Time to Rate the Donuts: Meet Our 6 Favorite Treats
We came. We saw. We tasted. We went home with an enormous sugar high. Welcome to Chicago’s donut shop scene, the biggest craze since cupcakes. There’s no better way to try the goods than with kids in tow. The sweets our tiny eaters discovered had them convinced: There’s more to the breakfast snack than sprinkles. Follow us as we explore six top spots to get your donut fix.
Our Fave: Buttermilk Old Fashioned
Why We’re Sweet on It: It’s pure, dense, cake-y goodness that could make for an entire meal. Go early. This old-timer often sells out well before 9:00 am.
Honorable Mention: Gingerbread Stack’s generous cinnamon and sugar dusting spreads three sharable cake rings.
The Digs: As its name indicates, this spot is tiny. But we parents go crazy over anything coming out of a vault (limited-edition Disney movies, anyone?), so strap your little one in a baby carrier and brave the crowd.
The Wait: Those lines? They’re long – as in gourmet-hot-dog-and-duck-fat-fries long. Mercifully, the shop tweets updates on its inventory and wait time every few minutes. (Follow @doughnutvault)
Perks: Daily specials, like birthday cake, keep the four-feet-and-under crowd happy.
401 N. Franklin Street
Our Fave: Maple Bacon Long John
Why We’re Sweet on It: The peppery bacon strip atop a generous slather of maple glaze creates a toothsome favorite.
Honorable Mention: The rich, chewy Vanilla Bean Glazed is lusciously coated with Madagascar vanilla bean and is pillow-y like no other.
The Digs: A few tables and chairs at some locations offer welcome repose, which is great considering Captain Impatience will want to hunker down with that sugary ring. Like, now.
The Wait: Five locations and extended hours translate into better chances of instant gratification. Don’t be put off by lines; they move fast.
Perks: The newest Lincoln Park location can hold birthday parties and showers, and is a perfect after-school pit stop. It’s open weekdays until 7:00 pm.
Multiple locations (312-226-5556)
Our Fave: Funky Monkey
Why We’re Sweet on It: It’s small, warm, crisp and buttery. Oh, and did we mention it’s dressed with sliced bananas and Nutella?
Honorable Mention: The PB&J (which is topped with peanut butter sauce and strawberry sauce) re-introduces you to the best pairing since mac ‘n’ cheese.
The Digs: Beavers recently expanded from a food truck to a permanent location in Chicago French Market. Look for the stand across from City Fresh.
The Wait: They’re new to the Market and still undiscovered, so wait time is minimal. When it picks up, though, neighboring vendors are sure to occupy stalled patrons.
Perks: Beaver stickers keep little ones happy while they wait, and a free half-dozen (plus a party hat!) on their birthday makes growing older sweet.
131 N. Clinton Street
Our Fave: Pistachio-Meyer Lemon
Why We’re Sweet on It: Light citrus glaze balances a generous smattering of pistachios and is a welcome departure from heavy flavors.
Honorable Mention: Any of the vegan and gluten-free options. They abound in flavors like Coffee Glazed and Carrot Cake, and rotate daily.
The Digs: What it lacks in space and decor it makes up in bright and chipper service.
The Wait: Foot traffic can get heavy, so come early or on a dreary day.
Perks: Ice-cold Horizon milk cartons for the kids are on hand. So is call-ahead curbside service to take the edge off your morning commute.
50 W. Randolph Street
Our Fave: Chocolate Iced Bavarian
Why We’re Sweet on It: Spunky Dunkers had a cult following long before its hipster counterparts. The reason? The Bavarian’s velvety custard is worth the trek to the burbs.
Honorable Mention: Traditionalists will delight in the classic, melt-in-your-mouth French Twist.
The Digs: The retro sign and diner stools are a warm dose of nostalgia. It’s homey and inviting, with refreshingly ample space to park your stroller.
The Wait: Even if you count the 40-minute drive from the city, you come out ahead of the hour-long lines of other places. Plus, the original Palatine location is open 24 hours.
Perks: Good coffee for you; great hot chocolate for them.
20 N. Northwest Highway, Palatine (847-358-7935) & 3441 N. Arlington Heights Road (847-255-6677)
Our Fave: Triple Valrhona Chocolate Cake
Why We’re Sweet on It: Chocolate cake, chocolate icing and cocoa nibs add up to confection perfection. Somehow, it satisfies a craving without being cloyingly sweet.
Honorable Mention: Sound the alarm for Maple Glazed Pineapple & Bacon, the tastiest mix of sweet and savory this side of the Mississippi.
The Digs: Gourmet doughnuts and tight quarters go hand in hand (this one’s a mere 600 square feet), but it’s cozy all the same.
The Wait: Take advantage of the new kid on the bakery block and the modest wait.
Perks: Kids can wash down their snack with organic whole or 2% milk. There’s La Colombe coffee for you.
68 W. Hubbard Street
Where do you satisfy your donut craving?
– Selena Kohng
Photos: Courtesy of The Doughnut Vault; courtesy of Glazed & Infused; courtesy of Beavers Donuts; courtesy of Do-Rite Donuts; courtesy of Spunky Dunkers; courtesy of Firecakes’ Facebook page.