In Search of the Perfect Doughnut

A pillow of sugary softness.

That’s what donuts are like for me. If they are done right, they are soft, not greasy, with just the right amount of icing / frosting, and if they have filling, it is enough for you to have some in every bite, but not so much that it stains your shirt or clouds the rest of the doughnut flavor. The perfect donut would have all of those qualities and leave you wanting more at the end.

I think I love donuts because of my dad. My earliest doughnut memories were the Sunday morning doughnuts. Dad would go out to this local doughnut place – a hole in the wall, family-owned shop – and would buy us each a Tiger Tail (chocolate and vanilla twist). It was so good. Not too much icing, but enough that every bite was a little sugary heaven. And the mix of chocolate and vanilla was terrific. Each one was cooked so there was a tiny crunch feel in your mouth as you bit into it, but so pillowy soft. It was a simple doughnut but delicious. While I love the new concoctions, at its heart it still has to be a GOOD DOUGHNUT!

Doughnut selection from Pinkbox Doughnuts – so great!

I don’t know if that doughnut place is still there. I haven’t had one in AGES! But I think the reason I love doughnuts so much is because it takes me back to those happy memories. I mean there are a million great desserts out there, yet I gravitate to ones that link me back to my childhood – chocolate chip cookies, ice cream sundaes, and doughnuts (although pie is up there…I’ll have to think about that one). Plus, I love doughnuts. They are SO good.

So here’s my current list of Top 5 Doughnut places. Yes, I know. I probably left your favorite off of the list. There are many quality doughnuts and I may not have tried your favorite yet. Those that came REALLY close: Top Pot – Seattle, WA; VooDoo Doughnuts – Portland, OR; Mr. T’s Donuts – Modesto, CA; King Pin Donuts – Berkeley, CA. Special mention shout out to Third Culture Bakery – Berkeley, CA for their gluten-free mochi doughnuts and Milkbomb Ice Cream – Berkeley, CA for their doughnut ice cream sandwich. If you have others, let me know so I can try them and see how they compare!

Top 5 Doughnuts

  • 5. Doe Donuts – Portland, OR: This is where it gets tough. There are so many good doughnut places, but I gave the edge to Doe Donuts not only because they are delicious, but because they are vegan and delicious and I could not tell. They really care about the environment and about the quality of their product and what goes into it. Plus, they are a woman-owned business and big shout out to them for their level of excellence. Specializing more in cake doughnuts, you can’t go wrong with the S’mores or Key Lime Pie Donut.
  • 4. Kimura-ya Bakery – Tokyo, Japan: Specializing in mini-anpan, these treats are Japan’s equivalent of a filled doughnut. I don’t know if these are technically doughnuts, some might argue they are more of a pastry, but they look like doughnuts to me and are little pillows of baked delights. These in particular I believe were fried which definitely puts them in the doughnut category. They were so good that although I was alone in a country where my language skills were barely passable, I went BACK to this place to get some more and bring it home to my family. Wow. If you’re ever there, ask for koshi-an (smooth beans)!
  • 3. Glazed and Confused Tahoe Donut – South Lake Tahoe, CA: Just barely on the CA side of the line, this doughnut shop was even featured in a Hallmark movie! They have both fancy doughnuts and regular doughnuts and the amazing thing is BOTH are tremendous. Pretty large doughnuts and generally of the yeast variety, it’s their frosting that wins them a spot in the top 5. Freakin’ delicious. An A+ doughnut even without the frosting, that’s how good they are. My recommendation: Crunch Berries and Animal Cracker
  • 2. Hello Sugar – Spokane, WA: Home of the tiny doughnut! Now, that in itself is no big deal. You can get tiny doughnuts at almost every state fair. But will they customize them for you? Put on your favorite toppings? Glaze them or sugar them or put dollops of jam on them? Not only are their tiny doughnuts delicious all by themselves, they have multiple flavors and combinations. And they literally make them on the spot just for you! Can’t get that at a state fair.
  • 1. Pinkbox Doughnuts – Las Vegas, NV: This local doughnut shop is the absolute bomb! A great combination of classic doughnuts, fancy doughnuts, and croissant doughnuts. Known for their trio of frosting-laden concoctions (Pooh, Pinky, and Minty), you are sure to find one you love. Every bite of a Pinkbox Doughnut is heavenly. My recommendation: Cherry Bomb! If you love cherry pie or cherry filling, this one is for you.
If only Crumbs Donuts was still around…

An Ode to Doughnuts Long Gone: One of our all-time favorites which would have been number 1 or 2 was Crumbs Donuts in Fullerton, CA. Specializing in gourmet croissant doughnuts, they were masters of balancing all the different elements of a donut – taste, flavor, mouth-feel, texture, grease-level, and creativity. For some CRAZY reason, the owners decided to change directions completely and go the boba route and quickly closed down. It was delicious though. A nod to their S’mores Doughnut with a real toasted marshmallow in the middle.

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