The best doughnuts in St. Louis

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The best of the best

☘ Congratulations to Shamrock Donuts, the winner of St. Louis Magazine’s Doughnut Shop Showdown!

Best 24/7 Shop: Old Town Donuts

That “Donut Man” logo can be a little creepy at 2 a.m., but hey, it’s the middle of the night and you have to expect a little weirdness. Old Town’s the place for excellent doughnuts and pastries around the clock. It’s gloriously friendly, with daily specials. 508 New Florissant.

Doughnut or Donut?

Frankly, we prefer oly koeks—“oily cakes”—the name used by New York’s early Dutch settlers, who invented them. (We’d also prefer them fried in lard, as they originally were.) If we must pick, though, we’ll embrace “doughnuts,” because in a world of “rite,” “nite,” “brite,” and “lite,” we think that some words should be spelled in grownup fashion. Don’t care for that? Tuff.

Best Cheesecake Donut: O’Fashion Donuts

It’s cramped and a little dive-y—but what beloved St. Louis doughnut shop isn’t? The cheesecake doughnut—no hole, with white icing, a cheesecake filling, and a bit of cinnamon—is a standout. 5120 Southwest.

Best Drive-Through: Donut Delight

The drive-through opens at 4 a.m. Remember to bring cash (the only acceptable form of payment here) for a couple of chocolate-covered long johns fresh from the fryer. Then drive east to North Riverfront Park and enjoy breakfast while watching the sun rise over the Mississippi. 3605 Dunn.

Best Décor: John’s Donuts

Doughnuts and Superman go together like…well, Batman and sushi? Nonetheless, there’s a Metropolis’ worth of Man of Steel memorabilia here, making for an offbeat atmosphere. The Soulard staple is open from 11 p.m. until the doughnuts are gone, typically before noon. Expect lots of fun banter from staff and clientele. 1618 S. Broadway.

Need a late night doughnut? Try Soulard staple John's Donuts. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)
Need a late night doughnut? Try Soulard staple John’s Donuts. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)

Best Cheese Flip: St. Louis Hills Donut Shop

The tiny green building stands alone on Hampton. Inside, you can bet that someone’s ordering one of the shop’s unique cheese flips. The doughnut–Danish hybrid has a layer of gooey cheese in the middle. 6917 Hampton.

Best Square Doughnuts on the East Side: Glazy Squares

The Collinsville favorite recently relocated to a larger space and soon thereafter debuted a drive-thru window. That means more glazed squares, biscuits and gravy, and blueberry twists. 410 Beltline.

Best Gooey Butter Cake Danish: Shamrock Donuts

In Shamrock’s genius crossover of classic pastry and iconic St. Louis dessert, the gooey butter cake is made from scratch and fresh fruit is used each morning for the apple and banana fritters. 1901 Richardson, Arnold.

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Best Chop Suey Doughnut: Donut-King

New owners Paul and Alissa Thoenen saved the decades-old St. Charles shop from closure earlier this year. They’ve kept things much the same, including that famous Chop Suey doughnut, a generously glazed gargantuan cinnamon bun. 658 First Capitol.

Best Cinnamon Globs: The Donut Stop

This joint, with locations in South County and St. Charles, has been around for 65 years.Exclusive to its menu: delectable two-bite-able Cinnamon Globs—basically mini cinnamon buns, or the buns’ “unrefined cousin,” as the shop describes them. 1101 Lemay Ferry; 3120 W. Clay.

Best Turret: The Donut House

A more apt name would be The Donut Castle, with a corner turret giving this iconic beacon a regal appearance. The inside is modest—with two booths and linoleum flooring—but the real allure is the pastry case. Don’t be surprised if you find a few doughnut holes thrown in for good measure. It’ll make you feel like royalty. 8500 Morganford.

Get your fill of custom mini doughnuts at Dapper Doughnuts. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)
Get your fill of custom mini doughnuts at Dapper Doughnuts. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)

Best Mini Doughnuts: The Dapper Doughnut

The menu is exclusively cake-style mini doughnuts—hot and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Customize them with such toppings as cinnamon sugar and Nutella. 11600 Olive.

Best Small-Town Addition: Waterloo Donuts

America invented the doughnut, and its wonders spread all the way to Cambodia, where Kosal In learned just how to proof the dough, how to let the moisture rise before sinking the circles into the deep fryer. Now he and his father, Vichet Keo, are here, making amazing apple fritters and Old Fashioneds and devil’s food cake and strawberry long johns at Waterloo Donuts (and Donut House in South City), proving just how small the world is. 654 N. Market, Waterloo, Illinois

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Best Reality Star Made Good: Vincent Van Donut

After seeing a plethora of high-end pastry shops during a 2010 trip to Berlin, Brian Marsden came back to St. Louis inspired to create an elevated doughnut experience. Though Marsden had worked in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years, he’d never baked. But he couldn’t get the idea out of his head. Knowing that he had to get into this market before anyone else, he meticulously and obsessively tested recipes before launching his Vincent Van Doughnut food truck in 2013, winning the Cooking Channel’s Donut Showdown competition the next year, buying a fryer with the prize money, and opening two brick-and-mortar shops within two years. Now, with wholesale contracts at groceries and universities around the area, Marsden is bringing truth to his father’s motto: “Grow or die.” 40 N. Central; 1072 Tower Grove.

Best Egyptian-Inspired Shop: Pharaoh’s Donuts

Unlike many doughnut shops, Pharaoh’s isn’t in a residential neighborhood, but its downtown location is deliberate, says owner Amon Aziz, who was looking to target travelers and area workers. Today the shop averages 200 dozen glazed doughnuts a day alone. Aziz attributes the pastries’ popularity to high-quality flour, getting as much water into the dough as possible, and maintaining stable dough temperatures. As for the name? While in college in the late ’80s, Aziz saw one of Anheuser-Busch’s Great Kings of Africa art series displayed during Black History Month. Once he learned about Amon, the Egyptian sun deity,he decided then and there on the name. Today, he runs Pharaoh’s Donuts alongside his daughter, Syeeda Aziz-Morris. 200 N. Seventh.

Take a bite back in time at Donut Drive-In. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)
Take a bite back in time at Donut Drive-In. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)

Best Route 66 Throwback: Donut Drive-In

Want a cinnamon roll from the ’50s? OK, not literally—that’d be gross—but at this tiny South City institution, those sweets are made from the same time-tested recipes. The shop’s open till midnight on weekends, when you can expect long but fast-moving lines. Consider going on a weekday night and savoring your prize outside. 6525 Chippewa.

Best Old-School Spot: World’s Fair Donuts

The Shaw shop might not be as old as its name suggests, but it’s been in St. Louis awhile. Co-owners Peggy Clanton and husband Terry Clanton serve some of the best doughnuts in town. Stop by as early as 4 a.m. to try one. And don’t miss the vanilla and chocolate custard fried pies. Just be sure to bring cash; the shop doesn’t accept credit cards or checks. 1904 S. Vandeventer.

Best One-Two Punch: The Donut Palace

For those days when a half-dozen glazed blueberry doughnuts just aren’t enough, consider a chocolate chip cookie from this Ellisville shop’s adjoining cookie bakery. Plentiful seating and bright décor make it a popular West County destination; the promise of cookies just adds to the appeal. 37 Clarkson.

These St. Louis bakeries also offer standout doughnuts. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)
These St. Louis bakeries also offer standout doughnuts. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)

Restaurants with unexpected takes

Cleveland–Heath

Save room for the brioche beignets, which come with rich crème Chantilly and chocolate ganache. 106 N. Main, Edwardsville.

House of India

Don’t miss the gulab jamun, the classic Indian dessert of deep-fried cheese balls served hot in a sweet syrup. 8501 Delmar.

Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria

Don’t leave Katie’s without an order of ricotta doughnuts. The crispy fritters come with a scoop of gelato and fresh berries. 9568 Manchester; 14171 Clayton.

Brasserie by Niche

It wouldn’t be brunch at Brasserie without beignets. The pastries are served with house-made fresh cheese and come with a tangy dried-plum compote. 4580 Laclede.

Half & Half

Served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a ramekin of melted chocolate, the cinnamon sugar doughnuts aren’t for the birdlike of appetite. Share an order of six with the table, or keep them all for yourself. 8135 Maryland; 220 W. Lockwood.

A look into some of Strange Donuts’ craziest collaborations

Five spots where café meets doughnut shop

Mario’s Donuts & Café

The falafel sandwich is superb. For dessert? Try a doughnut and some baklava. 2786 Muegge.

Paul’s Café, Donuts, Ice Cream & More

The turnovers are a specialty, and there are worthy breakfast sandwiches—but the must-try at this St. Peters fixture is the doughnut sundae. 1320 Triad Center.

The Sweet Spot Café

Burgers, gyros, omelets… If this convivial hangout doesn’t have it, you don’t want it. The Sweet Spot offers one of the largest doughnut and pastry selections in town. 3586 Adie.

Tony’s Donuts

Not to be confused with the Tony’s downtown, the two-location shop serves “more than just donuts,” as its tagline notes. That includes a gyro, egg, and cheese on a bagel, as well as breakfast sandwich combos (complete with drink and doughnut, of course). 12218 McKelvey.

Wood River Donut & More

The “& More” in the name includes lottery tickets and the best biscuits and gravy in Wood River. 102 W. Edwardsville, Wood River.

A peek inside Eddie’s Southtown Donuts

At 3 a.m., it’s time for Eddie Strickland, owner of Eddie’s Southtown Donuts, to make the doughnuts. Strickland started in the business 35 years ago at Dunkin’ Donuts, and as he moved from shop to shop, he learned that each neighborhood has distinct tastes. Housed in a building owned by general manager Bradley Arteaga, co-owner of Arteaga Photos (which famously photographed the Arch’s construction), Eddie’s caters to a South City neighborhood that prefers glazed blueberry doughnuts. Toffee-caramel chocolate rounds (a happy accident, born when the wrong topping was sent) and a chocolate mousse–filled doughnut (given a scatological nickname by the local kids) are also popular. Strickland hand cuts all of the yeast doughnuts and has just two employees, who handle deliveries for the wholesale side of the business and the busy counter on weekends. The owner’s gift for gab keeps customers coming back; Strickland jokes that the shop should be called “Eddie’s Donuts/Psychiatry.” Talking through problems—whether with his customers, employees, or children—is part of his system for accomplishing all that needs to be done in a day. Then he starts over at 3 a.m. the next day. 4701 S. Kingshighway.

Remembering Stan the Donut Man

Since 1979, his tasty treats have been a hit at Soulard Farmer’s Market.

Illustration by Jonathan Carlson
Illustration by Jonathan Carlson

In 1979, Stan Smith began making doughnuts at Soulard Farmers’ Market as a way to spend time with his family on the weekends. Chinh Smith, his wife, would help out, and their three sons—Adam, Mark, and Phil—essentially grew up behind the counter in the stall. Smith died unexpectedly last September, but the business lives on, with 5,000 mini doughnuts sold there every Saturday. The reasons behind Stan’s success are many, but Mark Smith says his father’s ability to build relationships with people—three generations deep, in some cases—has contributed to the business’s longevity: “He enjoyed seeing people enjoying the doughnuts.”

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