Chicagoans can take what others consider to be light-hearted pursuits and turn them into very serious endeavors — just ask them about them about their world-class improv comedy or their distinct style of pizza. Donuts, it turns out, are another heady undertaking, and it turns out that all that seriousness pays off in some fantastic donut experiences.
Donuts are no longer only for breakfast. They’re for lunch, dinner, dessert and dissertations.
Who knew taking a trip to the Windy City could get even better than it already was? Book your hotel, pack your running shoes or pack some pants with some give. The donut-scape in Chicago is a must-taste.
Firecakes makes all their donuts based around an heirloom recipe created by a relative of chef/owner Jonathan Fox. Priced between $2 and $3, each Firecakes donut is made from scratch in small batches using all-natural ingredients. They have yeast and cake donuts, and their varieties will satisfy traditionalists and lovers of the donut avant-garde. Some of their many highlights include:
• Honey-glazed • Triple Valrhona chocolate • Classic jelly-filled • Old-fashioned buttermilk • Holiday eggnog
Another small-batch-donut-making haven, Do-Rite is a gourmet donut shop that opens its doors each day at 6:30am, and they work hard to strike that fine balance between über-fresh and fresh out. They feature a wide variety of fantastic offerings including daily rotating vegan and gluten-free specials. They deliver, and they’ll even bring your donuts out to your car if you’re in a hurry. Some of their best are:
• Meyer lemon • Butterscotch • Hot chocolate • Seasonal fruit fritter
Nightwood’s Sunday Brunch Donuts
Their donut menu (like their regular one) changes frequently, but whatever donuts they have on hand are certainly worth eating. Past highlights include their bacon butterscotch donut (which is almost always on the menu) and their chocolate cherry cashew donut.
These may be the most expensive donuts in Chicago at $5 a piece (plus the tip you leave your server), but if you consider the rules of supply and demand — you can only get them at Sunday brunch — it makes sense.
Glazed and Infused
Glazed and Infused does gourmet donuts as well as anybody, but it’s their special take on traditional donuts that makes them special. Do you like your donuts jelly-filled? They’ve got them, but on Monday, that might mean a donut with a creamsicle center, while on Tuesday that same donut might be filled with peach iced tea jam or lavender compote. They also have multiple locations, which is nice if you’re a loyalist who gets around town. Be sure to try these when you stop in:
• Crunchy PB&J • Maple bacon long john • Cinnamon roll
The Doughnut Vault
This little gem is located next to the Merchandise Mart. Closed Sundays and Mondays, the Doughnut Vault serves big, fluffy donuts that usually feature seasonal ingredients. Their menu changes often, and while they don’t do extreme donut flavors like others on this list, the familiar flavor combinations definitely satisfy. Whether it’s a double chocolate yellow cake filled with raspberry or a salted caramel donut, it’s tasty and always fresh.
Still owned and operated by the Dinkel family, these traditional donuts are made and fried fresh each day alongside a host of other traditional German baked goods. Committed to the environment and sustainability, Dinkel’s works hard to source their ingredients as close to their shop as they can, buying wheat, eggs and dairy from Wisconsin and Dakota farms.
They also use organic ingredients as much as possible. When it comes to donuts, they’ve got all the usual suspects, plus a Wednesday donut deal that lets you get a half dozen for $5.99.
Visiting Chicago has been a good bet for a long time. From the Bulls to the arts to the shopping, the city is anything but dull, and now that it boasts such a robust donut scene, you might find it’s moved to the top of your “Favorite Places to Visit” list.