A Squared: A Chicago Tour de Donuts

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Chicago Tour de Donuts

Confession: More than once on this blog I have said that "I'm not really a donut fan," yet I continue to eat them and tell you all about them. To be fair, I wasn't lying to you. As a kid I loved donuts, but the older I got the less I enjoyed them. I mean, let's be honest: grocery store and chain restaurant donuts are just not that good. They can be stale, too sweet, boring, or sometimes taste like cigarettes... tell me I am not the only one that has experienced that disgusting phenomenon before. In fact, the only donuts that I recall enjoying in the past decade are the delightful homemade ones found at Allie's Donuts back in my home state of Rhode Island. If you visit, do yourself a favor and stop in for a frosted donut with sprinkles.
So yes, it was true that I didn't really enjoy donuts. That is, until recently. Chicago has suddenly become a hub for boutique donut shops. They are popping up everywhere-- each one with a more eclectic and out-of-the-box menu than the next. I probably wouldn't have jumped on the bandwagon so quickly, but I happen to be married to a donut connoisseur and he loves nothing more than starting a Sunday morning with a donut or three. So, I have gone along for the ride and together we have taste tasted Chicago's newest donut joints, compared our experiences, and I'm here to tell you all about them-- what makes them special and more importantly, what to order!

The next time you're in Chicago and a donut craving hits you, here are our thoughts: counting down to our favorite one of all...

5. Do-Rite Donuts
The Loop 
Who they are... A tiny donut stall in the heart of the Loop where Petterino's on the Go used to be located. There is no seating indoors-- or standing room for that matter. Go in, order your donuts, and be on your way or enjoy them al fresco at one of their outdoor tables.
How they are different... This is really the only boutique donut joint you will find in the Loop. The selection isn't quite as vast as some of the others on this list, but they pride themselves on turning them out in small batches to guarantee freshness. Also, they have gluten-free and vegan options. You can't say that for many (or any?) donut shops!
What to order... the Lemon Old Fashioned. The cakey donut is delicious and the lemony tartness of the glaze is fresh and keeps the donut from being too sugary sweet.
Do-Rite Donuts on Urbanspoon

4. Beaver's Coffee + Donuts
Fulton River District
Who they are... A food stall in the Chicago French Market and a food truck too. Enjoy them at the French Market's cafe area or on the go wherever you can find the truck. Follow them on Twitter @BeaversDonuts to keep tabs on their location.
How they are different... Beaver's donuts are miniature! They are also customizable. You order your desired quantity of plain mini donuts and then add on the toppings of your choice. They have the traditional powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar, but their gourmet topping selection is where it's at: fruit, peanut butter, Nutella... the list goes on. Alex likened them to "donut nachos."
What to order... Nutella Dream. It's a super sweet combination of little donuts topped with drizzled Nutella and strawberry sauce. 
Beavers Donuts on Urbanspoon

3. Firecakes
River North 
Who they are... A tiny standing room only donut shop (like Do-Rite) right in the middle of the bustling River North neighborhood. Unfortunately, there is no indoor or outdoor seating here but this would be a great place to grab donuts for a special coworker or to buy breakfast to enjoy a few blocks away on the River, like we did.
How they are different... They offer super fancy flavor combinations like Goat Cheese Iced Banana Black Walnut and Valrhona Chocolate & Espresso Cream. They also offer late night hours (open until midnight Wednesday-Saturday). And did I mention the donut ice cream sandwich? I haven't had one [yet], but it's a honey glazed donut split in half with homemade vanilla or espresso ice cream inside. I just can't...
What to order... Ice cream sandwich aside, the Chocolate Hazelnut Longjohn because the chocolatey pudding filling and the touch of Nutella flavor was really rich and delicious. I also loved the Coconut Cream donut, but Alex does not enjoy coconut so I reviewed that one solo.
Firecakes on Urbanspoon
2. Glazed & Infused
Various Locations
Who they are... A local boutique donut chain with locations in the West Loop (our go to), Wicker Park (window only), River North, Streeterville, and Lincoln Park. Their numerous locations with varying hours of operation guarantee that you can find a superior donut no matter where you are in the city.
How they are different... We love Glazed for their variety of interesting and delicious donut flavors. At their larger stores they are always featuring at least a dozen (if not more) donut flavors, making it difficult to choose. Like Firecakes, their unique flavors are their trademark: they're especially famous for their Maple Bacon Long John. Also, you can dine in here! The West Loop and River North locations both offer cafe seating so that you can hang out and enjoy your donuts there.
What to order... Alex and I differ here. I am a huge fan of their classic Apple Fritter: it's even better than the ones I remember from my childhood. My husband is all about the Red Velvet Cake Donut-- rich, dense, and topped with cream cheese frosting.
Glazed & Infused on Urbanspoon

1. Doughnut Vault
River North 
Who they are... The best donut shop ever. They're so cool they don't even have a real website, just a tumblr. Doughnut Vault is a tiny little space (it fits maybe 3-4 standing adults) behind the trendy Gilt Bar restaurant and the birthplace of Chicago's gourmet donut craze.
How they are different... It is THE place to eat donuts. They open early in the morning (Tuesday-Saturday only) and stay open until they sell out. Rain or shine, there is usually a line around the block waiting to enter the Doughnut Vault. They also regularly tweet inventory updates like "sold out of jelly-filled and 2 dozen gingerbread stacks left!"
What to order... They are all so good, but if we had to choose it would be the Chocolate Glazed. It's huge, soft and chewy with a light, but still rich chocolate glaze with chocolate sprinkles.
The Doughnut Vault on Urbanspoon


  1. I'm not a big donut person either, but my husband sure is. Glazed and Infused is right by our church in LP, so he always finds an excuse to go there:) Someone in my office brought in the ice cream filled donuts from Firecakes last week. I resisted the urge to taste one, but they sure looked good.

    1. I still don't consider myself a donut person, but these places are definitely changing my mind! And it sounds like our husbands have a lot in common when it comes to making any excuse for a good donut. :)


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