Why Flat Beer Makes the Best Desserts
Don't expect to find a s'mores donut or a maple bacon cruller at Loyless -- this old-school shop is all about simple, hand-made, hand-iced classics. These basics sell out at the crack of dawn, though, so make sure to show up by 7am sharp.
Donuts were never exactly the purview of dinosaurs, but Dino's sticky treats and espresso are sold under the banner of a green cartoon Brontosaurus who apparently loves eating jelly-filled pastries a whole lot more than prehistoric plants. Most of the donuts, and the "dino bones" are only $1.30 a pop, which is damn good price in the current fancy donut market.
Some brother and sister combos are fraught with agitation. Others, like Sophy and Keng Se, can move beyond sibling rivalry and come together to launch delicious donut shops in Tucson. Their Young Donuts opened just four years back, but it's already built quite a name for itself, even with almost no online presence. Maybe it's because they strategically opened next to a children's dentist office to hook their clients young, and holy shit... that might be where the name comes from.
North Little Rock
If practice makes perfect, Mark is pretty much a demigod at this point. This unassuming spot has been rolling dough since 1978 for hungry Arkansans. Little has changed, as you can see from the faded sign out front, but when you're making cream-filled and coconut-coated donuts that are this spot-on, you don't need to flip the script.
Donut Bar has attracted rabid press attention pretty much since it opened, and a quick scan through its Instagram explains why. Monte Cristo donuts! Crème brûlée donuts! Whole Snickers bar donuts! If you dream it, this place probably already did it, like, six months ago. And yes, of course there's actual booze in its bourbon maple creations. It's a bar.
Alright, get your lazy McConaughey impression over with now. You done? Good, because there's a lot more to this Denver shop than movie puns. Like donuts with Mediterranean sea salt caramel glaze and cups of joe from local favorite Pablo's Coffee. (Specifically, the "Danger Monkey" kind.)
Alright, fine: Dottie's Diner isn't technically a "donut shop." It's a confirmed greasy spoon, but we had to make an exception here because the donuts here are too fantastic to deny. The fresh-daily roster includes plain, powdered, cinnamon, jelly, or chocolate-dipped. Don't order breakfast without them.
Three generations have passed through Sweeney's doors, and all of them knew how to roll a damn fine donut. Sweeney's is perpetually picking up local awards for its treats, which tend to err on the classics side, but occasionally veer into trendy territory. (Yes, there are cronuts.)
Strip mall food is definitely questionable, but you're in good hands at this Pembroke Pines shop. Mojo Donuts opens every day at 6am and closes when the last donut is sold, so make sure to claim your Key lime pie or s'mores early, lest the hungry hordes beat you to it.
Like most revolutionaries, the bakers here have bold ideas. Donuts need to be one contained circle of dough? Screw that, they cut one open, stuffed it with peaches, and called it a slider. Pistachios are uninspired? Well, they sprinkled some on orange icing and it's transcendent. If the Bolsheviks were peddling stuff like this, we'd all be carrying sickles.
You don't meet many "Leonards" nowadays, but this particular one is doing his best to associate the name with tasty, sugar-filled treats. The goods here are Portuguese-style malasadas, which means they have no center holes. But that just gives you more fried dough (and custard and cinnamon sugar) to tear through, so well done, Lenny.
Guru Donuts co-owners Kevin and Angel Moran are to be admired -- and it's not just because they make excellent pastries. The Morans weren't serious bakers until they realized Boise needed a gourmet donut shop, and since no one else stepped up, they asked a neighbor to teach them the delicate art of frying dough. Bless their can-do spirit, and bless that anonymous neighbor, who's indirectly responsible for creations such as the Charlie Brown, a pumpkin donut with a root beer glaze.
Some like their vaults stuffed with cash, but we've always preferred ours to be piled high with fried dough confectioneries. At this Windy City institution, the staff is happy to ring up a triple chocolate or lemon poppy seed for you on the old-timey cash register, so long as they're not sold out. If they are, try your luck with its new food truck/pastry van.
When you see the typical weekend lines, you'll understand why this Indy spot is called Long's!! One of its cinnamon fried or blueberry cake numbers are totally worth the wait though. Have your cash ready, 'cause it does not accept cards.
On its website, Daylight Donuts proclaims, "Donuts. Coffee. WiFi. You'll never have to leave!" And considering the robust list of 89-cent treats, that's probably true. Just be sure to set up camp on the weekend, as that's when Daylight offers its peanut butter-filled donuts.
The Donut Whole caters to all sorts of taste. Do you want to listen to live bluegrass on a Friday night? It hosts concerts in its lounge every week. Would you rather catch up with your friend over boba tea? They're molding the tapioca balls as we speak. Want excellent from-scratch donuts? They're kind of the main event. So swing by for a Sunshine Citrus Crunch (citrus glaze and cereal) or King Midas (vanilla, peanuts, and Lyle's Golden Syrup).
Unseasoned donut eaters might get confused when you tell them the long johns at Nord's are incredible, but pros know you're not eating a cozy undergarment -- you're eating a super-sized donut. And the ones at here come with bacon on top.
Some people will tell you to get a beignet at Café du Monde and consider their work done. But we don't feel comfortable basing a pick solely on beignets. Yes, it's deep-fried dough, but it's not technically a donut. For something more traditional, head to DISTRICT. The two-year-old shop offers donuts "simple," "fancy," or "extra fancy," but the Dough-La-Mode with Creole Creamery ice cream in the middle is the move you want to make.
Portland, ME, has a similar spirit to Portland, OR, so of course one of the city's most beloved donuts shops insists on making its pastries out of local potatoes. This isn't some hip nonsense, though. Holy Donut's spudnuts are just as delicious as the flour-based treats you know -- arguably more so when they add that coffee brandy icing.
Fries and ice cream tend to hog the boardwalk cuisine spotlight, but anyone who's frequented Ocean City knows The Fractured Prune is the real star. The marshmallow-, mocha-, and honey-glazed pastries are the kind of thing you will fight an enterprising seagull over, and lucky for America, the mini-chain is expanding to new coastlines.
For those raised on Dunkin' Donuts, the prices at Union Square Donuts might seem steep. But when $3 is all that stands between you and a Brown Butter Hazelnut Crunch or "FluffaNutta" (OK, that one's $3.50) pastry, you swallow the deluxe cost. Along with a mouthful of peanut butter pastry cream.
This Michigan mill has a bountiful selection, but its candy bar series is probably the most impressive. The Reese's Donut, Snickers, and Mounds of Coconut are all based on deconstructed and remade versions of your favorite treats and are rebuilt into a new pastry. The final products are, like, three times bigger than the original candies, so make sure to pay your compliments to the chef. And schedule a dental cleaning immediately thereafter.
In case you were wondering, the glam dolls in question are co-owners Teresa Fox and Arwyn Birch. These ladies teamed up to create a vintage-inspired shop with one seriously inventive menu. Everything is made from scratch -- and the dairy is locally sourced from the Hope Creamery -- so you know they aren't messing around. Another sign they're serious? The peanut butter and Sriracha Chart Topper.
Like its pal over in Portland, Tato-Nut Cafe is mighty proud of its potato dough. So much so that it bills itself as home of "the only real donut." The blueberry cake variety is the attraction here, but the Persian (a sort-of glazed cinnamon bun) is also pretty popular.
Offering a a dozen donut flavors is fine, but 103 -- the amount you'll find on this landmark menu -- is incomparable.
On the one hand, Granny's Gourmet Donuts is a filthy liar. It's run by Robert McWilliams who, last we checked, does not answer to Nana. But on the other hand, it's got several donuts with fresh fruit on the inside and out, plus an orange cream one to complement the Boston cream. So we'll let the transgression slide. Just this once, Bob.
Nate and Lucas Gingery started their careers as male models in New York, but the brothers soon decided male modeling was kind of the worst, because it put a serious cramp on their donut fixation. So they did a grand tour of NYC's pastry scene before they moved back home to Lincoln to start The Doughnut Hole. Originally just a farmers market stand, the spot now has its own brick-and-mortar location to house so, so many churro donut holes. Pay close attention to the Facebook page on Friday, when the brothers Gingery post weekly giveaways.
It takes a certain amount of flash to get noticed in Vegas, and the massively popular Pink Box Doughnuts has it in spades. (See what we did there??) Donuts topped with Cocoa Pebbles or a chipotle caramel glaze exist right alongside the traditional picks, which are pretty spectacular on their own. Also, because this is Vegas, you can obviously order a Fat Elvis, a peanut butter-filled pastry topped with chocolate and a banana slice.
Life-long Lebanon residents will wistfully tell you about skipping out of Muriel's as a kid with a greasy paper bag full of hot donuts. It's such an integral part of the city, there were practically riots when Muriel and Francis Malville closed the shop temporarily in 2007 for health reasons. That might sound extreme, but one bite of a Muriel's jelly stick (that's a jam-filled cruller) and you'll understand. The mayor certainly does -- the place is now an officially recognized historic landmark.
Pro tip to prospective business owners: if you can't come up with a name, consult the children. When Dominic Livolsi opened Uncle Dood's two years back, he used the nickname his nephew gave him to sell the place. From the looks of it, his plan worked, although we do think his wild donut creations had a little something to do with his success. Those include the Nut Tellin' Ya (Nutella icing and cinnamon sugar), Bed Rockin' (vanilla frosting and Fruity Pebbles), and Vermont Swine (maple icing and bacon bits). Clearly, this dude is just good at naming things across the board.
Finding a dark chocolate-glazed donut is a non-issue. Maple bacon? Also a cinch. But Whoo's has both those things on the same donut plus chili brown sugar. There's no way you'll find anything like that outside of Santa Fe.
Brooklyn and New York
You know you're doing something right when The New Yorker, which is typically more concerned with publishing jokes Frasier would love than anything about donuts, devotes an entire feature to your shop. Fany Gerson opened in Bed-Stuy five years ago and Dough utterly exploded. Now, it's got three additional Manhattan locations and a Smorgasburg residency. It's impossible to go wrong with any of its creative flavors (oh hey, chocolate with Earl Grey), but if you ever stumble across an available blood orange, get it immediately.
It's frankly shocking Wes Anderson hasn't made a movie about Monuts Donuts yet, considering it started out as a tricycle-operated stand in a farmers market. The current chalkboard boasts autumn-friendly selections like Apple Cider and Orange Velvet (that's pumpkin and cream cheese), plus beer nerd-friendly flavors like Double Chocolate Stout. Which you can drink with real beer, since Monuts has its own beer and wine menu.
Remember those "dirt" pudding cups with gummy worms from when you were a kid? Sandy's has a Dirt and Worms donut to make your feel young again. But if you'd rather not eat gummy worms before noon, and want something, you know, more reasonable, there are still plenty of glazed and marble cake options at your disposal.
Two words: pretzel donuts. A few more: they're the most famous item at Bill's, they're hand-twisted, and you need to get your hands on one, pronto.
Don't worry, the pastries at this OKC shop are anything but frigid. Polar Donuts serves buttery, pipping-hot spudnuts every day starting at 5am. The place is run by Younts Waters, an Air Force vet who served in the Gulf War before pooling his life savings to open his own donut haven, which now boasts trademarked originals like Strong Pimp Hands (a sort-of bear claw with apple-cinnamon filling) and Camel Toes (two fused donut squares with cherry filling).
Plenty of people will still insist that Voodoo is the Portland place for donuts. Those people have never been to Blue Star, whose Facebook cover image alone is enough to make you a lifetime convert.
Federal Donuts makes wonderful coffee, donuts, and chicken, but only one of those things made the name. There are several reasons for that: the grapefruit brulee, lemon ricotta, and strawberry lavender donuts, to name a few, but we also appreciate the delicious ode to Dale Cooper the place mounted last year.
Before we sell you on how excellent Allie's is, we must issue a disclaimer: the shop is currently closed while it undergoes state-mandated construction. There's no official reopening date yet, but Allie's is hoping to be back in business by Halloween. Now that we're sure you won't go pounding on the windows just yet, here's why you should once things are in order. Allie's takes its sprinkle game seriously, as you can see in this blindingly pink image above. If you believe the hype, the best Boston cream donut here is the best you'll ever eat in your life. Plus, there's beer here.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of Charleston, Allison Smith could've taken her career a number of different ways. Ultimately, she decided to open this donut shop, and the world is better for it. Smith has managed to distill already-popular foods like lemon meringue pie, French toast, PB&J, and tiramisu into fried-dough form -- and she's also not afraid to get a little edgy with curried cocoa and Chinese 5 Spice.
The family-owned bakery has been going strong for 20 years and with any luck, it's got another 20+ left in the tank. After all, the people of Rapid City need their Oreo donuts.
Nashville locals have fallen so hard and fast for Fox's, they've even taken engagement photo shoots there. And although both parties in that couple were human, you might be inclined to straight-up propose marriage to a baked good once you've eaten a Fox's apple fritter. Or Simpsons donut. Or hazelnut. Or...
Gourdough's takes the concept of savory donuts to dizzying levels. Of course there's this bacon-topped business (the Flying Pig), but for something truly different, try one of the "donut entrees" like the Mother Clucker, an outrageous combination of fried chicken, honey butter, and freshly fried dough.
Salt Lake City
You can't eat just one of these donuts. Maybe one cinnamon crumb, followed with one strawberry frosted, and then one old-fashioned to balance it all out. You could get a coffee for dipping, but the chocolate milk is a far superior option.
The quaint, old-school vibes (the letters out front are even mismatched) might have something to do with how far and wide this name has spread, but we have a sneaking suspicion it's the cookies and cream cake donuts that keep luring people into Manchester.
The upcoming opening of Sugar Shack's sixth location in Corona Beach, FL, is exciting news for the many fans who've been admiring the VA chainlet from afar, so as it expands along the East Coast, let's take a moment to appreciate its ample talents: Sugar Shack understands that crushed candy bars, sea salt, and shredded coconut all have their places atop the right donut, and also knows how to mark an occasion with themed donuts -- a Tequila Sunrise for Cinco de Mayo and a Cadbury Egg for Easter. Between this and Shake Shack, we're starting to think we should get all our food from shoddily-built homes!!
Wander into the Pike Place Market anytime between 8am and 5pm, find Daily Dozen Doughnut Co., and plop yourself in front of its Donut Robot, Mark II. (No really, he has a name.) Mark II churns out freshly formed dough, which then hits a bunch of hot oil, and travels on through the conveyor belt to a multi-tiered donut tree. The whole process is more soothing than a damn babbling brook.
JR's Donut Castle boasts 34 different types of donuts, but devoted customers are quick to recommend the Maple Cream Fill. Also, while you're there, you might as well get a pepperoni roll, because people are equally crazy over those meat treats.
Appleton East, Appleton West, and Menasha
Originally started in Frank and Marie Manderfield's home kitchen in 1934, Manderfield's has become a locally famous, three-location brand, with help from Frank and Marie's kids and grandkids who've continued the baking tradition in various forms. This is due in large part to the raised donuts, which sell out so fast the Manderfield's recommend you call at least a day ahead to reserve yours. Trust them -- they've been doing this for a while.
Jay and Penny Hammond and Derek and Michelle Johnson opened the shop back in 2011, when the local donut scene was rather bleak. Their brainchild's made the scene a lot brighter now, and even got a hot cameo on Food Network Canada's Donut Showdown.
Love free donuts? Find out where to stock up for this year's National Donut Day on Friday, June 2, 2017.
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Kristin Hunt is a staff writer for Thrillist, and wishes JR's Donut Castle had a drawbridge. Follow her to sugary monarchies at @kristin_hunt.