Best Glazed Yeast Doughnut: Peter Pan Bakery
A doughnut so basic that you could eat it for breakfast daily and never tire of it. Peter Pan Bakery's Honey-Glazed Doughnut is an unfussy yeast doughnut, with a tender and featherlike crumb, gently fried and minimally sweetened with a light honey glaze. Nourishing in ways that only sweet fried dough could be, this doughnut holds nary a surprise—and only satisfaction.
Peter Pan Bakery: 727 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map); 718-389-3676
Best Doughnut Holes (tie): Dough
The regular-sized doughnuts at Dough are often too heavy and well, dough-y. But the yeast doughnut holes are a completely different matter. The single bites, offered in flavors such as a citrus-y bright lemon and shredded coconut, are the complete opposite—light and delicately moist, with a texture we wish their normal-sized doughnuts could offer.
Dough: 305 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11205 (map); 347-533-7544
Best Doughnut Holes (tie): Donut Pub
Donut Pub makes doughnuts holes in both yeast and cake. Try both forms in cinnamon-sugar, blueberry, plain, and (especially) red velvet cake. No more returning to red velvet cupcakes after this; each little orb is rolled in the thinnest coat of icing. High turnover means you'll always get a fresh batch with these holes.
Donut Pub: 203 W 14th Street, New York NY 10011 (map); 212-929-0126
Best Baked Doughnuts: Babycakes
Baked or not, these vegan doughnuts from Babycakes rank among our all-around favorites. They're tiny, picture-perfect creatures packed in a pink box, and oily in all the right ways, with flavors such as a chocolate-y cookie crunch, vanilla sprinkle, a gooey caramel, and the classic cinnamon-sugar.
Best Custard + Jam Doughnut: Bouchon Bakery
Bouchon Bakery's Custard + Jam Doughnut is big enough to call lunch. It's gigantic, with a substantial (but not too sweet) bread-like dough; it's stuffed with silky, yolk-rich Bavarian cream, and housemade raspberry jam. At most places you get a pick of jam or custard, but Bouchon has saved us the work of choosing. Note: served only on weekends.
Best Oatmeal Doughnut: Doughnut Plant
The opening of Doughnut Plant's new location at the Chelsea Hotel brings with it a variety of new flavors. The best of the bunch? This Oatmeal Cake Doughnut. Toasted oatmeal and tiny flecks of cashews, plus sunflower seeds, cranberries, and apricot mix—it's a glorious sight.
Best Nut-Topped Doughnut: Balthazar Bakery
On the bottom left is Bathazar's Banana-Pecan Cake doughnut. Toasty chopped pecans, secured with a liberal hand of frosting, coat the entire top surface and count for a fair majority of the doughnut's weight. The banana element is subtle but present; between the sweet, delicate crumbs and the pecans, it's an incredibly tasty specimen.
Best Doughnut to Eat When Warm: Brindle Room
Brindle Room's cake doughnuts are made with a bit of mashed potato mixed in the dough, giving the interior a gentle, springy texture. It's key that you eat the doughnuts when warm out of the fryer. They're thin, fried extra-crisp, and delicious when you have the hot crisp exterior and soft interior contrast—but not so ideal once cool, heavy with a crunch.
Best Cinnamon Sugar Yeast Doughnut: Peels
Peels' doughnuts are offered only on Sundays, a single batch made in the morning. Flavors change weekly, but keep your eyes out for the Cinnamon-Sugar, a remarkably light yeast doughnut with a liberal roll in cinnamon-sugar. It has the slightest whisper of a crunch, and then a fluffy, moist interior all the way through.
Best Cinnamon Sugar Cake Doughnut: Pies 'n' Thighs
Pies 'n' Thighs makes Cinnamon-Sugar doughnuts in both yeast and cake form, but it's the cake doughnut, dusted in the perfect ratio of cinnamon to sugar, which stands out. The scent is intoxicating when warm, and even once the doughnut's cool, the crumb is tender and not the least heavy. There's a bare hint of nutmeg and every bite guarantees solid satisfaction.
Best Mini Doughnut: Trois Pommes
Doughnuts at Trois Pommes are a weekend-only affair, and they only make one type (jam) in two sizes (big and mini). The three-bite minis are my favorite, stuffed with sweet, seed-speckled raspberry jelly. Pick one with ragged edges, fried a touch darker than the rest; that lovely little crunch as you break through the powdered sugar poof is pure bliss.
Best Bomboloni (Tie): Sullivan Street Bakery
Sullivan Street Bakery's bomboloni exhibit great body and substance, with dough closer to a soft bread than a light pastry. Deep-fried a crisp dark brown before generous shakes of confectioners' sugar, they stay perfectly crisp at room temperature. The one filled with vanilla pastry cream is our favorite, but the chunky caramelized apple and raspberry are excellent as well.
Best Bomboloni (Tie): Caffe Falai
Bomboloni at Caffe Falai are light and delicate; be careful with that first bite! I wasn't—and suffered indeed when a luscious blob of chantilly squirted out straight onto my nose. They come in four flavors, including chocolate and vanilla crème, but our favorites were the chantilly and a sweet strawberry jam.
Best Chocolate Cake Doughnut: Pies 'n' Thighs
It's a cake doughnut that want to be flat-out cake; a deep-fried cake, maybe? It's hard to categorize the Chocolate Cake Doughnut from Pies 'n' Thighs (top center), but we can tell you that it is excellent: moist with a crumbly, tender body, barely crisp on the outside. It's part-doughnut, part-cake, part-muffin, all chocolate.
Best Mochi Doughnut: Koryodang
Noticeably less sweet than many doughnuts, and based on mochi flour employed both in the dough and in the mix sprinkled over the fried exterior, Koryodang's Sweet Rice Twist Doughnut is a chewy and satisfying treat with subtle nutty undertones. Far from your usual light and fluffy number, this is one doughnut that's a substantial breakfast.
Best Jam Doughnut: Leske's
It's the Jelly Doughnuts that make a trip out to Leske's in Bay Ridge worth it. Lightly dusted in powdered sugar, this baby oozes an excellent sweet-tart housemade raspberry jam, hugged by a yeasty, even-crumbed interior. It lacks the sophistication of Bouchon's or Trois Pommes' jelly doughnuts, but these are homey and comforting in the way that the others could never achieve.
Leske's: 7612 5th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11209 (map); 718-680-2323
Best Old-Fashioned Cruller: Alpha Donuts
We're not talking the light, eggy French cullers here, but the classics, an Old-Fashioned Cruller done justice by Alpha Donuts. This liberally iced doughnut has a dense and moist crumb, every bit offing a trace hint of cinnamon. Alpha's cruller is about the size of a brick—best for sharing with a friend.
Alpha Donuts: 45-16 Queens Blvd, Sunnyside NY 11104 (map)
All Around Good: Mike's Donuts
Though no one doughnut flavor stood out as exceptional from Mike's Donuts in Bay Ridge, this is nonetheless an all-around reliable classic coffee/doughnut shop. There's not too many places like this left in NYC, and the prices at Mike's are unbelievable: a dozen doughnuts for just $4.50.
Mike's Donuts: 6822 5th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11220 (map); 718-745-6980;