I am obsessed with donuts. They are my absolute favorite junk food. Not only are they the epitome of colorful, soft, sugary heaven, but they are special because I can’t make good ones at home. I can bake a pretty good cupcake, so I’m not as enthusiastic about going out for one. Ice cream can be kept in your freezer, so I’m not that motivated to venture out for a cone. But can I have a fresh maple donut at my house anytime I want? No. Not one that’s not a disaster, anyway.
When it comes to my favorite donut spots, I’m kind of a Voodoo loyalist. Any time I go back to Portland, I make it a point to stop in. Voodoo Doughnuts, if you don’t know, is the originator of such popular donut trends as the maple bacon donut and all those cutesy cereal-covered varieties, at least I think they are. Correct me if I’m wrong, but supposedly a Voodoo is opening in the LA area at Universal CityWalk soon, but until then, I have to find other favorites in town.
I recently decided to go on a Donut Quest to find the best donuts in LA. (P.S. I did not include the famous Donut Man in Glendora, because I consider it too far outside of Los Angeles to make the cut.)
Here are my favorite spots, going West to East:
631 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica
Sidecar donuts in Santa Monica is the what I think of as the “fancy” donut spot. (Notice they are the only shop on this list to use the proper spelling of the word “doughnut” in their name. I’m not even using that spelling in this blog.) Each month, they change up their flavors, offering such classy fare as the “Fig and Goat Cheese” and the “Guava.” I fell for their s’mores flavor, which sounds a little more pedestrian . . . until you taste it. Their chocolate sauce is really amazing.
The most beautiful donut award goes to their Midsummer Garden Cake, a zucchini carrot cake topped with cream cheese and edible flowers. Usually, I’m one of those people that doesn’t think carrot cake counts as dessert, but this one has a delicate, multi-faceted flavor that I loved.
If you are looking for basic favorites, like a simple maple bar or jelly donut, this place might not be for you. But if you want new, creative flavors, or something a little more gourmet looking than a ‘nut covered in Fruity Pebbles, go to Sidecar.
2918 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
The second stop on our donut journey was Primo’s donuts in the Sawtelle area of West LA. This little spot has been around since 1956 (in LA years that’s super old) and thrives on the scarcity and mystery created when only enough of the specialty flavors are made so they don’t last past noon. As a night owl, this does not work for me. When I arrived at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, their most famous variety, the buttermilk, was sold out. That’s ok. I was more intrigued by the neon pink and orange varieties I had spotted on their Instagram account anyway.
The cherry and orange glazed donuts tasted as good as they looked. Not only are the frostings’ neon shades appealing, but the flavors are tart and unique. The cherry tastes a little like cherry and a little like bubble gum. The orange is a sugary, bold orange glaze with the tiniest specks of orange peel in it. I’m always a fan of a good old maple bar, so I took some of those, too.
SK DONUTS & CROISSANT
5850 W 3RD St, Los Angeles
Next, we landed at SK Donuts & Croissant on 3rd. This unassuming shop, located in a plain strip mall relatively near The Grove, hides some of the most aesthetically appealing, delicious donuts in the city. They carry all the typical fun flavors like bacon maple, fruity pebbles and s’mores, but they carry some less common flavor combos as well.
I lost my mind when I saw a donut that imitates my favorite Girl Scout cookie,the Samoa, but I would later learn that the Girl Scout thing has become quite the donut trend as I saw them at other shops later in the day.
My top recommendation is their buttermilk. The texture is melt-in-your-mouth good and the flavor is somehow a little more special than the average buttermilk. Another of my preferred varieties from SK is the sandwich-stacked strawberry-Nutella cronut. Also high on my list is their peanut butter chocolate chip. Don’t skip this one!
3540 W 3rd St, Los Angeles
A long-time favorite of my husband’s and mine, California Donuts, takes cute to the next level. Their signature cookies and cream panda bear donut is adorable and they go the extra mile with the cereal covered donuts. The electric, colored frostings they use make theirs some of the most Instagram worthy donuts in town. Indeed, this local donut shop has almost half a million followers on the ‘gram, which, compared to the competition, is pretty impressive.
Don’t forget to crack open a Snickers donut . . . yes, they bake a Snickers bar inside a donut.
California Donuts also wins points in my book for their adorable, midcentury style logo.
Parking for this location is not plentiful and there can sometimes be a bit of a line, but the staff is so nice they make it worth the time.
5107 York Blvd, Los Angeles
The last stop on our donut tour ended up being my favorite one. Donut Friend, located in Highland Park, has a donut bar where you can order a customized donut . . . but the flavors they offer on their regular menu are so good, I wasn’t even tempted to create my own. Look at the S’Morrissey and tell me you don’t want it!
Bonus: Donut Friend makes vegan donuts. I’m not a vegan, but I prefer to eat vegan when I can. Does that make sense? Just call me the laziest vegan wannabe on the planet. Anyway, I saw on their website that their Bacon 182 donut is a maple glaze with coconut bacon and I really wanted to get that one. I always skip maple bacon donuts because I don’t eat bacon and now I’m going to shut up about that because there is nothing more boring than listening to the nitpicky diet proclivities that make someone such a special snowflake.
My dreams of finally tasting a “bacon” donut were not to be realized that day, since the variety was sold out by the time I go to the shop. Despite that disappointment, the flavors I did get to try more than made up for it. Some of my favorites included the mixed-berry flavored Panda Berry and the one covered in rose water and lemon glaze, which reminded me of my favorite pastry from Laduree. My top pick was the strawberry shortcake donut. A perfectly crispy cake donut with whipped cream and strawberries was absolutely perfect.
What’s your favorite donut spot? I would love to know!