Best Gourmet Doughnuts in Chicago

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Chicago seems to have finally caught on to the gourmet doughnut trend (way to be two years behind).  In the last year, Miss Fats has noticed a crazy increase in the number of spots featuring doughnuts and the opening of a handful of delicious gourmet shops across the city.  With the release of Saveur Magazine’s “America’s 50 Best Donuts,” article, Miss Fats thought it was high time she ranked her favorites for you all. As you all know by now, Miss Fats has an unhealthy addiction to fried dough, and considers herself a self-taught expert in gourmet doughnut knowhow.  She’s slaved over testing out all the hip and is prepared to give you her official ranking. Miss Fats realizes that many of you might disagree, so please share thoughts and your own rankings, but know that she put some serious research in. Get ready for some sweet fried food porn.

In reverse order…

5. Do-Rite Donutsphoto (5)

New kid on the block. Do-Rite Donuts hasn’t been in its loop location long, but they boast small-batch gourmet donuts, including vegan and gluten free options.  Miss Fats was very excited about the prospect of getting a HOT, fresh donut.  Her’s was warm, but not too exciting.  Don’t get her wrong, Do-Rite made a DAMN FINE old fashioned.  They had a perfectly crispy outside and delicious cakey inside.  Seriously a textual orgasm.  However Do-Rite comes in 5th because they need to turn it up a notch flavor-wise.  You see that crazy delicious looking lemon pistachio raised donut up top? Yeah, you think that would be a total mouth party.  Unfortunately it was just good.  Not great.  Lacked lemon flavor and not everything was jiving together exactly.  The same can be said for the two old fashioned: butterscotch (boy was Miss Fats excited for that one) and meyer lemon.  The butterscotch just tasted like a perfect old fashioned glazed donut, so if that’s what you’re looking for, Miss Fats highly recommends it. But Miss Fats wanted her butterscotch flavor and it never happened.  Same goes for the lemon.  Give me some tang, Do-Rite.  Miss Fats feels that with a little more extract and some experimenting, Do-Rite could easily rise to the top.  She puts them to the challenge.

4. Glazed and InfusedGlazedandInfusedBear

Miss Fats apologizes for the lack of Glazed and Infused pictures.  As some of the first gourmet doughnut shops to open in the city, Glazed and Infused has been visited sporadically over the last year, and therefore lacks proper documentation.  She’s a big supporter of Glazed and Infused multiple locations and easily accessible fried dough goodness.  Pictured above is their monstrous bearclaw that was filled with insane almond paste that did away with Miss Fats’ most tragic marzipan memories.  She has now had the opportunity to try their PB&J jelly, as well as the Triple Chocolate.  And it’s that chocolate doughnut that helped Glazed and Infused earn this spot.  Holy shit chocolate goodness.  Now she doesn’t recommend this doughnut for those out there who might just “like” chocolate.  You need to love it to truly appreciate the excess of this thing.  That shit is basically covered in ganache, not glaze.  She wishes she had the same things to say about the PB&J, but unfortunately Miss Fats took one bite and it exploded all over her.  Never a good sign.  Despite it’s amazing homemade jam inside (and all over Miss Fats’ shirt), it lacked peanut flavor.  Total fruit overload. Literally.  Therefore Glazed and Infused earns its respectable spot at number four.

3. The Doughnut Vaultphoto (7)

Now this was a challenge.  The Doughnut Vault is one of those spots that boasts a long line, up-to-the-minute twitter feed, and VERY limited hours.  For literally months, Miss Fats tried to get herself one of these doughnuts.  She religiously followed on twitter, examining the busiest days, the best hours, what daily special she’d aim for… Not to mention in order to get one of these bad boys, Miss Fats would have to hurry her ass to a bus by 7:30 am to get to their Merchandise Mart location in time for some serious line waiting.  With her schedule last spring, that really only left Saturdays for Miss Fats to attempt to get her doughnut on.  So one cold, wet morning she braved the early bus and got herself to the line by 9 am.  She waited and waited, refreshing her twitter app, watching the day’s doughnuts disappear.  She was so close. But no luck.  This unfortunate situation kept Miss Fats away for a bit, as she longingly watched the tweets of delicious treats go by.  Finally three months later, she went for it.  She had a Thursday morning free.  She arrived a little before 10 am and there were still plenty of flavors left.  She settled on the Buttermilk Old Fashioned and Blackberry Jelly.  The jelly was pretty unremarkable.  It was a solid doughnut but little can really be remembered about that pastry.  The Old Fashioned on the other hand is why Doughnut Vault has outranked Glazed and Infused.  This was pretty much perfect.  Tender, crispy, and not too sweet.  BALANCE: They have it. Is it worth the wait?  Probably not for most.

2. Firecakes

photo (9)This little shop just opened downtown and Miss Fats was ON IT.  Miss Fats needed to be downtown at 9 am one Saturday morning so she felt entitled to treat herself to a morning donut.  She stopped in at Firecakes just after they opened and got to choose from their fresh full selection.  Because it was practically dawn, Miss Fats impulse purchased the GIANT Butterscotch Praline and Raspberry Blood Orange Jelly (she had intended to try a cake donut for you all). She does not regret this decision at all.  Hell no.  Let’s begin with the Butterscotch: holy shit it was filled with fresh butterscotch pudding.  Need she say more?  The doughnut itself was tender and chewy and topped with a crispy praline glaze. fuck yes. The jelly was the same raised dough business but it was filled with a tangy and fresh mixture of blood orange and raspberry jam.  That shit oozed out into a powdered sugar and sticky mess that Miss Fats proudly wore all over her face all day long (despite being at a super important academic conference. priorities, people).  Now to make sure she’d done proper work for you all, Miss Fats returned for a cake doughnut.  And she was NOT DISAPPOINTED.  In fact, the Valhrona Glazed Chocolate doughnut might have been the greatest cake doughnut Miss Fats has ever had.  Like Glazed and Infused, it was basically topped with a rich chocolate ganache and peppered with cacao nibs.  The cake itself was the star, though: PERFECTLY tender, yet rich and dense.  Some sort of magic happened in that doughnut and Miss Fats doesn’t want to know anything about it.  Just keep them coming.

HOWEVER: on a side note, Miss Fats also tried their Bacon Maple Pineapple mini doughnuts.  She was very unimpressed.  These little bites did nothing.  She supposes the maple flavor was good, but she hardly thinks a sad piece of pineapple and some bacon bits belong together on a lame doughnut bite.  Skip it.  Miss Fats highly recommends that Firecakes toss them from their menu.  

FirecakesBacon

I am lame. Do not purchase me.

1. Nightwood Sunday Brunchphoto (10)

Alright. Here it is: Miss Fats top choice for Chicago’s gourmet doughnuts.  She’s talked to you all before about these gems, and she stands by them: Nightwood Sunday brunch doughnuts are the greatest in the city. Miss Fats might be obsessed with their Butterscotch Bacon doughnut.  It comes hot to your table with a sweet, sticky glazed outside, topped in a heaping pile of maple-y, crispy bacon. Shit, is there anything better than a hot doughnut, people??  The bacon doughnut seems to be available every week (or at least for the last month or so), but the filled doughnut changes week-to-week.  Miss Fats has had the opportunity to try the Chocolate Cherry Cashew and Vanilla Custard Burbon Caramel.  Both were damn good. She’s complained a bit about the lack of cherry in the chocolate before but still fully supports its oozing ganache filling.  The vanilla was full of flavor: stuffed with a fresh vanilla pudding and topped with a boozy caramel sauce.  Miss Fats’ friend pointed out a slight lack of salt, which she found was true if you couldn’t quite get the right bite of that milk crumble.  And don’t forget: you get three crispy little doughnut hole friends rolled in cinnamon sugar.  Just go mopping up your caramel sauce with one of those little suckers and pop it in your mouth.

Miss Fats realizes that Nightwood might not count per se, because it is in fact not a doughnut shop.  Nor are doughnut available more than one day a week.  She fully recognizes that there are many other restaurants out there that feature house made doughnuts, and Miss Fats will get to you!  But for now, she stands by these Sunday treats and encourages you all to go out and have some of the greatest fried dough treats of your life.

Shout out: Beaver’s Doughnut Truck

Miss Fats wants to give a special shout to Chicago’s only mini doughnut  truck: Beaver’s Doughnuts.  This delightful truck parks on Miss Fats’ campus multiple days of the week, tempting her with fresh fried goodness.  Though Beaver’s does not make the short list, she appreciates their cheerful truck and dedication to hot, freshly fried doughnut bites.

photo (6)

Beaver’s specializes in fried to order mini doughnuts that can be tossed in the usual doughnut hole coatings: powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.  OR you can top those suckers off with a range of tasty gooey delights.  Miss Fats indulged in their Turtle Doughnuts, which featured chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.  This gooey hot mess had to be eaten with a fork, but it was oh-so-good on a crap, cold Chicago afternoon.  Not to mention, Beaver’s served Miss Fats ten mini doughnut when she only ordered six.  DOUGHNUT WIN.  Despite the fact that they had been recently hanging out in a vat of oil on a truck, these little guys were still surprising light and crispy.  The reason why they don’t make the list is because they unfortunately had that grocery store doughnut hole flavor.  This was mostly masked by the toppings, but Miss Fats doesn’t let these things slide.  Your doughnut dough should be able to stand on its own (she feels that same way about the cake part of a cupcake).  But Beaver’s is a damn fine enterprise and she’s always a fan of moving fried dough vehicles that want to warm her up with gooey doughnutness.

Worst Doughnut in Chicago:

Ok, so Miss Fats is probably being to dramatic about this one and should let it go, but whatever. She’d just like to remind you all to avoid the pathetic “Italian” doughnuts at Spiaggia Cafe.  These sad little fried things deflated into a chewy mess as as soon as she bit into one.  Just don’t do it.  They’re too lame for words.

Spiaggia

So that’s it, people.  Miss Fats has laid down some truth for you all.  She hopes you go out and try all of these tasty treats and reports back on your favorites, and potential disappointments. Do you all agree with Miss Fats’ list?  She knows she’s missing some critical Southside favorites, but Miss Fats considers those to be in a league all of their own.  They are clearly doing their shit right: the classics, served up without any of this shmancy nonsense.  But for those of you who like a little nonsense in your life, she recommends eating a $5 doughnut covered in bacon.

6 thoughts on “Best Gourmet Doughnuts in Chicago

  1. Doughnut Vault is my favorite! I love their buttermilk old fashioned. (I’ll have to try Nightwood’s doughnuts soon!). Have you tried any of Doughnut Vault’s old fashioned specials like the double chocolate old fashioned, lemon poppy seed old fashioned, or pistachio old fashioned, etc? SO good!

    • I’ve only managed to get into Doughnut Vault once! But I’ll have to go again and try out some of their specials. Their tumblr is always making me drool with their calendar of delicious specialities. Now that Chicago’s showing some sun I’ll have to brave the line again!

      • You can request specials for specific days via their Tumblr or Facebook. The calendar comes out every Saturday afternoon so request like 1-1.5 weeks ahead of time. I try to go on weekdays around 8-9am, and there’s usually a minimal line (ie 5 people).

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