Food & Drink

Chicago’s 8 Best Under-the-Radar Donuts

Published On 07/22/2015 Published On 07/22/2015
Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Finding a great donut shop in Chicago is like shooting fish in a barrel -- they’re everywhere, and they’re usually pretty obvious, thanks to the out-the-door lines of shameless sugar addicts. But what’s the fun in limiting yourself to the familiar? From a dulce de leche-soaked donut at an Indian-inspired pub to a French cruller at a family-owned suburban joint, here are eight under-the-radar donuts worth seeking out.

French cruller

Spunky Dunkers (address and info)
Palatine/Arlington Heights
Think the ‘burbs don’t know a thing or two about the art of donut-making? Think again. Family-owned Spunky Dunkers slings hand-cut, handmade donuts that are made fresh daily, including delightfully airy, lightly glazed French crullers, blueberry cake donuts, yeast-raised honey-dipped rings, and more.

Boiler Room

Drunkin’ donuts

Boiler Room (address and info)
Logan Square
Treat yo’self by heading to this Logan Square pizza joint for powdered sugar-and-cinnamon-coated donut holes paired with boozy Jameson soft-serve for your donut-dunking pleasure. Just don’t blame us when you find yourself chasing lesser donuts with a shot of Jamo at home in a pitiful attempt to recreate this bar-raising experience.


Bag of lemon poppy seed donut holes

Bottlefork (address and info)
River North
In keeping with the restaurant’s knack for glorious gut-bombs, this bag of donut holes is an unrelentingly rich brunch option. Flavors are subject to change, but recent kinds include red velvet with a jar of cream cheese frosting and lemon poppy seed with lemon-rum glaze. Pro tip: sharing an order may seem like the logical, responsible thing to do, but it’s not; be selfish and crush every single one of those bite-sized wonders yourself.

Nick Robins/Thrillist

Malt shoppe donut

Seven Lions (address and info)
Pastry chef Karianne Soulsby’s creative sweets have garnered tons of attention since Seven Lions opened earlier this year, and after you sink your teeth into the warm strawberry malt donut, you’ll understand why: the brunch treat tastes like just like an old-fashioned malt, triggering both nostalgia and the need to stuff your face with a second and third order.

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Chai dulce de leche donut

Pub Royale (address and info)
Wicker Park
Doused in a dulce de leche glaze and dusted with delightfully peppery chai spice, the twisted yeast-raised donut at this modern Indian concept is a welcome change from Chicago’s usual deep-fried dough suspects. Be sure to sop up every last drop of the glaze pooling on the dish.

Anthony Barlich Photography/Thrillist


Bohemian House (address and info)
River North
These petite pastries are so mouthwatering that the team behind BoHo decided to include them on both the weekend brunch menu and the dessert menu. The brunch rendition includes Bavarian crème, raspberry jam, and vanilla sugar, while the dessert spin goes coffee-and-donuts style with a scoop of Bow Truss Coffee Roasters gelato sprinkled with hazelnut brittle.


Vietnamese cinnamon donuts

bellyQ (address and info)
West Loop
Punctuate a Korean barbecue feast with Chef Bill Kim’s warm Vietnamese donuts, which are encrusted with cinnamon and sugar and laden with blueberry jam. Pro tip: order a side of vanilla soft-serve for a little hot-meets-cold dipping action.

Carriage House


Carriage House (address and info)
Wicker Park
These delicate Lowcountry-inspired donuts, which come buried beneath a tiny mountain of confectioner’s sugar alongside a ramekin of espresso-infused butterscotch sauce, taste like they were plucked from a deep fryer somewhere in either New Orleans or an ethereal, donut-filled afterlife.

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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a food blogger, bacon enthusiast, and devout user of the Oxford comma. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Spunky Dunkers 3441 N Arlington Heights Rd, Arlington Heights, IL 60004

You really can't beat a donut spot with a drive thru, or one with an always-changing "Donut of the Month", so you're gonna want to head to this Arlington Heights joint ASAP.

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2. The Boiler Room 2210 N California, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

This industrial restaurant-slash-bar in Logan Square does pizza, beer, and general comfort food (fried cheese balls, poutine, mac & cheese) really really well. The pizza options are staggering: aside from simple cheese, pepperoni, and sausage pies, there are more than 15 specials and a build-your-own options. The Boiler Room's real claim to fame is its PB&J special: a slice of pizza, PBR tall boy, and a Jameson. There's plenty of communal tables and a great outdoor patio, and if you couldn't tell from the aforementioned PBR and whisky special, this place is a hipster destination.

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3. Bottlefork 441 N Clark, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

Bottlefork has hands down the best bar food in River North. Chef Kevin Hickey and the Rockit Ranch Productions gang’s fancy snacks -- like braised beef cheek poutine -- complement head barkeep Brandon Phillips’ inventive cocktails beautifully. So if you’ve never thought to yourself, “The only thing that would make this cocktail even better is a side of popcorn sweetbreads,” now you should.

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4. Seven Lions 130 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 (Loop)

Elegant yet approachable, this new American clubhouse concept from Master Sommelier Alpana Singh (The Boarding House) is exactly what its Michigan Ave space called for. Chef Chris Curren’s menu is equal parts accessible and inspired, with starters ranging from fried chicken skins and pickles paired with sriracha mustard to Brussels sprout and burrata toast. Entrées run the gamut from comforting short ribs to perfectly flaky black cod with acorn squash, ricotta gnocchi, and Maitake mushrooms. And don't worry, there's alcohol, starting with Singh’s curated list of all-American wines.

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5. Pub Royale 2049 W Division, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

This Anglo-Indian pub in Wicker Park serves Indian-inspired comfort food like salt cod samosas, palak paneer, and coconut curry mussels in an eclectic space decorated with taxidermy and colorful masks. The beer-driven menu features a well-curated mix of American IPAs, German Pilsners, and ciders -- both bottled and on tap. Though spicy, savory plates are the obvious choice at Pub Royale, don't overlook the chai dulce de leche doughnuts -- or the burger.

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6. Bohemian House 11 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

This River North spot is an ode to Bohemian culture in all its manifestations, with rustic-meets-glam décor and eclectic fare that’s rooted in Central Europe. The menu, created and executed by Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos, features small plates like salt and vinegar chips and knackwurst in a blanket, large plates like spatzel and skirt steak, and unforgettable sweets like caramelized plum kolacky and an inventive take on coffee and donuts with hazelnut brittle.

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7. bellyQ 1400 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

While dining at a resto with the word "belly" in the name may make you feel weird, you should get over it and chow down on Korean short ribs and banana leaf-wrapped salmon, or opt for the likes of Thai fried chicken, wood-fired bacon 'n kimchi pancakes, or some tea-smoked duck breast served with steamed Chinese buns. Also: cocktails, wine, and beer.

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8. Carriage House 1700 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

Carriage House brings the internationally-tinged flavors of regional South Carolina to Wicker Park. A portion of the menu is dedicated to bold, interpretations of select traditional dishes, a broad collection of spirits, and family-inspired meals. This restaurant tempts you to stay for a long, Southern minute.