Aurora Donuts

The parking lot–scape of northerly Aurora Avenue looks much as it did when American autos ruled American life. Ditto, to the max, for the doughnut shop at the front of this shopping center complex, with its groovy orange shingle roof and signage only a smidgen removed from a past identity as a Dunkin’. However family owners make classics with care: double chocolates, twists, a half dozen types of doughnut hole and a really lovely honey-dipped. Cake doughnuts and old-fashioneds come out of the fryer with a bit more crunch than they do elsewhere, a nice change of pace. Prices remain as retro as the atmosphere. Bitter Lake

Lemon custard is always on the menu at General Porpoise.

General Porpoise

The famed yeasted rounds from London’s St. John bakery inspired Renee Erickson’s doughnut shops, now a duo of locations in Laurelhurst and on Capitol Hill (and also for sale at the Whale Wins). The menu is focused: Maybe five flavors of cream, jam, or curd filled sugar-dusted brioche moons. A few seasonal flavors (quince jam, pistachio cream, tiramisu) rotate among standards like vanilla custard and the lemon curd that tastes like British springtime. A pair of hot pink La Marzocco espresso machines drive a multi-roaster coffee program that’s every bit as impressive as the doughnuts. Visit the Laurelhurst location early enough and you can snag some unfilled less-than-perfect doughnuts from the main kitchen. Capitol Hill, Laurelhurst 

Donut Factory

Bakers work three shifts, nearly around the clock, to produce an astonishing 60-plus doughnut varieties. By morning, cake doughnuts sport every sprinkle iteration you can imagine, while rows of raised doughnuts are bedecked in flair—smoky bacon, Fruity Pebbles, even a full-size peanut butter cup lounging on a field of chocolate glaze. Customers can also special order alphabet-shaped doughnuts to spell out prom asks, birthday wishes, or other salutations that might benefit from fried dough. Not that Donut Factory is all about novelty. The case contains exemplary crullers, fritters, Bavarians, cinnamon roll–esque Pershings, and the shops’ best seller, a feather-light classic maple bar. Lynnwood, University District

At Raised Doughnuts, Mi Kim does magical things with freeze-dried raspberry dust.

Raised Doughnuts

Genuinely original creations hail from the busy mind of co-owner (and former Macrina head pastry chef) Mi Kim. While Raised does right by a few classics, good luck passing up monthly specials like caramel crunch crullers, or an orange-glazed classic topped with a squiggle of burnt sugar. Kim was also an early Seattle proponent of mochi doughnuts, with their singular texture. Even her doughnut holes, coated in freeze-dried raspberry dust, make innovation delicious. Kim posts each month’s flavors about 10 days in advance, but the weekend specials—a Friday cruller, Saturday’s everything bagel–inspired doughnut, and a filled confection on Sundays—are similarly adventurous. Online ordering, introduced during the pandemic, means doughnuts don’t sell out as quickly as they did in the early days. Raised Doughnuts has secured a larger space in the new development going up across the way, but won’t make the leap across 23rd Avenue until early 2022. Central District

Frost

Over the years, Mill Creek’s mighty doughnut destination has expanded into festive macarons and savory breakfast and lunch fare, but its calling card remains the same: A riotous rainbow of cake and yeasted doughnuts come in flavors like caramel apple, white chocolate raspberry, or Aztec chocolate, fiery with cinnamon and cayenne. But even gonzo creations (say, a bismark studded with bits of potato chip or Andes mints) are built with culinary intention, and unadorned classics like the glazed old -ashioned or cake doughnuts with sprinkles shine just as bright. Mill Creek

Experiments with chai yielded the Mighty-O french toast cake doughnut. 

Mighty-O Donuts

In the early aughts, this fledgling company set out to make organic doughnuts that reflected careful sourcing and environmental sensibilities. Along the way, Mighty-o embraced entirely plant-based recipes and became an unintended boon to Seattle’s sweet-toothed vegans. The lineup of mostly cake doughnuts (plus the requisite raised twists, bars, and fritters) is equally beloved by omnivores, who appreciate the texture, and familiar, yet finessed flavors like chocolate topped with peanut butter, or raspberry-glazed vanilla. Early experiments pouring chai into doughnut mix yielded the epically excellent french toast doughnut. A recent growth spurt produced a handful of shops around Seattle. Ballard, Capitol Hill, Denny Triangle, Downtown (currently closed), Greenlake

Family Donut

At the traffic-addled crossroads of Northgate, in a strip mall storefront the size of a guest bedroom, owner Pete Thav and his siblings pour coffee and box up fresh doughnuts for fiercely loyal regulars. Though the room is small, the counter is mighty. The family gets cranking not too long after midnight to fill its trays with multiple styles and endless variations on the classics. A rainbow of icing (Lemon! Orange! Blueberry!) coat tender cake doughnuts; twists glisten with chocolate or vanilla, and nearby apple fritters are roughly the size of a personal pan pizza. The decision-making process would be overwhelming if Thav weren’t there to help you decide between plain chocolate, chocolate-coconut, or chocolate with sprinkles. Northgate

Top Pot makes a slew of old fashioneds.

Top Pot Doughnuts and Coffee

Nearly two decades in, Seattle’s hometown doughnut chain is as ingrained in our psyche as Tom Douglas or the Seahawks. (Aww, remember when rookie player Golden Tate got busted trespassing in search of a fresh maple bar?) Top Pot channels the American doughnut shop’s mid-century heyday via smart modern design, and excels in matters of cake doughnuts and old-fashioneds. Coffee is reliably excellent and the feather boa, a classic cake round tricked out with icing and a flurry of shaved coconut, might be the closest thing Seattle has to a hometown doughnut. The original cafe on Fifth Avenue has spawned a score of shops from Bothell to Tacoma (though some remain closed at the moment). All over the place

Dona Queen Donut and Deli

The chipped pink counter and dimly lit seating area harken back to the era when people still called doughnuts “sinkers” and dunked them in strong coffee before heading off to work in SoDo’s industrial environs. This Fourth Avenue South strip mall kitchen has an alter ego, Deli Seoul, that puts out bulgogi and kimchi fried rice (not to mention the occasional BLT) but doughnuts are as Americana as they come. French crullers, chocolate peanut cake doughnuts, apple fritters, and cream-filleds transcend bougie doughnut trends, but are made with care, and all the more pleasure for costing about $2 a pop. SoDo

Erik Jackson and Alison Odowski make classic doughnuts with the occasional smart (and salty) twist.

Good Day Donuts

Erik Jackson and Alison Odowski had fried nary a twist or bear claw when they bought this amiable White Center doughnut shop situated next to a weed store and laundromat. Now, Good Day is both a neighborhood hub and a culinary landmark for doughnut fans who appreciate Jackson’s chef sensibility; he previously headed the kitchen at Vendemmia. Good Day’s strip mall address has a friendly “furnished by Goodwill” vibe, but the doughnuts are impeccable. Jackson keeps things classic (this is a no-bacon zone), and scratch-made (the pink glaze on the Homerian sprinkle doughnuts tastes of real raspberries). The couple’s culinary background is still evident—in the breakfast sandwiches, the lunchtime subs, the regular popup dinners, and the sea salt–glazed raised doughnuts that aren’t technically a classic. Yet. White Center

Dochi's Matcha Mochi, topped with pistachios.

Dochi

The uproar that surrounded Dochi’s arrival invited disbelief: All that hype? Over a doughnut? The Orlando-based brand expanded first to Chinatown–International District (limited hours, in Uwajimaya’s food court), then to Tukwila, inside the shiny new Lam’s Seafood. Dochi is all about the mochi doughnut: fried pop bead rings of glutinous rice that deliver a chewy, complex experience, rather than bear claw–style sugar saturation. With a few thrilling exceptions (say, anything that involves cookie butter), adventurous icing combos like matcha Oreo and taro pebbles remain mostly a flavor footnote to that awesome texture. See you in line. Chinatown–International District, Tukwila

The Flour Box

It’s pretty incredible that owner Pamela Vuong taught herself the art of ethereal brioche doughnuts, which she pipes full of sophisticated cross-cultural combos like coconut milk pudding with tapioca balls, Thai tea cream, or roasted banana, each doughnut’s contents poking from the top with some sort of artful flourish. The Flour Box began as a popup, then transformed a former chicken shop in Hillman City into an inviting bakery—where customers can’t yet enjoy the cushiony seating and it’s always a good idea to preorder your mixed box a week in advance. Here a menu broader than its popup predecessor might include beignets or cookies or giant cinnamon rolls, but always the signature creme brulee doughnuts, with their topper of torched sugar. Hillman City

Fresh fried creations from 9th and Hennepin might include an oatmeal cake doughnut with maple-cinnamon sugar and filled brioche thumbprints with cheescake custard and jam. 

9th and Hennepin

Inside a commissary kitchen in Delridge, Justin Newstrum subverts doughnuts’ identity from something you grab on the way to a meeting into an event that involves advance orders, a 10-minute pickup window, and a socially distanced sidewalk handoff. But when someone places that box of warm doughnuts, direct from the fryer, in your hands, you understand. The setup, necessarily, evolved this year from 9th and Hennepin’s origins as a farmers market favorite, but the doughnut philosophy remains the same. Newstrum fries to order and draws inspiration from classic French and Italian savory dishes—apple, fennel, and lemon work in a salad, so why not a fritter? 9th and Hennepin offers four well-considered doughnut adventures each week (one cake, one yeasted, one fritter, and one wild card), for pickup on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Delridge

Daily Dozen

In the heart of Pike Place Market, a hypnotic machine (official name: the Mark II Donut Robot) drops rings of yeasted dough into hot oil, then conveys them on a journey from pale and raw to golden-fried confection. The miniature doughnuts that come out the other end are perfectly nice, doused in cinnamon, powdered sugar, sprinkles, or maple and bacon. But the Donut Robot is perhaps the most public tribute to Seattle’s little-known doughnut legacy. Belshaw, a Seattle company founded in 1923, was one of the first to automate doughnut-making; its machines helped transform fried dough rings from homespun treat (a dangerous one, thanks to all that boiling oil) into something you buy at a shop. Today the company is headquartered in Auburn and known as Belshaw Adamatic after a 2007 merger, but remains one of the world’s largest makers of doughnut equipment. Pike Place Market

The Donut Lab

A few years back, Craig Yamada’s wife kept trying to check out cool local popups, but often came away thwarted and frustrated after waiting in line for food that quickly sold out. So, for her birthday, Yamada did what any good husband would: He devised a malasada popup of sorts in the couple's own kitchen. Three years later, the Donut Lab has built a fan base, especially among homesick Hawaiians—while malasadas trace their roots to Portugal, the balls of fried yeast dough are practically an official snack in our 50th state. Yamada’s version nods to the filled brioche doughnuts popular in Seattle right now; he pipes his sugar-dusted malasadas full of tropical flavors like haupia, guava, or macadamia nut, but also dabbles in flavors like eggnog or Nutella. He runs the Donut Lab on top of a full-time career and dad duties, but the unusual pickup is part of the fun: Preorder (one dozen minimum) for pickup on Saturdays only, and you’ll receive instructions for a handoff in Yamada’s residential Renton driveway. Renton 

A colossal fritter from Half and Half Doughnut Co.

Half and Half Doughnuts

Biscuits and jam, great coffee, and various sous vide eggs make it clear, the former Sun Liquor distillery on Pike Street is now a morning-time destination. And yet the doughnut case, arranged with jeweler precision, draws a ton of inspiration from dessert. Top Pot cofounder Michael Klebeck partnered with Christine Cannon for this unrelated doughnut newcomer, less about classics than about pineapple cardamom cronuts, creamsicle old-fashioneds, and stuffed “bombas” inspired by s’mores or bananas foster. Though Half and Half’s at its best when it remixes nostalgia, lacing mini doughnuts with cherry cola, or finding flavor inspiration in banana pancakes. Mini cronuts and old-fashioneds let you partake without needing an immediate nap. Capitol Hill

King Donuts

Newish owners did away with the laundromat part of the equation, but retained the kitchen’s dual embrace of doughnuts and savory food—these days mostly yakisoba, fried rice, and Thai noodle dishes. King Donuts, which dates back to 2003, is culturally notable as part of the West Coast network of Cambodian refugees who seized upon entrepreneurship in the form of doughnut stores. It’s also notable because the doughnuts are terrific. The compact case holds mostly classics; buttermilk bars taste of actual buttermilk, and yeasted doughnuts have enough heft to win over cake-style devotees. Come after 8am to ensure it’s fully filled. Rainier Valley

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