Spiced Chocolate, Lemon Sichuan, and Bacon Maple Apple Donuts at Dynamo Donuts
A couple things you should know: 1. They run out. And it doesn't hurt to call ahead if you know what you want. 2. You won't be leaving with just one doughnut. You have to get the Bacon Maple Apple ($3), because once you've tried the maple-sweet doughnut generously topped with pieces of crisp bacon, you realize that it tastes exactly like your favorite diner breakfast condensed into doughnut form. The Spiced Chocolate ($2.50) is shot through with flavors of cinnamon and chipotle, evoking an excellent cup of Mexican hot chocolate. And while you're there you may as well try something new, like the Lemon Sichuan ($3), a fluffy vanilla donut filled with the perfect amount of lemon curd and topped with powdered sugar. The Sichuan peppercorn element doesn't come through all that strongly, but we were too busy inhaling it to care.
Maple Custard Filled Doughnut at The Jelly Donut
The Jelly Donut: 3198 24th Street, San Francisco CA 94110 (map); 415-648-1419
Chocolate Old Fashioned Doughnut at Eagle Donuts
Also worth noting: Eagle Donuts has a doughnut happy hour: after 2 pm, you get three doughnuts for the price of two.
Eagle Donuts: 3303 Mission Street, San Francisco CA 94110 (map); 415-206-9292
Chocolate French Doughnut at Donut World
Donut World: 1114 Market Street, San Francisco CA 94107 (map); 415-255-1515
Cinnamon Crumb Cake Donut at Barbary Coast
Barbary Coast: 55 Cyril Magnin Street, San Francisco CA 94107 (map); 415-989-3888
Glazed Donut at Happy Donuts
Happy Donuts: 145 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco CA 94133 (map); 415-956-9189
Nutella Filled Bomboloni, The Heartbaker
The Heartbaker sells her bomboloni at a variety of locations around the city (we got ours at the Jackson Place Cafe) and takes orders via phone and email on her website.
Lemon Poppyseed and Mango Spiced Vegan Donuts, Pepples Donuts
More cake-like than anything, the donuts are dense, heavy, and not particularly crumbly. But they're delicious. The cake is consistent across the board; the flavors change with the generously applied frosting. We had a very hard time choosing (Kaffir Lime and Philz Coffee were top contenders), but we settled on the Chili Mango and Lemon Poppyseed ($2.75 each). We weren't disappointed. The chili mango was actually spicy, and had a great sweet mango flavor as well. The lemon poppyseed had an excellent tang, and a sweetness that reminded us of sour, tangy candy.
Pepple's are available at multiple locations in the Bay Area (including all locations of Philz Coffee), but they have their own setup at the Ferry Building.
Donut Holes and Vanilla Frosted Cake Donut at All Star Donuts
All Star Donuts: 399 Fifth Street, San Francisco CA 94107 (map); 415-882-0889
Apple Fritter and Glazed Buttermilk Doughnut at Bob's Donuts & Pastry Shop
1. Go after midnight. It's part of the experience. 2. Order an Apple Fritter ($1.75). Swirled with cinnamon and entirely caramelized on the outside, the fritter contains thick chunks of apple. "Better than I'd think a doughnut could be", I noted, as we tore into the fritter like wild animals. 3. Order one of whatever is fresh out of the fryer. While, admittedly, watching doughnuts cooked in vats of hot oil isn't the most appetizing thing, the end result is so, so worth it. On lucky days, the apple fritters will be fresh and then... oh, man. But, on our visit, we opted to try the Buttermilk Glazed Donut ($1.10), which is something I'd normally miss entirely. Hot out out of the oil, the doughnut tasted like nothing so much as a deep fried Belgian waffle, which is to say, amazing.
Bob's Donut & Pastry Shop: 1621 Polk Street, San Francisco CA 94109 (map); 415-776-3141
Beignets at Just For You Cafe
Trish's Mini Donuts at Pier 39
Honorable Mention: Donut Muffin at Devil's Teeth Baking Company
It was worth the trek. Not least because Devil's Teeth is an excellent bakery serving Blue Bottle Coffee right near the Pacific. As for the "donut muffin," it's certainly more muffin than doughnut, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious. Coated in butter, cinnamon, and sugar, the entire surface area is like the best kind of cinnamon toast. And okay, it is butter-covered, but it's baked instead of fried. That's got to count for something, right?
Also, we hear that Devil's Teeth puts on an excellent beignet Sunday. We didn't make it in time for this donut roundup, but have faith that when they bust out the fryer, the results are excellent.