We’ve all been there. That alarm clock goes off, the questionable outfit’s been picked, the dreary commute commences, and we’re craving a small treat—something familiar and delicious—before the workday begins. Enter: donuts.
It’s hard (but not impossible) to go wrong with sweet, deep-fried dough. But there are some places that just, well, do it better than others. They use unique ingredients. They pile on never-before-seen toppings. Or they just serve up a hot, fresh donut that melts in your mouth.
Whether you side with the tried-and-true original donut type, or opt for the more adventurous pastry concoctions, there’s a spot out there for you to get your fix. Check out our list of America’s Best Donuts, but please, try not to drool on the screen.
Peter Pan Bakery
Looking for the ultimate ice cream sandwich? Look no further. This modest-size Polish bakery, in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, will slice a donut of your choice in half and stuff it with a generous scoop of ice cream. (They recommend the red velvet donut with strawberry ice cream.) The freshly made donuts are so good (perfectly chewy and just the right amount of glaze), 30 Rock’s Tina Fey gave Peter Pan her thumbs up in an Esquire interview. If you want your pick, get there early.
There’s a good reason Voodoo is such a huge hit with all donut fans: the Bacon Maple Bar. It’s a yeast donut topped with maple glaze and not one, but two strips of crisp bacon. Beyond that, much of Voodoo’s eclectic donut varieties can’t be found anywhere else. Not only are the toppings unique—bubblegum, cereal, or M&Ms, anyone?—but since the shop is in eco-friendly Portland, there’s even a series of vegan donut options.
Most patrons swear by the face-size apple fritter served here, with its melt-in-your-mouth glaze and soft chunks of apple-cinnamon inside. The 32-foot donut adorning the roof of Randy’s—conveniently located minutes from Los Angeles International Airport—is like a beacon calling out to hungry commuters and weary travelers needing a sugary pick-me-up.
If you really want to make the most of your experience here, order your donut à la mode. The variety of toppings isn’t what makes these donuts special (because there aren’t many choices), but rather the main ingredient: potato flour. The result is a spudnut (do not call it a donut!) that will not only result in a much lighter treat but, according to the owners, immediately turn you into a regular (read: addicted) patron.
Bob’s Donut & Pastry Shop
You have to try the giant, cakey glazed donut that is literally the size of your head. (We can’t guarantee you’ll finish it all, but at least you’ll enjoy trying.) This old-fashioned spot serves up freshly made donuts 24 hours a day; go early in the morning for a guaranteed super-fresh batch. The staff—all of whom have a reputation for being just the right amount of sweet (much like the donuts)—only add to the experience.
Top Pot Doughnuts
Keep it simple and opt for the Old Fashioned donut here, with delightfully thinner-than-normal crispy edges that give the donut a satisfying crunch. (In the fall, go for the pumpkin-flavored.) The shop took its name from an old neon sign the owners found and restored, which they used as inspiration: they prepare their donuts with a 1920s recipe. While we can’t claim to know the secret to their recipe, whatever it is, it works.
Owner Kamal Grant shows up at 2 a.m. every day to start the donut-making process. And his Strawberry N Cream donut—an original-style donut stuffed with fresh strawberries and vanilla cream cheese—is a showstopper. (Think: strawberry cheesecake with a donut crust.) With top-notch ingredients and Grant’s hard-to-find passion for perfection, the resulting pastries are tasty works of art.
Westwood Village, CA
Stan’s occupies the same corner it has since it opened as The Corner Shoppe in 1965, and owner Stan Berman still comes in daily to make the same donuts that have kept his shop popular for the past 45 years. Here you can channel your inner Elvis and try out the glazed donut stuffed with peanut butter and banana. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, go for the blueberry and cheese donut.
New York City
The Crème Brûlée donut, with its slightly hardened, sugary outside and rich, creamy custard filling, is without a doubt the one to order if you have to choose just one. But why would you limit yourself? All of the donuts served at this small Italian pastry shop are bomboloni-style (think: supersize donut holes, injected with various fillings).
Sure, a plain, glazed donut is pretty standard, but Kane’s does it so well. Show up early to get it fresh and hot out of the fryer; the donut will melt in your mouth. From the outside, this shop looks like a house, but inside, it’s a cozy diner full of history: Kane’s has been serving the same donuts to this community just north of Boston for 55 years. While the flavors are pretty basic, the dough is rolled out and each donut cut by hand, helping give them that extra something. Be warned: if you show up after 10 a.m. on a weekend morning, prepare for slim pickings.