I realize I’m writing this post right as swimsuit season is starting up, but it’s all about balance, right? Yesterday was National Donut Day, after all, and Chicago’s donut scene is more than worth the occasional indulgence. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even like donuts that much before I moved to Chicago—the typical store-bought donut doesn’t really do it for me, and I couldn’t have told you the difference between cake and yeast, a Bismark and an old-fashioned. But oh my goodness, how times have changed—Chicago opened my eyes to a whole new world of donuts. Going out for donuts has quickly become one of my favorite weekend outings, and after nearly four years of living here, it’s safe to say this list is a well-researched one. Here is my indisputable list of the best donut shops in Chicago:
Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee
My picks: Buttermilk Old-Fashioned or Cinnamon Crunch
If more traditional donuts are your thing, Do-Rite is for you. Their simple, classic buttermilk old-fashioned may be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten—crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, with just the right amount of glaze. The cinnamon crunch raised donut, pistachio meyer lemon and valhrona chocolate cake donuts are all out of this world, too. There’s always been a line out the door every time I’ve been to Do-Rite, so make sure you get there early! I’d recommend taking a cup of Dark Matter Coffee for the road and maybe a chicken sandwich for later, too.
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
My picks: Chocolate Pocket with Nutella and Banana, Chocolate Sprinkle Glazed, Pistachio Glazed
Stan’s Donuts is so much fun, and oh-so-delicious. Though Stan’s does great with the classics, they’re famous for some super inventive flavors that you’ve probably never tried before, like Biscoff banana pocket, toffee cake, and strawberry bismark. Stan’s completely changed my mind about filled donuts—their blueberry cream cheese pocket is amazing. And if you feel like a different kind of treat, Stan’s milkshakes are some of the best in the city (plus they come with an adorable tiny donut around the straw).
My picks: Tahitian Vanilla Iced, Sprinkle Donut, Peppermint Hot Chocolate (seasonal)
Firecakes was the first “fancy” donut shops I tried in the city and likely one of the main reasons I fell in love with Chicago donuts. The branding and decor at all the Firecakes locations is darling and there’s something about the Firecakes atmosphere/employees that make you feel like each donut has been lovingly baked just for you. Besides the picks I mentioned above, Firecakes’ pistachio old-fashioned is the definition of a perfect donut, and I love Firecakes’ vegan chocolate coconut donut (even though I’m not vegan). Firecakes also serves my favorite iced almond milk latte in the city!
My picks: Triple Chocolate, Toasted Almond, Vanilla Glazed
If you’re lucky, you’ve spotted the Doughnut Vault van around town, maybe even at Green City market on Saturdays in Lincoln Park. Both the van and the River North location are Instagram famous by now, and not just for the aesthetic appeal. I appreciate that Doughnut Vault only sells a few flavors of donuts, and does them really, really well. Their vanilla glazed donut is just about as good as it gets in terms of traditional donuts, and their coconut cream donut is a must if you want to mix it up!
My picks: Vanilla Bean Custard Bombolini, S’mores Hot Chocolate
Okay, so Bombobar isn’t exactly your typical weekend donut stop, but it’s one of those “gotta try one in your lifetime”-type places. Bombobar is famous for their bombolinis, Italian hole-less donuts that you get to fill with the flavor of your choice, plus some pretty crazy hot chocolate and milkshake concoctions (just check out their Instagram). Go with a few friends, split a few different items from the menu—it’s totally worth the sugar rush.
I think my favorite thing about Chicago’s donut shops is that they’re all a little different—there’s a reason to try them all! If you didn’t celebrate yesterday, I hope you indulge in a little National Donut Day treat today.