These days, a maple bacon doughnut is about unexpected as the standard rainbow-sprinkled variety — and in the midst of the red velvet craze, it's not surprising to find a fried rendition of the ruby cake amongst the glazed, the twisted, and the old-fashioned.
Still, though L.A. has been dubbed the Doughnut Capital of America, not every corner doughnut shop carries these and other non-traditional creations, so we've hunted down the best spots for unique high-end doughnuts: everything from green tea and orange pistachio to Fruity Pebbles and Irish car bomb. Oh yeah, we also caught a bite of the cronut along the way.
Fōnuts is everything one would expect from a Los Angeles artisan doughnut shop, from its happening location on 3rd, to its modern and upscale interior, to their large gluten-free and vegan menu. But, and this could be a contentious matter, their doughnuts are not fried. We do realize that by definition a doughnut is fried, but hey, this is L.A. and it's 2013 and there's room for expansion. Their strawberry buttermilk and and blueberry Earl Grey cake doughnuts, filled with fresh berries and glazed with an icing of restrained saccharinity, defy physics with a rich but airy texture — unctuous and palatable in the same bite. Though the berry doughnuts are the stand-outs, honorable mentions include fresh rosemary and olive oil and chocolate hazelnut. And, given the unconventionality of the shop, it's not a surprise that the brainchild behind the concept is Waylynn Lucas, former executive pastry chef at The Bazaar. 8104 W 3rd St., Los Angeles; 323-592-3075.
The Nickel has become a real hot spot in the downtown hipster movement, but it's worthy of any Angeleno, transplant or tourist, high and low and of any age. They've been frying off a unique selection of doughnuts since 2008, long before most of the other shops on this list. Here you'll find an Irish car bomb doughnut sandwich with whiskey custard (and it is a bomb, the thing is double the size of an average doughnut), a standard raised doughnut smothered in Nutella and rolled in chopped hazelnuts, and a red velvet sandwich filled with whipped cream and chocolate chips. All of these doughnuts are made from brioche dough, except the red velvet, which gives them a texture heartier than the average yeast raised. They aren't dinky, so don't finish off those steak and eggs if you want to really savor them. 524 S Main St., Los Angeles; 213-623-8301.
Sk's Donuts and Croissants looks like your standard doughnut hole-in-the-wall, standing unceremoniously in a tiny nondescript strip mall near The Grove. Its worn sign does little justice to the array of goodness packed inside, which includes the hotly trending cronut. Not only do they make the cronut, they make it in four varieties: plain, custard, strawberry, and maple bacon. On that note, their maple bacon is arguably the best in town, a soft and simple maple-glazed yeast doughnut with big chunks (but not too many) of bacon, nothing fancy or heavy or overdone. Their red velvet cake doughnut, coated in a light powdered sugar glaze, is also one of the best. And, if you're craving standard doughnut fare, you can also dig into the old-fashioned, the twist, and the rainbow sprinkled. 5850 W 3rd St., Los Angeles; 323-935-2409.
If you want green tea and red bean doughnuts, visit Café Dulce in Little Tokyo. Now. Because these doughnuts, which practically levitate off the cooling racks in their fairy-lightness, are out of this world good and unlike anything in the Los Angeles doughnutscape. Though you can opt for a spirulina churro or a bacon doughnut hole, the green tea and red bean are the best. The former is rolled in sugar and filled with a delicate custard; and the latter, smartly dusted in cinnamon sugar, is filled with a meatier but still fluffy red bean paste. They also make some killer Fruity Pebble doughnut holes, along with a wide range of tea lattes including Gen Mai, Japanese Tea and Masala Chai. 134 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles; 213-346-9910.
Umamicatessen is a real cheffy spot, with multiple concepts within a concept, which, to the average schmo, can be slightly confusing. But who cares — their fried-to-order doughnuts are almost as thoughtfully conceived as a plated dessert at Cooks County. They certainly don't compromise on ingredients anyway, choosing Ceylon cinnamon over the cheaper cassia variety in their super scrumptious tres leches doughnut, which comes with the instructions, “Please allow 5 minutes to soak!” Their ace in the hole is the bread pudding, whiskey, dried fruit, zested orange and cream cheese concoction, a total taste and textural feat that hits so many frequencies of deliciousness it is nearly impossible to stop scarfing it down despite its richness. And, speaking of holes, they are kind enough to include them with each purchase, nestled in the doughnuts' centers. 852 Broadway, Los Angeles; 213-413-8626.
1. Donut Snob:
Despite their self-alleged snootiness, Donut Snob is the friendliest and most approachable enterprise on this list. But chef and owner Janeen Gudelj has the right to be snobby, because she puts out the freshest and most thoughtful yeast-raised doughnuts in the city. What's so great about her doughnuts is that they maintain the integrity of a classic raised while taking twists and turns with flavor profiles and top-quality ingredients that render a new experience with plenty of homage to the old. So, if you have a doughnut craving, these will satisfy your craving, and then some.
They take an unexpected turn with the bacon rendition, topping it with a cinnamon-orange glaze as opposed to the standard maple. Their lemon curd (Lemon LuLu) is well-composed with a perfect ratio of curd to dough, the Razzy Lemon, filled with raspberry coulis and topped with a lemon zest glaze and fresh raspberries, is, as their website proclaims, gorgeous, and the orange pistachio packs a bright punch. One bite tells you the doughnuts were fried in clean, high-quality oil just a few hours ago. (Yes, they change their fryer oil daily, which makes a massive impact on flavor and texture.) Donut Snob will cater your event and deliver a minimum dozen doughnuts to your doorstep, but they don't have one central shop. If you want to buy a doughnut or two at a time, head to Go Get Em Tiger in Larchmont, G&B Coffee at Grand Central Market downtown or Taza in Arcadia. www.thedonutsnob.com; 213-373-4898.
Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer and a pastry cook at Lucques. Follow her on Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.