The Serious Eats National Doughnut Honor Roll

Photograph and illustration by Robyn Lee

20070601donutday.jpgWe all love doughnuts, and why not. They’re sweet, they’re doughy, they’re fried, they’re cheap, and they are the ultimate good-bad food. That is, even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good. And even when they’re not cheap, they are not expensive. The nation’s best and most expensive fancy-pants doughnuts, from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery (with locations in Napa Valley, California; Las Vegas; and New York City), are only $3.50. That, my friends, is an affordable indulgence.

The Traits of a Perfect Doughnut

Basically, all doughnuts are created equal. That is, they are made with the same mid-level ingredients all, with a few exceptions. There have been some attempts at artisanal doughnuts made with high-quality flour, sugar, fruit, and chocolate, but you can count those on one hand. Mostly we judge doughnuts by:

  • Freshness: If they are hot right out of the fryer when we get them, we swoon
  • Lightness: Even the best cake doughnuts shouldn’t be leaden
  • Moistness: This applies to cake doughnuts, which shouldn't make us drink a gallon of milk to wash them down
  • Greasiness: How greaselessly do they fry up? As little oil as possible should permeate the doughnut
  • Balance: The ratio between dough and glaze, toppings, and/or filling
  • Quality: How good are the constituent ingredients?

In the end, we judge doughnuts with our hearts and souls. If a doughnut place is beloved, local, and independent and is frequented by kids, cops, and college students, we declare our undying devotion and loyalty. It’s easy to sing the praises of a doughnut shop if it’s been owned by the same family or even a series of local families for a long time.

Chain doughnuts are easy to hate. They’re the ones putting the beloved mom-and-pop shops out of business, and they’re the ones with the faceless owners. And yet, in certain parts of the country, like Massachusetts, where Dunkin’ Donuts was born, chain doughnuts are the local doughnuts, and the locals swear by them. In a great piece in the Boston Phoenix a few years ago, the writer explains why Bostonians feel such a strong kinship with Dunkin' Donuts: because the chain started in nearby Quincy.

Krispy Kreme was a beloved Southern institution for years (the first was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina) before it swept the nation. Because its golden-brown glazed doughnuts were light, just sweet enough, and hot when the sign told you they were, they were adopted by many communities, mostly because the independent doughnut shops had either gone out of business or concentrated on cake doughnuts. But now, at least in the eyes of many, now that the once molten-hot Krispy Kreme brand has cooled and closed many locations (a victim of the low-carb craze and its own hubris), independents are once again the go-to joints in locales that still have them.

To honor the nation’s doughnuts on National Doughnut Day (Friday, June 1), we have created the Serious Eats Doughnut Honor Roll. We have not tasted all these doughnuts, but the magic of the web has allowed us to survey websites, newspapers, city magazines, and the three patron saints of doughnut lovers everywhere. John T. Edge, author of Donuts: An American Passion, the definitive tome on the cultural and culinary significance of doughnuts might be called our doughnut laureate. He spent a year in search of the best doughnuts in America. Jane and Michael Stern have actually traversed the country for the last 30 years in search of the best doughnuts so that we don’t have to. We owe a lot to these folks, so we must salute them, in part by citing the source of each doughnut recommendation.<!-- I also must take a moment to salute Georgie and James Bryant, whose Georgie’s Pastry Shop in Harlem made the only great glazed doughnuts ever to grace our presence in New York City, a notoriously awful doughnut town. -->

At the very beginning of Serious Eats’s weeklong journey through the doughnut world, we conducted a blind taste test of the two major glazed yeast-raised doughnuts available across the U.S.: Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme. They were bought within blocks of the Serious Eats offices.<!-- (A day later, a dozen beauties arrived from Lamar's, a regional chain with, I'd guess, national aspirations; they were delivered too late to make it into the taste test.) --> The Krispy Kremes were light, perfectly shaped, and not at all greasy, but they were a tad too sweet. A specimen from the Donut Pub, a local shop we tried just to have another doughnut to taste, was a close second. It had more nooks and crannies and seemed to be glazed with a honey-sugar mixture. The Dunkin' Donut contender was characterless, heavier than the others, and sweeter.

Other doughnuts we had shipped in from Seattle (Top Pot), Portland (Voodoo), Beverly Hills (Frittelli’s), Kansas City (Lamar’s), and Ann Arbor, Michigan (Zingerman’s). Our thanks to the family, friends, and doughnut purveyors who went to the trouble of overnighting doughnuts to us.

And now, we give you ...

The Serious Eats Doughnut Honor Roll

The following list compiles recommendations of doughnuts we have tried ourselves and those that our friends have tried. Where needed, the superscript numerals indicate who recommended what and link to additional information. Legend: 1.) Jane and Michael Stern of 2.) John T. Edge, author of Donuts: An American Passion, 3.) Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic for the L.A. Weekly.

Le Cave’s Doughnuts1
Address: 1219 S. 6th Avenue, Tucson
Phone: 520-624-2561
Favorites: Glazed, chocolate-frosted, maple-frosted, powdered-sugar, cinnamon-sugar

Spudnut Shoppe2
Address: 810 West Faulkner Street, El Dorado
Phone: 870-863-9914

Bouchon Bakery
Address: 6540 Washington Street, Yountville
Phone: 707-944-1565
Favorites: On weekends only, all three Bouchon Bakeries produce extraordinary jelly doughnuts with house-made jam and equally addictive pastry cream–filled doughnuts topped with a serious dab of chocolate (sometimes these are called Boston cream doughnuts). Yes, they’re $3.50, but they’re worth every penny

Address: 20429 Devonshire Street, Chatsworth
Phone: 818-341-2869
Favorite: Chocolate-covered doughnuts

Donut Man2,3
Address: 915 E. Route 66, Glendora
Phone: 626-335-9111
Favorites: Strawberry doughnuts, French crullers, glazed doughnuts, peach doughnuts

Fritelli's Doughnuts and Coffee3
Address: 350 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Phone: 310-276-1408
Favorites: Allison Winston gives designer doughnuts a good name. For anywhere between one and two bucks, you get doughnuts that are ethereally light, greaseless, and made with high-quality ingredients. The key-lime doughnut is refreshingly tart, and the blueberry buttermilk long John was light and actually tasted like blueberries

Primo's Westdale Doughnuts3
Address: 2918 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles
Phone: 310-478-6930
Favorites: Tart-sweet buttermilk bar, crumb doughnuts

Address: 805 West Manchester Avenue, Inglewood CA
Phone: 310-645-4707
Favorite: Apple fritters

Address: 10948 Weyburn Ave., Los Angeles
Phone: 310-208-8660
Favorite: Peanut butter and fresh banana with chocolate chips

Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts2,3
Address: 6333 W. 3rd Street, Suite 450, Los Angeles Farmers Market
Phone: 323-933-8929
Favorite: Plain cake doughnuts
Notes: Bob’s was also recommended by La Brea Bakery co-founder and serious doughnut fan and doughnut maker Nancy Silverton.

Coffee An
Address: 343 Main Street, Westport
Phone: 203-227-3808
Favorite: Chocolate cake doughnuts

Sunshine Doughnuts
Address: 701 SW 27th Avenue, Miami
Phone: 305-644-9055
Favorite: Glazed yeast doughnuts

Address: 933 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu
Phone: 808-737-5537
Favorites: Malassadas

Champion Malassadas2
Address: 1926 S. Beretania Street, Honolulu
Phone: 808-947-8778
Favorites: Malassadas

Agnes Bake Shop2
Address: 46 Hoolai Street, Kailaua
Phone: 808-262-5367
Favorites: Malassadas

Old Fashioned Donuts
Address: 11248 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Phone: 773-995-7420
Favorites: Apple fritters, caramel-maple doughnuts.

Dat Donuts
Address: 8249 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago
Phone: 773-723-1002
Favorites: The Big Dat, a 2-inch-high, 4-inch-wide glazed yeast doughnut

Address: 760 Winchester Road, Lexington
Phone: 859-252-3737
Favorites: Glazed yeast doughnuts

Café du Monde
Address: 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Phone: 504-581-2914
Favorites: A beignet is a cloud-like, irregularly shaped pocket of fried dough with enough confectioner’s sugar on it to sustain dry cleaners all over New Orleans

Morning Call
Address: 3325 Severn Ave., Metairie
Phone: 504-885-4068
Favorites: Another great New Orleans beignet maker that moved to the suburbs many years ago

Fay’s Take-Out and Honey Whip2
Address: 801 Kepler Street, Gretna
Phone: 504-366-9077
Favorites: Donut pies (doughnuts filled with sweet potato purée), king cake doughnuts

Address: 1090 Post Road, Wells
Phone: 207-646-4219
Favorite: Buttercrunch cake doughnuts

Downyflake Donuts
Address: 18 Sparks Avenue, Nantucket
Phone: 508-228-4533
Favorites: The plain, sugar, and chocolate old-fashioned cake doughnuts, which are all good, all simple, and all you have to choose from

Marty’s Donut Land 1
Address: 8 Central Street (Route 133), Ipswich
Phone: 978-356-4580
Favorites: Chocolate, honey dew, honey dipped

Butler’s Colonial House
Address: 461 Sanford Road, Westport
Phone: 508-672-4600
Favorites: Whipped-cream and jam-filled long Johns that are so good they have reduced many a doughnut lover to tears

New Martha Washington Bakery2
Address: 10335 Joseph Campau Street, Hamtramck
Phone: 313-872-1988
Favorites: Paczki (jelly doughnuts)

Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Address: 2501 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor
Phone: 734-663-3663
Favorites: Crisp and light cake doughnuts

Shipley Do-Nuts2
Address: 2151 S. Lamar Boulevard, Oxford
Phone: 662-281-8414

Bouchon Bakery
Address: The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, Venezia Tower, 3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas
Phone: 702-414-6200
Favorites: See above

New York
Bouchon Bakery
Address: 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor, New York City
Phone: 212-823-9366
Favorites: See above

The Donut Pub
Address: 203 W. 14th Street, New York City
Phone: 212-929-0126
Favorite: The Honey Dip

The Doughnut Plant
Address: 379 Grand Street, New York City
Phone: 212-505-3700
Favorite: Tres leches cake doughnuts

North Carolina
Britt’s Doughnuts
Address: #11 Boardwalk, Carolina Beach
Favorite: Dark brown, extra-crunchy, glazed yeast doughnuts
Notes: Open only in spring and summer

Krispy Kreme
Address: All over, but the first was in Winston-Salem
Favorite: Glazed yeast doughnuts

Annie’s 1
Address: 3449 NE 72nd Avenue, Portland
Phone: 503-284-2752
Favorites: Old-fashioned cake doughnuts, raspberry fritters

Voodoo Doughnuts and Wedding Chapel
Address: 2 SW Third Avenue, Portland
Phone: 503-241-4704
Favorite: Bacon-maple doughnuts

Rhode Island
Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House2
Address: 889 Oakland Beach Avenue, Warwick
Phone: 401-737-9459
Favorite: Doughboys, which are a local Rhode Island specialty. They’re basically square pieces of fried dough rolled in granulated (not confectioners') sugar.

Address: 3661 Quaker Lane, North Kingstown
Phone: 401-295-8036
Favorite: Crullers

Mrs. Murphy’s1
Address: 374 Depot Street, Manchester Center
Phone: 802-362-1874
Favorites: Plain, sour cream

Top Pot1,2
Address: 2124 5th Avenue, Seattle
Phone: 206-728-1966
Favorite: Glazed-ring cake doughnuts

Spudnut Shop2
Address: 228 Williams Boulevard (Uptown Plaza), Richland
Phone: 509-943-3000