Our love for doughnuts runs deep. Long before they were trendy, we were seeking out the best donut in the neighborhood and sharing them with anyone willing to head out on a donut crawl with us. Want to come too? There are many dunkers who’ve flunked – so we’re saving you from the bad bites and going straight for the tastiest treats. Prepare your tastebuds for our Top 3 in The Windy City:
DOUGHNUT VAULT 400 N. Franklin Street – Jon’s pick $3.50
We stumbled upon this cult favorite by chance on our first trip to the city almost ten years ago. We got off the El train in the wrong spot; hauling all of our suitcases, not properly dressed, and literally ran into a line of people around the block (you can spot us in the line, here!). What were these people waiting hours for in the grueling summer sun? Donuts. So we did what any normal person would do and joined the ever-growing line.
Since then we’ve been back more times than we can count, brought every one of our visitors here to experience it for themselves, and still love it as much as the first bite a decade ago. The texture is what brings these halos to the next level. Jon loves the vanilla bean (which you can find most days), and my absolute all-time favorite is the wedding cake. That one is a revolving specialty so check their social channels to see what the donut of the day is (birthday cake is also a must!!).
- You’ll find it line-free right after 8am on most winter weekdays. Any time after opening, always check twitter first to make sure they have some left. Speaking of twitter, sometimes they honor your specialty requests (and have for us multiple times) so it’s always worth a try!
- The Vault Van that hangs outside the Green City market in Lincoln Park on Saturdays isn’t the same. Maybe it’s the experience, but having them downtown always tastes better.
FIRECAKES – 2453 N. Clark Street (LP), 68 W. Hubbard Street – $2.95
Sometimes if the line at the Vault is too deep, we walk just around the corner for a Firecakes fill-up. Even though it’s second on our list; there is nothing second-best about the most extra, and delicious vanilla cake donut you will ever try. The light, fluffy, and yet slightly chewy bite in the center cannot be beat. To add to the texture parade in your mouth, the nonpareils swimming in the frosting on top give you a welcomed crunch. We’ve tried a bunch from here, and this is without question the overall winner we beg you not to skip. Even though it’s the size of your head, you won’t bat an eye at polishing this one off solo. The frosting has a sour cream hint to it, not allowing it to get to the sicky sweet level that turns us off from most of the donuts that didn’t make the cut.
Pro Tip: We love strolling over to their Clark Street location in the summertime for the best ((donut)) ice cream sandwich in town!
DINKEL’S – 3329 N. Lincoln Avenue (Lakeview) – Kaylea’s pick $1.95
This old school gem has been around since 1922 (that’s almost a century of donuts!) and can sometimes get overshadowed by the Big Box instagram favorites (cough, Stans), but this is one you CANNOT SKIP. Dinkel’s falls right in the middle of “stroller row” in Lakeview, is incredibly family friendly, and has ample space to stay for a bit and make a date of it. Having tried nearly every donut this city has to offer, we stand by their old fashioned classics – like the frosted cake donut with sprinkles and the simple glazed.
Every one we’ve tried goes down easy. They’ve mastered what feels like an un-masterable recipe of light, yet filling. They aren’t greasy or over-fried, and the frosting is more fudgy than a too-sweet sugary icing if that makes sense. Grey votes for the vanilla or chocolate with sprinkles, Jon is all in on the Boston cream and mine is the cinnamon old fashioned. You can’t go wrong with any!
- Go early to get them hot out of the oven (and to save yourself a seat). We mentioned Stroller Row above, and in reality, the droves of strollers heading for this joint are a sight to be seen on the weekends. But the good news is, it must take them a while to get up and around; slide in before 8am on Saturdays and you’ll have the place to yourself!
- Go for lunch! We recently tried some of their savory sandwiches and cannot stop raving about them. They even have vegan options! They bake all of their own bread (which you can grab a loaf to take home) and it is one of the top sandwiches in the neighborhood by far.
Thanks for coming on a crawl with us! Wouldn’t that be fun if we could do that in real life some day?! In the meantime, let us know if we missed one you love – we’re always looking for new places to try!