Just when you think that Chicago’s donut roster couldn't grow any bigger, a new bakery or extension of an existing donut shop opens up. Serving as hives of activity for Chicagoans and tourists alike who share a collective insatiable hunger for bacon and chocolate ganache, the shops are proving that, unlike cupcakes, fried dough rings seem to transcend trendiness. Here are the best places in the Windy City to succumb to a donut craving.
The 12 Best Donut Shops in Chicago
West Loop (& other locations)
From seasonal specials to perennial stunners like the maple bacon long john and the classic vanilla bean glazed, this seemingly ubiquitous local donut shop has the answer to all your donut needs (yes, “needs;” dire donut deficiencies happen, people). And with locations in five different Chicago neighborhoods, you need not travel far to get your fix.
River North (& other locations)
This wildly popular fried dough purveyor has been known to break hearts over its limited amount of fresh-baked donuts (they only bake a certain amount daily; once they run out, they close until the following day), so you’ll have to plan your trip wisely. Stop by on the early side for an array of some of the best old fashioned-style donuts in the city, like toasted almond, coconut cream, and lemon poppy seed. Pro tip: a limited number of their coveted old fashioneds are also available at the restaurant group’s other cafes, including Sawada Coffee, CC Ferns, and Three Arts Club Café.
Wicker Park (& other locations)
LA-based Stan’s may have only arrived in Chicago a couple years ago, but its popularity has spread like wild fire throughout the city, with four outposts open and quite possibly more on the way. Stop by the retro-looking shops for the chain’s signature stuffed pockets, cinnamon and sugar encrusted pretzel twists, and more.
We’re guessing that when you think of Indian-inspired pub fare, donuts probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind, but hear us out: there’s no better way to follow up a samosas-packed meal then with something sweet, especially when the “something” stays on-theme. Pub Royale’s epic twisted donut of your fantasies is made with deep fried naan dough and finished with a dulce de leche glaze spiked with chai spice.
While it’s not uncommon to end an Italian meal with bomboloni for dessert, sometimes, we’d just prefer to forget about a balanced meal altogether and skip straight to the finish line. Consider this side street attachment to Bar Siena that aforementioned finish line: a walk-up shop where plump bomboloni come in flavors ranging from vanilla bean custard to salted caramel and are available for purchase solo or by the dozen.
River North (& other locations)
When they’re not carving up donuts for ice cream sandwiches, the folks at this specialty donut joint are crafting tantalizing creations like Hawaiian-style maple glazed pineapple and bacon donuts, apple cinnamon fritters, chocolate hazelnut long johns, and giant birthday cake donuts big enough to feed several hungry sugar addicts.
Iliana Regan’s (Elizabeth) highly anticipated micro bakery is finally here, and while the foie gras molded into woodland creature shapes has made a splash on social media, it’s the rotating selection of donuts that has us hooked. The selection changes daily, but has recently included a knockout whiskey glazed number.
The Loop (& other locations)
Here, the rich, crusty chocolate old fashioned has just the right ratio of chocolate glaze to buttermilk donut, with a double-dipped Valrhona option for relapsing (or just flat-out unrepentant) chocoholics. And, for those with dietary restrictions who are just as powerless over donuts as the rest of us, there are plenty of gluten free and vegan options, too.
With all the new-ish entrants into the donut game, it's important not to forget about the OGs. This from-scratch German bakery has been producing killer pastries for 90+ years and the yeast-raised Bismarck filled with raspberry jam proves they've still got it.
This South Side donut shop has been frying up the good stuff for over two decades, originally gaining fame for its monstrous "Big Dat." Today, it remains the preeminent donut purveyor in South Chicago, and wins hearts on the daily with its apple fritters, traditional donuts, and cinnamon rolls.
If classic, fuss-free donuts are what you seek, that's exactly what you'll get at this old school bakery. Treat yourself to an assorted dozen stacked with strawberry Bismarks, Devil's food cake donuts coated in chocolate glaze, yeast-raised caramel donuts.
Hot off the conveyor belt, Beavers’ miniature buttermilk donuts are as versatile as they are delicious -- trick them out with s'mores fixings, douse them in strawberry sauce and a coating of Pop Rocks, keep them simple with powdered sugar, or have them ground up into a milkshake, because, Chicago.
Love free donuts? Find out where to stock up for this year's National Donut Day on Friday, June 3rd.
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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a freelance food photographer, food blogger at KailleysKitchen.com, and recovering vegetarian. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.
1. Glazed And Infused813 W Fulton Market, Chicago
2. Doughnut Vault401 N Franklin St, Chicago
3. Stan's Donuts & Coffee1560 N Damen Ave, Chicago
4. Pub Royale2049 W Division, Chicago
5. BomboBar832 W Randolph St, Chicago
6. Firecakes68 W Hubbard St, Chicago
7. Bunny The Micro Bakery2928 N Broadway St, Chicago
8. Do Rite Donuts50 W Randolph St, Chicago
9. Dinkel's Bakery3329 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
10. Dat Donut8249 S Cottage Grove Ave, Chicago
11. Old Fashioned Donuts11248 S Michigan Ave, Chicago
12. Beavers Coffee and Donuts131 N Clinton St, Chicago
Because it's only appropriate for a doughnut shop's name to recall a film focused on people who could really go for some doughnuts, maaaan, Glazed & Infused's a new effort from the Mia Francesca folks, operating out of a Fulton home base decked in reclaimed wood, stained concrete floors, and creative spins on '40s posters for an overall WWII feel, which your grandpa can relate to from his time on leave.
This wildly popular fried-dough purveyor in River North (it has a second location in West Loop and a "Vault Van" that changes location every day) breaks hearts with its limited amount of fresh-baked donuts. DV only bakes a certain amount of donuts every day, and once they run out, they're gone 'til the next morning. The dense, old fashioned-style donuts come in flavors like buttermilk glazed, toasted almond, and lemon-poppy seed. Stop by on the early side (it opens at 8am on weekdays, 9:30am on weekends) for the best selection and the shortest lines.
It goes without saying, but Stan most definitely is the man because of his myriad of fresh-baked 'nuts and fresh-made coffee.
This beer-driven bar from the good people at Heisler Hospitality (Bar DeVille, Nightwood, Sportsmans Club) has plenty of Indian-inspired eats, like lamb dumplings, salt cod samosas, a chicken tikka kati roll, and buttered paneer, a dash of taxidermied decorations, and a curated beer list.
This cute little walk-up window on the side of Bar Siena specializes in plump bombolini and house-made gelato. The cream-filled, hole-less Italian donuts come in flavors ranging from vanilla bean custard and salted caramel to peanut butter and jelly and nutella cream, and luckily, they're served in portions of three, so you don't have to choose just one. The move is to order a few bombolini and a waffle cone filled with two scoops of gelato, but then again, there are gelato cookie sandwiches and insane specials like a Nutella calzone too. Sugar high starts now.
The latest addition to Chicago's coffee-dunking circuit, Firecakes is a small-batch donut shop from the owner of La Madia, rotating a roster of sweetness like Tahitian vanilla glazed, blood orange and raspberry jelly, and Nutella long johns that'll provide a comfortable home for your (hazel)nuts.
Michelin starred chef Iliana Regan's bakery pulls out all the stops and is quickly becoming one of the most creative bakeries in Chicago. The bakery might be small, but the flavors it's making are huge. From and leek and seeded rye toasts and donuts to pierogi and house-made cereal with nut milk, we know where we're headed for breakfast tomorrow (and every day after that).
Carving out a tiny, counter-service storefront in Petterino's, the chef duo behind DRD includes an L20 vet, who's now cranking out small batches (only three dozen at a time) of fried dough in 10 rotating varieties (maple w/ candied bacon, open-face jellies w/ peanut butter mousse & raspberry jam...), and a proprietary Dark Matter blend designed as the perfect accompaniment to a donut, knocking off previous title holder The Rest of the Donuts.
Dinkel's is serving up some insanely delicious baked goods, but be sure to hone in on their donuts and specialized cakes.
Dat Donut is open 24hrs, so you can have their delicious doughy treats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You shouldn't, but it's possible. Also possible -- getting down on a giant doughnut that's roughly the size of your head for about $3.
Old Fashioned Donuts has delicious, melt-in-your-mouth pastries that include a huge Texas donut and an even bigger apple fritter -- so maybe you should bring a friend.