Put down the cupcake, and release the lever on the soft serve. Doughnuts are back in black, baby — although some might argue that they never left. Either way, we can all agree that this deep-fried pastry has never been more on top of its game. The circular confection that has long since served as the consolation prize for early-morning commutes has come into culinary good fortune thanks to new restaurants, new ideas, and a new wave of diners who say to hell with that diet. Glazed and frosted, caked and raised, here are 10 reasons to go nuts for doughnuts in metro Phoenix.
Key lime doughnut at Welcome Chicken + Donuts
If chef Michael Babcock were to design his ideal food pyramid, we're pretty sure it would consist of only two things: poultry and pastry. And having tasted just about everything on the Welcome Chicken + Donuts menu, we're here to say we're just fine with that. At this refurbished retro restaurant, formerly a fast food BBQ joint in South Phoenix, the edible wheel has been deliciously reinvented with items like the chocolate pudding-filled doughnut with red wine glaze and the Wisconsin cheddar fritter. While singling out just one favorite from the display counter was somewhat of a Sophie's Choice for us, we ultimately decided to give the gold to the key lime-filled doughnut with graham cracker topping. Just like the sequel to one of our favorite films, this thing may just be better than the original. It's essentially pie with better packaging and you'd better believe us when we say it sells out fast.
Portuguese doughnut at Vovomeena
As if the name wasn't clear enough, Portuguese doughnuts are not your standard American breakfast treat — although the concept is more or less on par with what mainstream doughnut eaters are accustomed to: fried sweet dough, generously showered in powdered sugar. Think sopaipilla, but with a crunchier shell. With its airy center, the Portuguese doughnut is perhaps the lightest thing on the Vovomeena menu. The locally owned restaurant nestled among a cluster of corporate fast food chains focuses on breakfast comfort foods like biscuits and gravy, Mexican eggs Benedict, French toast, and waffles, making the Portuguese doughnut sound downright low-cal. (It's not. But don't let that stop you.)
Lavender Kronut at Karl's Quality Bakery
Karl's Quality Bakery may not be the only bakery in town serving up their own take on the copyrighted CronutTM but they are, in our opinion, the best ones doing so. We'll chock that up to Swiss owner Karl Boerner's commitment to fresh ingredients and baked goods derived from scratch. Although Karl's has been in business for more than 20 years, the Kronut is a relatively recent addition to the menu. Of the three flavors available, chocolate and vanilla included, our favorite is the lavender. It's not as sweet as its croissant-meets-doughnut counterparts and, as a result, other aspects of the pastry, including the flaky crust and the subtle floral hints, are given their own chance to shine. Unlike your usual insulin-induced impulse buys, Karl's Kronuts require a small amount of planning. They are sold Wednesday through Saturday only and generally sell out before your lunch break.
Maple Glaze + Candied Bacon doughnut at Rollover Doughnuts
Once Short Leash perfected the art of the hot dog, owners Brad and Kat Moore took it upon themselves to reach for bigger, better, and, at the very least, rounder things. Rollover Doughnuts may not have a following as big as its savory sibling's, but it's certainly following on a promising path. The doughnuts, which are also sold at both locations of Short Leash (110 East Roosevelt Street and 2502 East Camelback Road, in Union at the Biltmore) err on the more experimental side, with offerings like spicy Thai coconut and orange glaze with chopped pistachios. Unlike most doughnut dealers in town, Rollover uses brioche dough to craft its confections, our top pick of which is the maple glaze and candied bacon. The sweetmeets-salty creation essentially is everything we could hope for from a duo of meat purveyors turned pastry slingers.
OC Sand doughnut at Fractured Prune
If there ever was a testament to the build-your-own-baked-good trend, it's the Fractured Prune franchise. The Maryland-based business that began in 1976 has opened locations in six other states, including Arizona. Since opening its first Valley story in Chandler last year, the franchise has made moves to open shops in Glendale, Tempe, and downtown Phoenix. Needless to say, it has got the dough rolling. At Fractured Prune, visitors can customize cake doughnuts with a variety of glazes and topping or simply choose from the menu of Fractured Prune's specialty doughnuts. It includes doughnuts like banana cream pie, blackberry cobbler, and, our favorite, O.C. Sand. Before you begin picturing sandy west coast beaches, keep in mind that the O.C. stands for Ocean City, Maryland. Contrary to more complex doughnuts on the menu, with their numerous toppings and overly sweet glazes, this doughnut keeps it simple with nothing but honey glaze and cinnamon sugar. It's edible proof that less is more and, thanks to Fracture Prune's fried-to-order schtick, always served pipping hot.
Red velvet doughnut at Rainbow Donuts
Red Velvet might just be the Madonna of the dessert world. Since enjoying its heyday as the cake of choice years ago, the crimson chocolate has since reinvented itself in cupcakes, cake pops, frozen yogurt, and now cake doughnuts. You can thank Rainbow Donuts for that one. The North Phoenix location insists on keeping a good thing going by offering red velvet cake doughnuts in both regular glaze and chocolate frosting. For those who wish the cake in their doughnut tasted more like the cake on their birthday, the holey red velvet is the answer. But sweet teeth be warned, not all Rainbow Donuts are created equal. This franchise has a handful of locations in the Valley, and they all vary slightly in their sugary selections. We guarantee you'll find the lady in red at 40th Street and Thunderbird.
Maple pecan doughnut at Urban Cookies
Don't let the name fool you. Urban Cookies caters to much more than chocolate chip fiends and snickerdoodle subscribers. In an attempt to cover all the craving basics, the Central Phoenix bakeshop offers a freshly made assortment of cookies, cupcakes, and cake doughnuts. All the doughnuts are advertised as vegan and gluten-free, and they come in tempting combinations likes vanilla cake with vanilla sprinkle, German chocolate with coconut pecan crunch, and cinnamon sugar. Our confection of choice, however, is the maple pecan. Although technically a fall treat, this dairy-free indulgence is enjoyed well after the leaves have turned green and by those who prefer a meat-free alternative to the ever-popular maple bacon found at other shops.
Lemon boysenberry jelly doughnut at Nami
It's not hard to see why carnivores and herbivores alike are drawn to the doughnuts at Nami. The vegan pastries prides themselves on providing all the flavor doughnut-lovers have come to expect but without any of the animal byproduct. Better yet, Nami's made it a point to put real ingredients in their baked goods. Take the lemon boysenberry jelly-filled doughnut, for example. It's a mouthful in every sense of the word and, unlike the synthetic centers of other mainstream stuffed sweets, its jelly core has serious complexity. Turns out beauty really is on the inside.
Blueberry doughnut at Good Donuts
If you ever wondered what it would taste like if a blueberry muffin and a doughnut had a baby, head to Gilbert's Good Donut. The East Valley eatery has a hybrid that breakfast lovers have been hoping for: the blueberry cake doughnut. Sure, it may it not look like much. In truth, the shop hardly gives it any more attention than it does the maple bar or the Boston cream, but like any good underdog, it just needs one chance to show you what it's made of — literally. The interior of this cake confection is bursting with semi-sweet berry flavor, infused with actual pieces of blueberry inside and out. It may not be as pretty as some of the other doughnuts in the display case, but it certainly wins our vote for best personality.
Apple fritter at Bosa Donuts
An apple fritter a day may not keep the doctor away, but it certainly keeps some steady foot traffic at Bosa Donuts in Phoenix. The Arcadia hot spot caters to eager early birds as much as it does hungry night owls by keeping its doors open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. As a bonus for those in a rush or in their sweatpants, the Bosa folks will also save you time and dignity by serving you at their very own drive-thru window. While this quaint doughnut hole offers the usual selection of glazed, cake, and powdered confections, our favorite by far is the apple fritter. The fritter's exterior delivers more texture and substance that your average circle doughnut while the inside offers a soft pastry filling with real apple swirl. Don't let the name fool you; this sweet treat is not to be wasted.