Best Local Chain: Yum Yum Donuts
Though Yum Yum now owns and operates its former West Coast competitor Winchell's, there's still something special about the doughnuts that come in the box with the smiley-faced man. The glazed are light and fresh; the cake have a nice moist crumb; and the toppings like sprinkles, nuts, and coconut are plentiful. Doughnuts from Yum Yum may not elicit squeals of gustatory glee, but there's a good chance that if you bring in a dozen to your morning meeting, you'll still be pretty popular.
Best Cake: Bob's Coffee & Doughnuts
Straightforward, not too sweet, and with just the right amount of glaze (the smooth, slightly nutty maple is best), these have none of the heavy, mealiness that plagues their lesser brethren. And though they are particularly moist for cake doughnuts, the compact, tight crumb makes them the ultimate doughnut for dipping.
6333 W. 3rd Street #450, Los Angeles, CA 90036(map);
Best French Cruller: Doughnut Hut
The liberal coating of glaze atop Doughnut Hut's fluted Frenchies is the perfect complement to the touch of savoriness from the egg-rich choux pastry. Because of their moist, almost custard-like interiors, these French crullers lose their springiness quickly, but when they're fresh, they are light enough to dissolve in your mouth.
2025 W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91506 (map);
Best Jelly: Stan's Donuts
Westwood's doughnut king offers a traditional jelly-filled doughnut, but even better is the blueberry cheese, which inverts the classic confection by putting the blueberry jam on top, leaving prime real estate inside the feathery challah-like pastry, for a sweet cheese filling.
Best Seasonal Specialty: Donut Man
It's hard to go wrong at this roadside favorite. The massive tiger tail swirls together dense, rich devil's food with one of the lightest glazed doughnuts around. The raspberry-filled one teems with an insane amount of fresh jam. Even the coffee is remarkably good, a special blend put together by the Donut Man's wife Miyoko. But folks line up for the fleeting joys of the seasonal strawberry doughnuts: light, airy, not too sweet beauties that may tempt you to abandon shortcake and pie forever. Even more ephemeral? The peach version, made with local yellow peaches and available only from mid-July to August each year.
915 E Route 66, Glendora CA 91741(map);
Best Churro: Mr. Churro
The plain churros, unfailingly fresh and piping hot from the fryer, are 18 inches of fried dough at its simple finest. The crisp, sugar-coated exterior gives into a soft, slightly crumbly interior. But the cajeta churro, split in two and piped with deep brown caramel sauce from a specially outfitted dispenser, is the real winner here. Rich and decadent enough to easily satisfy two.
15 Olvera Street, Los Angeles CA 90012 (map);
Best Buttermilk: Gladstone Donut House
With their cleft centers and crisp, rustic edges, Gladstone's buttermilk bars may not be beauties. But that craggy surface adds additional surface area, allowing more of the thick maple or chocolate glaze to seep into the soft, almost biscuit-like interior, creating rich, gooey pudding pockets throughout.
1329 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena CA 91104 (map);
Best Doughnut Sandwich: Natas Pastries
Natas Pastries assembles their Bola de Berlin to order, slicing a springy yeast doughnut in half and slathering one side with a thick spread of vanilla-tinged yellow pastry cream to create a kind of Portuguese doughnut sandwich. Served on a proper lace doily, this sure looks dignified but as the custard oozes out, it quickly descends into a finger-licker of a mess.
Best Glazed: Tasty Donut
This is pretty close to what you picture when you close your eyes and think "doughnut." A slightly wet honey glaze hugs the feathery yeast dough, with the occasional droplet of crystallized crunch. It's light enough that you could easily devour the whole thing in a few bites, but better to savor each tender morsel of sweet, chewy dough.
8120 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood CA 90046 (map); 323-650-1325
Best Chocolate Creation: Donut King
On the outside, this honey glazed giant, topped with a thick chocolate glaze and a hearty sprinkling of mini chocolate chips, has enough cocoa clout to catch the eye of any serious chocolate fiend. But bite into it, and the chocolate madness continues! There's a hidden cluster of even more chips inside. It's the doughnut's answer to pain au chocolat.
3970 Sepulveda, Culver City CA 90230 (map); 310-313-3686
Best Doughnut for Teatime: Patisserie Eguchi
Doughnuts and coffee may be best buds, but if you're looking for a sweet accompaniment to afternoon tea, we suggest the elegant doughnuts sold at the Patisserie Eguchi counter in the Radio Gallery shopping mall. Petite with a subtle sweetness and madeleine-like crumb, these are delicate, civilized doughnuts.
833 S Western Ave # 38, Los Angeles CA 90005 (map);
Best Raised: Randy's Donuts
Inglewood's classic raised doughnuts, with their tender, light yeast dough and perfect ratio of coating (whether glaze or sugar), are the best part of flying in and out of LAX. Pillowy soft, they still maintain a surprising chew, giving them a texture complexity not often found in unadorned doughnuts.
Best Cream-Filled: Doughnut Hut
One of the greatest doughnut mysteries in LA may be how these impossibly soft, delicate yeast pastries can hold up to the generous filling of sugary frosting that bursts out of them in a perfect, swirling puff. But with that sumptuous dough surrounding a mound of birthday cake icing, we're happy to continue investigating the case.
2025 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank CA 91506 (map);
Best Gonzo Doughnut: Stan's Donuts
Using ingredients seemingly stolen from an eight-year-old's sack lunch, Stan's has created one of the most sought-after doughnuts in town. Stuffed with a generous dollop of thick, gooey peanut butter and either jelly or banana slices (and topped, if you like, with chocolate chips) these crazy, rich doughnuts cry out for a cold glass of milk.
Best Cream Puff: King's Donut & Deli
Basically these are eggy French crullers filled with either cool, foamy whipped cream or runny (in a good way) custard and then dusted with powdered sugar, these dainty cream puffs are light enough that you can easily down a dozen without batting an eye.
2140 S Fremont Ave., Alhambra CA 91803 (map); 626-281-1560
Best in Show: Primo's Donuts
The problem with this West L.A. favorite is that it excels in almost all categories. Best Buttermilk Bar for its buttery, tender crumb. Best Crumb Doughnut for its rendition that achieves the near impossible: the perfect ratio of cake to topping with a moist dusting of crumbs you would actually want to eat on their own. Best Chocolate Frosted for cocoa icing thicker and tastier than most puddings. Best Glazed for, well, we could go on for a while. Instead we'll award them best of the best and leave you with the advice to get there early. They close at 4 p.m. on weekdays and though they make a second batch of doughnuts at 10 each morning, by noon it can be slim pickings.