Chicago, IL
Website: Glazed and Infuzed
This Windy City favorite gets props for its donuts and its clever name. When it comes to the former, Glazed and Infused offers its patrons tastes that are both sweet and savory—sometimes in a single bite. Case in point: the Maple Bacon Long John, a yeast raised bar topped with real maple glaze and peppered maple bacon.
Those in search of something sweeter will love the Crème Brûlée, a vanilla crème brûlée-filled Bismark with a crispy sugar crust. “Here at Glazed and Infused we invest a lot of time in developing the perfect balance of buttery, yeasty and sweet flavors,” says general manager James Gray. Better taste for yourself and see.
Location: Inglewood, CA
Website: Randy's Donuts
Randy’s may not have invented the donut, but there are few better-known odes to its existence than the giant one that adorns the top of this 60-year-old roadside landmark, located just a few miles from LAX. What makes Randy’s even more worthy of driving a few minutes out of your way is that it’s more than just a great photo op: the donuts are fantastic, too.
The 24-hour hotspot keeps it simple, with 15 standard flavors (plain cake, glaze, sugar, jelly, buttermilk and coconut) coming in at no more than 90 cents apiece. History never tasted so good!
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