Donuts: Chicago’s New Cupcake

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Last summer, the donut god came to Chicago in the form of Sprinkles in the city’s Gold Coast area, and hung around through our first bite of Crumbs, which popped up this past winter. The city has no shortage of trendy dessert options, but as a So Cal native, there’s something about the memory of waking up early on Saturday mornings to beat the dawn patrol surfers to the last apple fritter at V.G. Donuts. Suffice to say, I have a soft spot for the hole-y delights, and Chicago does, too, because they keep raining down on our fair city as if from donut heaven.


The Doughnut Vault, barely two months old, takes me back to my San Diego days. Not because there’s anything beachy about this pint-size spot, but because people actually line up, dozens deep, at 8 in the morning to sample one (or 5) of its many flavors of cakey, yeasty delights. Only early-risers, or their fortunate friends, can indulge in these amazing deep-fried wonders, which come in such varieties as old-fashioned buttermilk, gingerbread and chocolate, vanilla, or chestnut glazed. The Vault, which, true to its name, actually serves donuts out of an old bank vault, opens around 8:30am Tuesday through Friday and 9:30am on Saturdays, closing approximately 90 minutes later when they sell out. Follow them on Twitter to stay in the know.

If you’d rather not wait it out, consider Dirty Betty’s, the weekday morning alter-ego of Lincoln Park’s Cookie Bar. The cash-only spot offers up ten baked varieties, including the newfangled half-donut, a dough-brownie hybrid that’s all but impossible to resist. Or, kick it old-school and hit up Dat Donut, a South Side establishment with a stamp of approval from Bon Appetit, which labeled the shop one of the top-ten donut spots in the country.

Wherever you end up, you’ll see that Chicago is no longer a donut backwater with only insipid, mass-market offerings. We’re gonna need some coffee here, fast.