National Donut Day — yes, it’s a real thing — is always the first Friday in June. By all means, celebrate with a donut or three, or if you’re feeling really ambitious, run the table by sampling the wares at all our favorite donut stops. But really, don’t donuts deserve at least a month of their own? Declare this your own personal donut decade and go about your business.
And one more thing: Whether identified as a “doughnut” or the more informal “donut,” it’s always going to be carbtastic.
This Evanston stalwart celebrates the big day with glazed donuts for under a dollar, all day long in store. If you buy a dozen donuts, Bennison’s will donate $1 to the Salvation Army to aid needy veterans. Looking for flavor options? They’ve got you covered, from Old Fashioned and Chocolate-Glazed Cake Donuts to Maple Bacon Long Johns.
Once only open on weekends, popularity has necessitated more access to these yeasty wonders in North Evanston. Flavors rotate every two weeks, but favorites include the fanciful Fruity Pebbles, rich Nutella- or Lemon Curd-Filled, and the deep, dark Chocolate Ganache.
Did you know that their acclaimed Paczki are available year-round — not just on Fat Tuesday? That’s good news for all. The raspberry- and custard-filled varieties of these Polish donuts are always available, but if you order ahead, other flavors are an option. They also have “American” donuts, such as Long Johns, Chocolate Sprinkles, and more.
As one would expect from chefs Jeff Mahin and Francis Brennan, Do-Rite caters to every diet (except, well, the fat-free kind) with three gluten-free (Birthday Cake, Valrhona Chocolate Glazed, and Cinnamon & Sugar) and three vegan options (the Spiced Maple Chai is everything you crave in a donut) every day, along with their spot-on takes on the classics, like the simple, pillowy happiness of the Vanilla Bean Glazed. But my money’s on the Pistachio-Meyer Lemon, a cake donut with bright and herbal notes, and just the right amount of sweetness. The best news? With locations in Streeterville, The Loop, and West Loop, you’re never very far away from the mother lode.
Tucked around the corner from the Merch Mart is the tiny original location of Brendan Sodikoff and Hogsalt Hospitality’s Doughnut Vault, where the hours are specified as “8 a.m. ‘til sold out.” These are highly sought-after donuts, and with a second location on Canal Street, you might just be able to snag one. Their inventive riffs on the Old Fashioned, cake donuts with a crunchy, craggy exterior crust, are not to be missed. Be on the lookout for the Mocha-Coconut, the Blueberry with Crumble, and the sweet-tart Pink Lemonade variations.
Long-time Chicago chef Jonathan Fox and his donut-obsessed wife, Karen, opened the first Firecakes storefront in River North five years ago; now, they’ve got stores in Lincoln Park and Oak Park, with The Loop not far behind (not to mention “Billy the Truck”). Not surprisingly, it’s the cheffy touches, like glazing with wildflower honey rather than sugar, sourcing Tahitian vanilla and Valhrona chocolate for icing, or decorating a Birthday Cake donut to the nines, that make these donuts extra special. If you want the bacon on top of your Maple Long John to be both candied and peppered, this is your paradise. Personally, I’d walk across town for their Coconut Cream donut, topped with luscious coconut pastry cream and large flakes of toasted coconut.
Small-batch donuts are the name of the game at this adorable Glenview spot, where they bypass preservatives and trans fats in favor of natural ingredients, making all of the jams and fillings in-house. The Boston Cream, stuffed with rich pastry cream and glazed with shiny ganache, and the oh-so-springy Strawberry Glazed are highlights.
High Priestess of all things sweet, Mindy Segal has been killing it in the pastry department for years. The somewhat recent addition of donuts to her repertoire is a good one, and what glorious donuts they are: square-shaped, with a heart-shaped doughnut hole, they are tender and sweet and will make you very, very happy indeed. Choose from Cinnamon Sugar, Violet Sugar, Salted Caramel Glazed, or Hot Fudge Glazed and thank me later.
A partnership of L.A.’s Stan’s Donuts with our homegrown Labriola Baking Company, the Chicago version may not be quite as star-struck, but wow, do they know how to donut. Now open in nine Chicagoland locations (with a 10th coming soon to Oak Brook Terrace), you can load up on their Standard (Glazed, Powdered Sugar, Plain Old Fashioned), Dough Boy’s Best (Peanut Butter Banana Pocket, Glazed Pretzel), and Specialty (Raspberry Bismark, Glazed Orange Old Fashioned, Dreamsicle Bar) donuts, as well as a small selection of “glutenless” donuts, and wash it down with Stan’s Dark Roast coffee (another happy partnership, this one with local Passion House Coffee Roasters).
Bonus Round: Restaurant Donuts
The millennials are going crazy for Bar Siena’s (literal) side concept, where you can walk up to the window on Green Street and order “Top Chef” favorite Fabio Viviani’s hole-free Italian doughnuts that you fill yourself with a tiny squeeze bottle of custard, salted caramel, Nutella, or other deliciousness. If you’re really feeling frisky, order the Bombolato filled with vanilla gelato, smoked caramel, and Fruity Pebbles cereal.
Can we just talk about the brunch donuts here for a minute? Especially the Caramel Corn donut, because it’s insane? Essentially, it’s a light and airy brioche donut topped with buttery salted caramel and crushed popcorn, with shards of sticky caramel corn decorating the top for good measure, and I can’t get enough of it. Come for the caviar, stay for the donut.
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.