Whether it's a bad breakup, a morning board meeting, or a late night of drinking, there are moments when doughnuts simply call to us. Try as we might, when this deep-fried fusion of sugar and dough speaks our name, nothing else will do -- not muffins, not croissants, and sure as hell not bagels. So when self-restraint breaks down and your inner child tells you to live a little, where do you go and what do you get?
We have a few suggestions. Here are Chow Bella's 10 (okay, 11) favorite doughnuts in metro Phoenix.
Apple fritter and lemon basil fredo at Karl's Quality Bakery
At this Sunnyslope staple, the early bird gets the eclair. Karl's Quality Bakery is much more than a doughnut shop, offering cakes, tarts, macarons, and "FreDo"s, which is its take on the popular cronut. With an eclectic selection of fresh baked pastries, Karl's is quickly bombarded by morning commuters and neighborhood regulars. But the frenzy of first come, first served sweets is well worth the 6 a.m. wake-up. And stuck between a croissant and a hard place, we simply can't pick just one favorite at Karl's. So here is the tie -- the frisbee-size apple fritter with small chunks of real apple and the lemon basil cronut -- er, fredo. Bring a friend or break the pastries in half; whatever you do, don't make us choose.
Banana fritters at Nami
We were hesitant to try the hippie doughnuts from an establishment that specializes in offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free baked goods -- because come on, a healthy doughnut? That just sounds like an oxymoron. But thanks to the banana fritters at Nami, our eyes (and our mouths) have been opened. These mini fritters bring it with the banana flavor and are usually sold by the pair, because as we found out, you can't eat just one.
Doughnuts at Hanny's
When downtown barhopping turns into midnight munchies, Hanny's is the classy alternative to the usual lowbrow late-night eateries. The old school department store turned posh mid-century lounge and restaurant gets much of its attention for a list of classic cocktails and fresh sliced prosciutto, but not enough is said about the doughnuts. These fluffy yet flaky bite-size holes are drizzled with powdered sugar and served with your choice of rich chocolate or light strawberry sauces -- because if there's one thing people love more than doughnuts, it's options.
Maple bacon doughnut at Rainbow Donuts
You've probably driven by Rainbow Donuts on McDowell hundreds of times, but have you ever actually gone in? Probably not, because to do so would be dangerous. The smell of sugar doughnut glaze hits you as you walk in and are greeted by a long case of all your doughnut favorites, including a few curious ones coated in orange frosting, stuffed with whipped cream, or covered in . . . bacon. The maple bacon doughnut at Rainbow Donuts is our favorite unhealthy yet balanced breakfast. With thick cuts of perfectly cooked bacon layered over a thick maple glazed doughnut, this Rainbow doughnut is the perfect blend of sweet and savory, salty, and sugary -- proof that when opposites attract, it can be downright delicious.
Cinnamon crumb doughnut at LaMar's Donuts
With 28 locations, LaMar's is the standout chain restaurant on this list. But here's the catch: It's the only one in entire state of Arizona. A North Phoenix favorite, LaMar's is service with a smile -- seriously, they may be the happiest people in the food industry, second only to the guys at Dutch Bros. Of course, their good moods may be attributed to baked goods -- a standard but generous assortment of doughnuts with a few colorful characters thrown in daily, like blueberry and strawberry. Our personal favorite, however, is the cinnamon crumb -- a moist cake center coated in a flaky crust covered in cinnamon and sugar then lightly adorned with sprinkles. It's like coffee cake -- except so much better.
Cake doughnut at Bink's Midtown
Kevin Binkley needs no introduction; however, we do feel that the cake doughnut at Bink's Midtown deserves some explanation because, honestly, "cake doughnut" does not do enough to describe this decadent dessert. Foiling both taste and texture, the Bink's doughnut is soft white cake encased in a crisp, deep-fried exterior. It is generously coated in powered sugar and would be an otherwise bland pastry if not for the accompanying container of what may be the richest butterscotch sauce we have ever tasted. Dip it in or pour it on, as long as you're putting both parts of this dish together, you're doing it right.
Portuguese doughnut at Vovomeena
Breakfast is the basis of this downtown dining detour, so naturally it delivers on the doughnut, specifically, the Portuguese doughnut. This Portuguese pastry, also offered on weekends at Vovomeena's sister restaurant, Astor House, is semi-sweet egg-based dough fried to order and frosted with sugar. It's light in texture with hints of honey, and pairs well with Vovomeena's Japanese cold brew coffee.
Sa yung at Great Wall Cuisine
Great Wall Cuisine in Phoenix is essentially Disneyland for dim sum lovers. This massive dining space similar to a banquet hall houses an endless parade of carts carrying a variety of authentic Chinese appetizers. Easy as it is to fill up on the first, second, and third wave of dim sum drop-offs, those who save room for dessert will be rewarded. Among the dishes of sweet rolls and green tea gelatin that come rolling by, there are also plates of sa yung. Basically the Chinese equivalent of a doughnut, sa yung is a fried dumpling of egg-based dough with an airy center and a sugar coated exterior. Although they are best enjoyed hot, if you run out of room for dessert, we recommend getting a box to take home.
Zeppole at The Parlor Pizzeria
Everyone knows about the dynamic duo that is pizza and beer, but not enough credit is paid to their lesser known third wheel, the doughnut. Well, technically it's the zeppole, which is essentially the Italian take on gourmet doughnut holes. The Parlor's zeppole is served piping hot and packed with various stone fruit fillings. Lightly coated in sugar and served with a side of hot caramel sauce, the zeppole proves that not matter how much pizza you ate, there is always room for dessert.
Apple fritter at Bosa Donuts
Bosa is a staple among drive-thru doughnut-lovers and the late-night sweet tooth, staying open well past normal bakeshop hours till 10 every night. And though it's hard to go wrong with a mixed dozen from this doughnut destination, demand is definitely high for those apple fritters. Composed of generous globs of glazed pastry lightly infused with apple filling, the apple fritter from Bosa is usually the first to go missing from the communal pink pastry box in the office.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.