Worth a Try: Doughnuts

doughnuts from Top Pot Doughnuts

Try these great places around the country for sinking your teeth into sweet, doughy confections.

Gourdough’s, Austin, Texas

First opening in an Airstream trailer in 2009, Gourdough’s has taken Austin by storm. Even though there’s no glaze on their doughnuts, prepare to loosen your belt before even placing your order because they’re about six inches in diameter and incredibly indulgent. Top sellers include the Funky Monkey, Miss Shortcake, and a savory option called the Dirty South, which is piled high with a potato pancake, chicken-fried steak, gravy, and house-made cranberry habañero jelly. Don’t see the perfect bite? Order from the “build your own” menu. 1503 S. 1st St. 

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville, North Carolina

Hole Doughnuts

Inspired by a seasonal bakery on the Carolina shore that offers only one doughnut variety, Hole aims to keep doughnuts simple, focusing on high-quality ingredients. There are four flavors on the menu each day, and they’re all yeast doughnuts fried to order. Hole plays with ingredients seasonally and even collaborates with local breweries and ice cream shops to make special glazes and ice cream sandwiches. Local favorites include Cardamom Buttermilk, Bourbon-Rosemary, and Pisgah Greybeard IPA with Orange Zest. 168 Haywood Rd.

Sugar Shack, Richmond, Virginia

Sugar Shack owner Ian Kelley encourages employees to take part in developing new flavors using their childhood memories of favorite desserts, claiming that doughnuts are vehicles for creativity. Some favorites at Sugar Shack include Mexican Chipotle Chocolate and Banana Pudding, and the most requested offering is the Lee’s Fried Chicken Doughnut—a maple-glazed yeast doughnut with chopped fried chicken on top. The only thing that makes their doughnuts better is to enjoy them with a drink from their full espresso bar. 1001 N. Lombardy St.

The Holy Donut, Portland, Maine

stacked doughnuts from Holy Doughnuts

With no experience in baking or owning a business, Leigh Kellis left her bartending job to pursue an idea she just couldn’t shake—opening a doughnut shop in her hometown. A professional of mixing and matching flavors to form a cohesive experience, Leigh had an edge. The Holy Donut uses Maine potatoes in the recipes to provide a unique texture that is addictive. Top sellers are Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, Ricotta Filled, and Maine Blueberry Filled. If you ride your bike to the bakery, show a “Bicycle Benefits” helmet sticker for a free doughnut with a purchase. 7 Exchange St. 

Firecakes, Chicago, Illinois

Using a family-heirloom recipe as inspiration, owner Jonathan Fox worked for nine months to develop his recipe before opening to ensure his doughnuts were the lightest possible texture but rich in flavor, and they were worth the wait. Some favorites are Blueberry Elderflower, Rhubarb Fritter, Meyer Lemon Curd, Buttermilk Old Fashioned, and Pumpkin Pie. Firecakes even has ice cream- and gelato-doughnut sandwiches year-round. The original location has no seating, so you may see customers braving the Chicago winter with frozen firecakes in hand—they’re that good. 68 W. Hubbard St. 

Top Pot Doughnuts, Seattle, Washington

doughnuts from Top Pot Doughnuts

First-time patrons may notice the bright sign out front of this sweet shop, and it’s worth taking note. The sign was an antique, originally reading “topspot,” but the universe had other plans and the “s” fell off on the highway in transport. The name stuck and is proudly displayed outside, while inside the vintage aesthetic and refurbished kitchen equipment is paired with a gourmet spin on a secret 1920s family recipe. Try any variation of the Old Fashioned when you go, and the cold-brew coffee makes a perfect pairing. If you can’t get enough of their creations, check out their cookbook, Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker. 609 Summit Ave. East. 

Richy Kreme Donuts, Maryville, Tennessee

This establishment has been frying the same doughnut recipe in the same building for more than 65 years. Richy Kreme has changed owners through the years but never its style. Guests return again and again for their comforting confections that taste just like home. These down-home doughnuts range in flavor from traditional glazed, assorted icings, jelly and crème filled, and a specialty called Fried Apple Uglys. No matter which you choose, this shop does it right. 2601 E. Broadway Ave.

The Donut Hole, Destin, Florida

For more than 35 years, this café and bakery on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been busy year-round with a first-come–first-served line extending literally out the door. You can get breakfast all day at this homey spot that also serves lunch, but for those who just want a dozen to go, you can skip the line and walk right up to the pastry counter. Try the Blueberry Cake, Sour Cream Old-Fashioned, Red Velvet, Peanut Butter- Filled, and customer favorite Chocolate or Vanilla Angels. 635 Harbor Blvd.

Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts, Charleston, South Carolina

doughnuts with bacon on top from Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts

If you’re after a solid plain glazed doughnut, Glazed Gourmet has got you covered, but they also have creative scratch-made offerings such as French Toast, Gingerbread Cranberry, and Raspberry Nutella. Owner Allison Smith takes pride in not using any artificial flavors, preservatives, or food coloring; all flavors and colors are created from fresh fruits and vegetables. It was actually this principle that sparked the idea for Allison’s favorite doughnut, The Beet Salad, which is a custard-filled roasted beet doughnut with orange-goat cheese glaze and candied fennel seed topping. 481 King St. 

Doughnut Plant, New York, New York

While there are seemingly unlimited places to grab a sweet snack in the Big Apple, Doughnut Plant is worth a try. For more than 20 years, they’ve served up favorites including Crème Brûlée, Tres Leches, and several flavors of square doughnuts! And for those who prefer cake doughnuts over yeast or vice versa, several flavors come in both varieties so you don’t have to miss out on an option that intrigues you. If you’re a local, they offer on-demand delivery to select New York City neighborhoods. 379 Grand St.

Photos courtesy of Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts, Charlie Duft, Felice Boucher, and Mark Klebeck

This content was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine. © 2015 Hoffman Media