Best Doughnuts 2020 | Alien Donuts | Food & Drink | Phoenix

There's a special part of Old Town Scottsdale where a gourmet doughnut shop has more or less invaded. Alien Donuts, a.k.a. the Mothership, landed on Fifth Avenue in 2018 and keeps its display case loaded with delicious space-themed treats. Divided into specialty and classic doughnuts, the menu lists fun orders like the Chocolate Spacecake, Red Planet, Cinnamon Vortex, and Alien Ice. Some treats get extra cheeky, like the Moon Rocks doughnut holes, the Alien Probe bar-shaped doughnut, and the Space Jam doughnut — which is just a traditional jelly doughnut with chocolate and sprinkles and has nothing to do with Michael Jordan or Bugs Bunny. The alien chefs here get crazy with Savory Sundays, topping their doughnuts with sausage and gravy, chicken and waffles, and pulled pork and spicy barbecue. Alien Donuts also offers coffee, ice cream, something called a Rocket Shake, and vegan options. They deliver, too.

Evie Carpenter

In this sweltering desert, it's always a good time for ice cream, and Sweet Republic is a constant, tempting, reminder of that fact. Don't let the unexpected flavors here intimidate you. Dive into cold delights like the kulfi, a traditional Indian ice cream that Sweet Republic blends with hints of saffron, pistachio, and cream. Or stick with the Belgian chocolate, a straightforward crowd favorite that comes with no preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or additives. Owners Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung make everything in-house, including the marshmallows, waffle cones, and other toppings; it's one of the reasons why Sweet Republic keeps appearing on national and local lists as one of the best ice cream parlors in the state. This ice cream is the opposite of manufactured. It's the real deal. (Note: A third location of Sweet Republic, located at 410 North Scottsdale Road in Tempe, was not open at press time but is scheduled to open in late September.)

You needn't cross the pond to indulge in a bit of Italian splendor. There's a lovely, wildly talented couple from Italy who make gelato for their cozy shop near Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and spend their days welcoming people who make time to enjoy it. Alberto Della Casa and Letizia de Lucia arrived in Arizona eager to share their passion for artisanal gelato after two decades at food-related desk jobs in Italy. Trained by a gelato master in Chieti, they've finessed the fine art of gelato, creating rich varieties with primarily organic and locally sourced ingredients. The selection changes from day to day, so you'll find a fresh flavor to explore each time you visit. The pistachio is a revelation: Cool Gelato Italiano is one of the few places in town that makes it with real Sicilian nuts. We suggest you return often to try the rich Italian custard, the sweet stracciatella, or one of the shop's vegan flavors like guava or pomegranate.

Lauren Cusimano

You've heard of burnt ends in the world of barbecue. But what if you took that same approach and applied it to dessert? You'd get something like the burnt cheesecake at St. Amand Kitchen & Cocktails, which opened last spring in Chandler's Ocotillo neighborhood. It's the type of dish that would have all four Golden Girls gabbing till sunrise. This is a thick and heavy, crustless cheesecake — each bite is all cake. Its shiny black surface is topped with mandarins, a sweet goo for extra moisture, and a mint garnish. It also comes with a fun story: Its creator misread a recipe, creating a seemingly seared cheesecake sans the usual grainy (though usually delicious) crust, resulting in what turned out to be a literally perfect dessert. Pair it with the house-selected sherry and you'll have trouble deciding when to — or if you even should — leave. One catch: It's not on the permanent menu at St. Amand. It's on the list of specials, so if you spot it, be sure to flag down one of the extremely friendly servers and get that order in.

Absolutely Delightful, owned by Eleanor Dziuk and operated by Dziuk and her family, buys raw honey from Arizona's beekeepers and sells this sweetness on its website and at farmers' markets around town. A wide range of honeys are available — desert wildflower, mesquite, orange blossom — as well as beeswax candles, bee pollen, and even flavored whipped honey. Our favorite by far, though, is camelthorn honey. It's typically harvested from camelthorn plants in Winslow, Arizona, around July. In Arizona, it's classified as a noxious weed. But its honey is light and thick with a bright, floral scent that's irresistible.

When we crave boba, we head to Tea Stop, where the boba has just the right combination of chewy and melty. We're partial to the Mango Sunrise smoothie (fresh mango bits and boba) and the Purple Rain, a concoction with taro and the honey version of boba; you'll feel impossibly refreshed as you slurp down the last bits of its tapioca goodness. If you're looking for a little something extra, try the pandan waffle, a Vietnamese version of the breakfast favorite loaded with coconut and vanilla. You should explore the entire boba menu, though: You can't go wrong at Tea Stop.

A female-owned vegan cafe, 24 Carrots is as veggie-focused as its name suggests. Here, you'll find a substantial selection of 100 percent vegan and gluten-free items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but 24 Carrots originated as a juice bar in 2008 and has stayed true to those roots. The juice options at the cafe, which is tucked away at the adobe-style Tempe Square Shopping Center, include some house concoctions like the Apple Zinger, Beet It, and the Carrots Over Easy, as well as some daily specials. These are often scrawled on the charming (colorful with chalk and doodles) blackboard behind the register (which is also often posted on Instagram in case you'd like to check ahead). The knowledgeable staff is there to guide you in the right direction if you have any questions, such as if ginger would taste good with carrots, or what would be the best order if you feel a cold coming on. And the dining room is as appealing as the juice in your hand, so feel free to stick around for a sipping session.

In the midst of a global pandemic, English Rose Tearoom was there, packaging up to-go containers of sandwiches, petit fours, and scones with all the fixings as part of its curbside offerings. That was hardly a surprise. All year long — during regular years, at least — owner Jo Gemmill goes above and beyond, wowing adult and child guests alike with events like an afternoon with Edgar Allan Poe and a visit with Santa in July. Along with multiple variations of afternoon tea, menu items like the green apple, chicken, and Stilton salad; cottage pie; and mini teacups of the soup of the day make this place truly stand out. Bonus: There's a lifesize cutout of Queen Elizabeth herself you can pose with as you walk in. Do it for the 'gram.

If craft coffee is a foreign concept to you, visit Driftwood Coffee Co. in Old Town Peoria. This west Valley coffee house, founded in 2017 by buds and owners Luke Bentley and Lance Linderman, uses beans by Arizona companies like Mythical Coffee as well as other artisan roasters around the country, like Iowa's Horizon Line Coffee. The menu is divided into three sections: the speed bar, the slow bar, and the espresso bar; patrons can walk away with anything from a quick cold brew to something brewed via a Chemex, V60, or French press. Choose from an ever-changing menu of pastries, or just go straight for a specialty drink like the Dostoevsky (ginger beer, espresso, simple syrup, peach bitters, and lime). Other perks? Local art for sale, ceramic drinkware for in-house sipping, and a clean, simple space for work, chats, or just focusing on drinking these tasty, caffeinated bevs.

Lauren Cusimano

We were already crazy about Copper Star before we discovered they sell their own locally grown, house-roasted coffee beans. At first, we worried that owning a bag might keep us from the cozy confines of Copper Star, where the staff is so nice to us and the homemade bagels are so fresh and tasty. But even after dragging home a bagful of his mellow, rich beans, we found that we kept visiting Bill Sandweg's swell coffee shop as often as we could. As tasty as our home-brewed Copper Star is, as both a hot latte and a chilly iced coffee, we can't stay away from our favorite corner cafe.

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