Roadfood Roundup: Doughnuts

We asked our friends Jane and Michael Stern over at to name some of their favorite doughnut spots. Grab your coffee—these doughnuts are hot!

ANNIE'S DONUT SHOP | 3449 NE 72nd Avenue, Portland OR 97213; 503-284-2752

There are good fancy-pants doughnuts in Portland, even excellent Goth doughnuts (at Voodoo Donuts), but for traditional doughnuts that go with morning coffee (not latte!), Annie's is a treasure. They're made here daily, and the variety is tremendous. Old-fashioned cake doughnuts have the double-circle shape so popular in the Northwest that provides nearly twice the crunchy exterior of a simple round one. Glazed and maple-frosted OFs are especially satisfying, and although the price is plebeian, the taste and mouth feel are aristocratic. Cream puffs are light and impeccably fresh-flavored, the only way a cream puff ever should be. The wickedest variety we sampled was a raspberry fritter—unctuous, super-sweet, slightly fruity, and monumentally filling.

Annie's has none of the amenities of upscale coffee and doughnut shops: no art on the walls, no wi-fi, no couches or lounge chairs and, of course, no barristas. You sit in molded plastic booths that look out on the parking lot and are served by a staff with no attitude other than pride in the doughnuts they make and sell. Originally reviewed by Michael Stern on

COFFEE AN | 343 Main Street, Westport CT 06880; 203-227-3808
We admit to being fickle in our love affair with Coffee An. For a while, several years ago, we thought its chocolate doughnuts were simply the best on the planet. Then the place got sold and even though the new owners continued to use the old recipes, we felt the doughnut quality slipped. So we stopped going ... and caught heck from many Roadfood folks who were clearly more loyal and devoted than

Recently we returned to find a lot of changes, including photographs of famous fans of Coffee An doughnuts all over the wall. There are now a few small tables where there were none, and gone is the counter at the window that let you look out at the parking lot while you dined. The low-stool counter inside behind the pastry case is still there, and lively as it ever was. The biggest change is the menu. No longer limited to coffee, doughnuts and minimal lunch items, Coffee An sports a broad lunch menu of hot and cold sandwiches. And the pastry selection is big, including muffins, turnovers, and bagels.

There in the pastry case that occupies the center of the store as one enters the front door was a pan filled with our beloved chocolate doughnuts. As if we had cast eyes on an old flame after many years, our hearts raced. These doughnuts look just as good as we remember them, maybe even better. With a semi-crunchy sugar coat, they are devil's-food dark; and as soon as we split one apart, we were smitten all over again. These truly are some luscious pastries! They are heavy, moist, chocolaty and high on the grease chart, in other words, impossible to stop eating. We also really like the plain cake doughnuts and the cinnamon-coated ones, each of which has a fine crunchy exterior.

We're glad that Coffee An is back in our lives. If you are a doughnut lover and don't already know about it, you need to check it out. Especially if you are a chocolate doughnut lover. There's nothing like Coffee An's. Originally reviewed by Michael Stern on

LARSEN BAKERY | 3311 Washington Avenue, Racine WI 53405; 262-633-4298

Racine, Wisconsin, is the home of kringle, a butter-rich, tender-crusted Danish pastry filled with nuts or fruits, formed into giant ring and topped with a sugar glaze or icing. The ring is cut into small pieces that go great with coffee. Of the several bakeries in Racine that specialize in kringle, Larsen’s is a special joy to visit, for the various kinds of kringle are arrayed on the bakery shelf to admire, and there are usually little samples on the counter to taste. The classic kringle fillings are almond, pecan, or raspberry; but in addition to these, Larsen makes almond-macaroon, chocolate, date, apricot, apple, and many others including a spectacular turtle kringle that is iced with chocolate and filled with rum-flavored caramel.

Since discovering turtle kringle, we’ve found it impossible to drive by Racine without stopping for a ring to eat in the car (sloppily—this is NOT hand-food). Our ritual is to buy one turtle kringle and one fruit kringle and alternate between the two of them on our way around Lake Michigan. But there was an occasion, a while ago, when the kitchen had completely sold out of turtle kringle. Instead, we got a raspberry kringle and a pecan kringle and enjoyed the heck out of both of them; and, to make up for our turtle deprivation, the lady behind the counter suggested we try a turtle fritter. What a good idea! The turtle fritter is a big, holeless doughnut made of chocolate-marbelized dough, iced with chocolate, caramel and nuts. It wasn’t as elegant as kringle, but as we left Racine, we wish we had bought a bagful!

If you are traveling between Chicago and Milwaukee, and have any kind of sweet tooth, be sure to mark Racine on the map. Stop at Larsen’s and indulge! If you are not passing through, be aware that Larsen ships kringle to all fifty states (but Christmas orders must be placed before December 1st). Originally reviewed by Michael Stern on

LE CAVE'S | 1219 S 6th Avenue, Tucson AZ 85713; 520-624-2561
Le Cave’s is a bakery that has been around forever (actually, since 1935); and it is known for two things: decorated cakes and doughnuts. The cakes look fantastic, although we regretfully confess that we have never tried one. We come to Le Cave’s for doughnuts.

According to signs posted outside and inside the huge old bakery, these are “vegetable” doughnuts, which we assume means they are cooked in vegetable oil as opposed to lard. Whatever, they are superb: cake-textured, crisp-edged, with a good clean flavor that makes you want to keep eating more. Several varieties are available, the house specialty being a glazed doughnut that puts Krispy Kreme to shame. We also recommend the chocolate-frosted, maple-frosted, powdered-sugar, and cinnamon-sugar varieties. We buy a box full of six or a dozen in the morning shortly after 7:30 when Le Cave’s opens, and our sweet tooth is happy for the rest of the day, no matter where we roam. Originally reviewed by Michael Stern on

RANDY'S DONUTS | 805 West Manchester Avenue, Inglewood CA 90301; 310-645-4707

Even if you’ve never been to Randy’s Donuts, you’ve probably seen it before. A favorite location for movies and TV shows that want a background of extreme roadside kitsch, Randy’s is one of a couple of gigantic doughnuts that loom up in the L.A. area.

Southern California was once a hotbed of what roadside archeologists call vernacular architecture, a term that mostly refers to buildings that are shaped like the food they serve. Tail O’ The Pup, for instance, is another one that remains: a hot dog stand that looks like a hot dog in a bun. In the East, The Clam Box of Ipswich, Massachusetts, is shaped like the trapezoidal box in which clams are packed for take-out orders.

So, guess what the specialty of the house is underneath this huge round oval that in fact looks something like a single Cheerio from a planet where everything is 10,000 times bigger than on earth? Yes, doughnuts are the thing to eat, although Randy also offers exemplary cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, and bear claws. The varieties of doughnut include the basic (and best) honey glazed regular, chocolate-covered, jelly-filled, powdered, frosted, and filled with crème. Glazed twists and sugar twists are a bit lighter than the standard sinkers, and the maple bars are superb. Bagels are also on the menu, but somehow it’s just not right to eat a bagel under a giant doughnut. Originally reviewed by Michael Stern on

TOP POT DOUGHNUTS | 2124 5th Avenue, Seattle WA 98121; 206-728-1966
First and foremost, there's the crunch of the doughnut's skin. It is crisp enough to feel like your teeth are breaking something, after which they sink into the creamy cake interior just below the golden crust. Even a plain old fashioned doughnut at Top Pot is a sensuous experience. Encase the top half with silky dark chocolate or a glistening thick sugar glaze and this modest-sized circular pastry becomes sheer ecstasy.

They call them "gourmet doughnuts" at Top Pot, of which there are three shops now in Seattle; and if gourmet means better than average, the term is apt. There's nothing frou-frou or pretentious about them. They are good ol' cake doughnuts, the kind you want to have with morning coffee, but by any meaningful standard – taste, texture, heft, even good looks – they are in a league by themselves, far beyond any of the better-known national chains and just about as good as any served by our favorite doughnut shops in the Northeast, where, until today, we believed all the really good doughnuts are.

Thanks to several users who tipped us off to Top Pot, and to Seattlite Rebekah Denn, who took us there, our perspective on doughnut excellence has been broadened. The downtown Top Pot we visited is a beautiful, airy space with book-lined walls and retro décor that includes a vintage TV and an handsome old espresso machine—and there is another on Capitol Hill and one in Wedgewood. The nice guy behind the counter told us that Top Pot now has a bakery but not a retail shop in Portland, where they make doughnuts for local Starbuck's there. We asked if the owners of Top Pot planned to create an empire. He doubted that was their goal. Whatever the future of Top Pot, anyone who considers a great doughnut one of life's essential pleasures needs to come to Seattle and feast, right now.

The two other Top Pots in Seattle are located at 609 Summit Avenue East and 6855 35th Avenue Northeast. Originally reviewed by Michael Stern on

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