Ask any donut shop what their best seller is and they will say glazed. Clearly, we have a lot of purists in this town. However, there are many more exciting donuts to try in Memphis, all over the city and at all hours of the day. Broaden your doughy horizons at any of these 11 spots.
The 11 Best Donut Shops in Memphis
Gibson’s is open 24/7 and the cooks are there for 12-14 hours a day. (Note to the night owls: donuts become half price at 11pm.) During the day, it’s best to stay on your toes as the owner may throw a donut at you when you least expect it, or he might even give you a tour of the kitchen. Because Girl Scout cookies aren't addicting enough, Gibson’s has a Samoa donut. This caramel, coconut and chocolate triple threat is even better than the cookie.
The ginger donuts with coconut sorbet at Tsunami have been a solid seller for five or six years. Smith says they tie nicely into the restaurant’s Pacific Rim theme while also honoring the South’s love of deep fried foods. The ginger donuts are about the size of golf balls, and have a crusty exterior and a cakey, gooey interior, and are dusted with powdered sugar. Their deliciousness lies somewhere between coffee cake and funnel cake. A big scoop of coconut sorbet is the perfect match and provides balance.
Strano’s Sicilian and Moroccan influenced recipes include Zappolies (available on the brunch menu by special request at dinner). Zappolies are reminiscent of a traditional beignet. Let’s call them cousins. The Zappolies are a tad smaller, a little more free form in shape, and feature cinnamon sugar rather than powdered sugar. The texture is almost exactly the same. They are served with “berry sweet sauce” and a heavenly hazelnut dipping sauce. Imagine a thinner, warmer Nutella.
When Rock'n Dough made its move to the University District (let’s call it “almost Midtown”) they added beignets to the menu. Not only are they the most authentic beignets in town, they are available at the drive-thru from 7am on Weekdays, and from 8am on Saturdays and Sundays. Grab a coffee and your choice of plain sugar, cinnamon, or chocolate, served up in a pizza box!
Look for the giant, yet welcoming, pink sprinkled donut sign. Even though putting bacon on everything may seem oh so 2014, everything really is better with bacon. Especially donuts. Try the Maple Bacon.
Technically not a donut shop, Café Eclectic’s small selection of freshly baked cake donuts definitely deserves a spot. Not only are they super yummy, at Café Eclectic you can pair that lemon poppyseed donut with a killer illy coffee.
I love everything about Donald’s, but most especially the décor and the fact that you can enjoy your donuts at a retro counter. The bear claw, which looks more like a catcher’s mitt, is formidable. And filled with apples. Definitely the right pick for those of you who are “only going to eat one.”
If Howard’s is your favorite, you are in luck since there are five different locations. My favorite location is the Summer store where the tables look like they were salvaged from a Western Sizzlin and the donuts are inexplicably served on plastic, fish-shaped plates. Regardless, the red velvet cake donut is really something.
At Jody’s they let you get exactly what you want. Pick the donut—Bismark (round) or Long John (bars), pick your topping (chocolate, glazed, powdered sugar, etc.) and then pick your filling (various creams including cream cheese and numerous jellies including guava). They fill the donuts while you wait, which is deliciously sweet of them. The coconut cream filled long john is akin to a giant Almond Joy.
The Original Donut Man is definitely worth the drive, especially if you want a LOT of donuts. Their selection is quite impressive. I’m a fan of the filled Bismarks and not just because they look like giant happy pills with their neat slits down the middle. The slits both tastefully expose the jelly inside and allow them to be quickly & neatly torn apart and devoured.
If you like Donald’s, you’ll like Sam’s, as the offerings are fairly similar. However, “Sam” experiments with the old-fashioneds a bit more. The blueberries definitely make them seem a less dowdy and taste extra good.
Love free donuts? Find out where to stock up for this year's National Donut Day on Friday, June 3rd.
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Stacey Greenberg lives in Cooper-Young with her two sons. She's eaten way too many donuts. She's the author of the award winning blog, Dining with Monkeys.
1. Gibson's Donuts760 Mount Moriah Rd, Memphis
2. Tsunami928 S Cooper St, Memphis
3. Strano! Sicilian Kitchen & Bar948 S Cooper St, Memphis
4. Rock 'n' Dough Pizza Co.3445 Poplar Ave Ste 1, Memphis
5. Memphis Donuts3119 Poplar Ave, Memphis
6. Cafe Eclectic603 N. McLean Blvd., Memphis
7. Donald's Donuts1776 Union Ave, Memphis
8. Howard's Donuts4347 Summer Avenue, Memphis
9. Jody's Donuts & Bakery1996 S Houston Levee Rd #102, Collierville
10. The Original Donut Man3224 Austin Peay Hwy, Memphis
11. Sam's Donuts2235 Whitten Rd, Memphis
If you're looking for contemporary takes on everyone's favorite morning pastry, head to Gibson's Donuts. The East Memphis donut haven is serving some serious dessert-worthy treats, like the Samoa, a caramel, coconut, and chocolate triple threat is even better than the cookie. Unlike the all-too-short Girl Scout cookie season, Gibson’s is open 24/7.
Ben Smith's Pacific Rim-inspired menu is so beloved that he just can't bring himself to change it. (The sea bass isn't going anywhere, ever.) Because of this, he creates a daily small plates menu to keep things new and exciting. The rotating dishes include items like sake steamed mussels in Thai red curry sauce and Barramundi with pineapple stir fry. While grabbing a table is always a safe move, this is a great place for solo dining; grab a seat at the bar (designed by Smith's wife, Colleen), have a few drinks, and try several of the dishes.
Strano! in the Cooper Young district is a neighborhood joint serving gourmet Italian with an emphasis on simple Sicilian recipes. Its pizza brilliance comes from the crust: thin but not floppy, crispy but not crackly, and tastes like the dough’s recipe comes from someone’s Sicilian Grandmother (it does). Let the fresh, quality ingredients speak for themselves as you hang out in the casual, brick-lined dining room.
Rock ’n’ Dough is dishin’ out freshly made dough and sauce daily topped with hand-shredded cheese, in-house smoked meat and hand-grown basil and tomatoes. What started as a food truck traversing Memphis has become one of the area’s favorite brick-and-motors. Head to Rock ‘n’ Dough’s small restaurant for big pizzas with big flavor: the slices are big and floppy, with melty cheese that stretches when you pull the slice from the pie. Cheer on the USA! USA! pizza, which comes topped with pepperoni, seasoned sausage, black olives, onions and bell peppers, and mushrooms. Stick around for dessert because you don't miss beignets.
The folks at Memphis Donuts believe in a perfect world, and are striving for it by creating donut masterpieces like maple bacon donuts. Yes. Maple bacon donuts.
The original location of the Memphis area brewhouse is a cozy neighborhood locale offering up unique, caffienated drinks -- often with Memphis-inspired names. The Star & Micey (named for a local indie band) features two shots of espresso, a mixture of white and dark chocolate syrups, and whipped cream. The massive coffee shop offers plenty of working space and a separate room for private meetings.
Prepare to be transported to a different world when you enter Donald's Donuts. Whether you're tripping to the 1920s with the retro counter, or to a world where bear claws are the only breakfast item you need, the trips both to and in this Midtown Memphis staple are definitely worth it.
One of five locations in Memphis, Howard's serves up donuts on plastic, fish-shaped plates and the tables all look like they were salvaged from a Western movie. Regardless of the odd decor and tableware, the red velvet cake donut is really incredible.
At Jody’s, you get exactly what you want. Pick the donut, bismark (round) or Long John (bars), your topping (chocolate, glazed, powdered sugar, etc.), and then select your filling (various creams including cream cheese, and jellies including guava). The donuts are filled while you wait, which is sweet! The coconut cream-filled Long John is akin to a giant Almond Joy.
The Original Donut Man is definitely worth the drive, especially if you want a LOT of donuts. Its selection is quite impressive. The bismarks are a must-get -- not just because they look like giant happy pills with their neat slits down the middle. The slits both tastefully expose the jelly inside and allow them to be quickly and neatly torn apart and devoured.
If you like Donald’s Donuts in Memphis, you’ll like Sam’s, as the offerings are fairly similar. However, Sam's experiments with old-fashioned donuts a bit more, and the blueberries definitely make for a fresh take.