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Artisan doughnuts in or around Berkeley

Anyone know of any? Not looking for anything in particular, just not the usual, run-of-the-mill chinese places that have ok doughnuts along with hamburgers, etc.

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  1. Good Luck...I've been here 2 years, from LA, and I've yet to find a really good doughnut..

    19 Replies
    1. re: donbonus

      The Bay Area is not yet up the curve when it comes to haute doughnut cuisine. Just shows how provincial we are, I guess.

      1. re: Gary Soup

        The upscale donut came and went ... about the same time Gordon's and it's $7 plate of mini donuts.

        Isn't there some place in Alameda that makes good donuts ... donut works or something.

        1. re: rworange

          Indeed, The French Laundry took donuts and coffee off their dessert menu.

          1. re: ML8000

            So you are tellling our LA friends that doughnuts are so... yesterday.

            1. re: Gary Soup

              So yesterday they might soon be retro.

              1. re: rworange

                I was in LA over the holidays and asked family/friends (hardcore foodies) about artsian donuts.

                One sister had some and said they were good but she wasn't going to track them down w/ two kids and a job but would be nice on occasion.

                A BIL liked them a lot, very good but said half the fun of was going to the greasy spoon at 2 a.m. He made an analogy about getting illicit drugs from a guy in a Armani suit vs. some schmoe that looked like a user.

      2. re: donbonus

        hello, folk in these parts might not realize that L.A. is likely the center of the U.S. donut universe, highest total and per capita consumed I'm fairly sure, with numerous neighborhood shops that are not chains nor using formula mixes. Many places up here served as a business opportunity for Asian immigrants (lots of 'Lee's Donuts' though they're not a chain), Cambodian-americans in the mix I think, and we lack the numbers of afficionados to keep the standards up. The nature of entry small business is a turnover in proprietorship, whereas the best donut houses have long-time owners with 'secret' family formulas. have fun

        1. re: moto

          My two favorites are Donut Alley in Larkspur and Flakey Cream in Healdsburg. King Pin pulls in behind them.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I used to go to King Pin from time to time but nothing really ever stood out. Even fresh out of the fryer I thought it was a decent donut but not mindblowing or anything. Jest my $.02. In LA I go to this one Asian run (not sure if Cambodian but could be) donut shop that does the most amazing honey wheat cake donut, my new fave. I haven't tried that one place in LA that do the split donut with whipped cream and strawberries but I will when i get the chance. If berkeley had a donut shop that sold good donuts split w/ whip cream and strawberries, I would be there every single day.

            1. re: choctastic

              hello, a couple of years ago I found good honey wheat donuts at Golden Gate on Telegraph nr. 41st in Oakland (BART station vicinity), these are my favorite variety and hardly a regular repertory item in most shops. Fritelli's in Bevery Hills makes decent ones. Don't know if Golden Gate is still making them, their selection goes way down later in the day. cheers

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              I lived a five minute walk from downtown Larkspur for nine years and the only thing that saved me from probable diabetes was the fact that Donut Alley always ran out of doughnuts and closed early in the day.

              1. re: Mick Ruthven

                Ok, if we are throwing in far-flung locations like Larkspur and SF, I toss in Andy's donuts in Richmond as some of the better donuts in the Bay Area.

                The OP doesn't need to cross a bridge and pay a toll and Andy's is open 24 hours a day ... plenty of police protection during the late night hours.

                Having tried both Bob's and Donut Alley, IMO, Andy's is the best of those three.

            3. re: moto

              and you were saying........

              The question was: is there any artisan donut shops???? Not your thesis on the economy, and immigrant demographics.

              1. re: Mattdub

                The OP threw out the bait when he/she dissed Chinese doughnut makers as a group. It's fair for the LA people to point out that their doughnuts are superb, and mostly made by Cambodian immigrants. In any event, to me "artisan" means hand-made at a minimum, and new immigrant groups often seize on labor-intensive crafts as an avenue for survival, and possibly advancement if they do it better than the next guy. You don't have to speak French to be an "artisan."

                1. re: Gary Soup

                  Artisan, to me, simply means extra quality of attention paid to the creation of whatever it is you're selling. Nationality means nothing.

                  1. re: Mattdub

                    To me an artisanal doughnut would be made from scratch, by hand, with no artificial ingredients.

                    The average doughnut shop buys "doughnut mix" in 50-pound bags.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        It's too bad Lou's Living Donut Museum in San Jose closed. they made their own mix, organic flour, etc.

                2. re: moto

                  I think we have had a communication break-down somewhere....
                  For the record, I have nothing against anyone of any nationality, I was just trying to make a point about what type of donut shop I WASN'T looking for. Doesn't matter a bit to me who its run by as long as the donuts are not made with a mix and that they're made well. Thanks for all your comments... keep 'em comin'!

              2. None, zip, nada, to my everlasting regret.

                1. King Pin on Durant is the best donut shop in Berkeley. I'm from LA, and I would compare it favorably with Stan's (I haven't tried the new frou-frou donut shop in Beverly Hills). The key to King Pin is to go in the evening, because they fry their donuts between 7pm and 1130pm(ish). Order whatever is fresh out of the frier, and eat it while it is piping hot.

                  You might also try the fried-to-order churros at Tacubaya on 4th st. Definitely one of the best fried desserts in town.

                  More On King Pin:

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Yeah, I second that. Just get whatever is fresh!

                  2. I have yet to find a decent donut locally. The choices are so boring! If anyone comes accross a good chocolate cream filled let me know asap.

                    1. hello, you can get a simple no frills fresh made to order malasada at the Kilohana 'Hawaiian" place on San Pablo Ave in Emeryville. to my taste, better than most donuts around here. might be weekends only.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: moto

                        Love those malasadas. They are made daily until 10:30 am.

                        In the non-classic American donut category, after Sunday mass in Richmond on MacDonald, there's a mighty fine churro guy. He shows up on 23rd street various night after 5 ... if there is a crowd on the corner, it usually means the churro guy is there.

                      2. I certainly wouldn't call them artisanal, but I like the doughnut holes and cake doughnuts at Bob's Donuts. They're like the ones I grew up on in rural New Hampshire. Haven't tried the raised ones yet, but I'll bet they're good too.

                        Bob's Donuts
                        1621 Polk Street (at Sacramento)
                        San Francisco, CA
                        (415) 776-4131

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Euonymous

                          The raised glaze is my favorite donut at Bob's. They're fresh and hot some time between 9pm and midnight depending on the day of the week.

                        2. You find donuts by following cops.

                          In Berkeley, the cops all hang out at Crixa. While I don't
                          think Crixa makes anything torus-shaped at all, there's
                          gotta be something there that's the moral equivalent of
                          a donut.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: rworange

                              No evidence of a deep-fryer at Crixa. They have some things that look sort of like doughnuts, but they're not.


                          1. You might check out Dream Fluff on Ashby at College (NW Corner). Totally old school, mom and pop operation. I had a raised donut there in Oct. at 3 p.m. and it was good...but not Artsian. Haven't had a chance to go there in morning or check different types. I've seen cabs stop by there, I'm guessing they know something.

                            A third or fourth on Bob's. Formerly the "Offical Donut Makers for the San Francisco Knights of Columbus".

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ML8000

                              Glad to know that Dream Fluff on Ashby at College is still alive and well. About 20 years ago I lived in the East Bay for a couple of years and that was definitely my favorite doughnut place. As I recall they had very good French doughnuts, the kind with just enough flour to hold them together.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                I love Dream Fluff donuts. The best part is that they're sold at Cole Coffee on College, so you don't have to choose between quality donut and quality coffee.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Good straight forward beignets here http://www.justforyoucafe.com/menu/1....

                                  Bong Su has Banana Black Sesame Beignets, you can go there and have tea and dessert only.

                                  Magic Flute serves them with a lemon custatrd

                                  1. re: Lori SF

                                    "...you can go there and have tea and dessert only."

                                    That's good to know, because they have some good teas on their limited list, like pre-Qing Ming Biluochun (but oddly no Longjing). They get their teas from Red Blossom, incidentally.

                                    Is there a time of day or an area of the restaurant for lingering over tea and dessert (or tea and an appetizer or two)? Do they have wi-fi? (Now I'm getting ridiculous, but I'm thinking of some of the Chamate outlets in Shanghai that have created a form of paradise.)

                                2. I get my doughnuts at Happy Doughnut on 3rd St. They are not artisinal, but they are 24 hours. My ritual is to stop by after a gig in the city, and get an apple fritter and a dozen holes, maybe a buttermilk bar, maybe a coffee.

                                  Personally, I was always fairly happy with the Original Dunkin Doughnut growing up, the one with the cute little handle. The grease is locked inside, giving a bite-by-bite juciness, and it absorbs coffee well. Out here, I like the local chain aspect of Happy Doughnut, and the widely available buttermilk bars and fritters. The light-skinned Krispy Kreme and King Pin doughnuts aren't what I prefer. HD also makes decent sandwiches (at least, decent by 2am standards).

                                  (However - I think King Pin is better, on a pure doughnut basis.)

                                  What I fully enjoy, however, is the fact that the same crusty guy has been working the counter there since I first started going in --- probably 10 years ago. He might be named Dave. He never treated me like a regular, but always gives quick service and a hearty thank you for tipping, and had a way of keeping the homeless at bay. ("You have to pay for that!")

                                  10 years is a long time - one doughnut guy. I've been through a lot in those 10 years, the .com boom and bust, the cancer, everything, and he's one of the few constants.

                                  Last time I went, maybe a month ago, he wasn't there. There was a short asian woman, first generation, from somewhere south like Vietnam.

                                  Is the apocalypse near?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    The same guy at King Pin has been frying the donuts at night for at least 20 years. He looks the same as well.

                                  2. Well, since I did say "in or around Berkeley" (apparently some people can't read, or are just so anxious to hear themselves talk (type)), you guys can stop throwing out places like Larkspur, etc. I appreciate the advice, but I'm not so desperate for a donut that I'm going to go to Larkspur or anywhere else more than say, 5-10 minutes away. Especially since I haven't read a single response the warrants a drive that far.

                                    On another note, I HATE Krispy Kremes! Not because they are a chain, but because their donuts are CRAPPY! Just because a place advertises a 'warm donut' does not automatically make it a GOOD donut. A good example of this is my post on the beignet thread about Cafe Fanny having a good beignet. No, they're not warm or fresh out of the fryer, but they are damn good. You can just tell that they are made with quality ingredients and care.

                                    Thanks for listening.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: chemchef

                                      One avenue I haven't explored is panadrias. For some reason, Mexicans seem to like standard American donuts. I don't remember seeing them at Casa Latina in Berkeley, but you might keep your eyes open at other places.

                                      The thing with panadrias is that the stuff is fresh and local ... no mixes involved.

                                      Have you tried beignets at Angelinas? What did you think?

                                      As Herb Caen used to say "quitchercomplaining" or something like that. On Chowhound you're lucky the anti-donut people didn't chime in on how unhealthy donuts are ... besides you never know when you might be in outlaying areas and will have some resources for donuts. I suppose this requires a happy face ... :)

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        I don't think panaderias usually have deep-fryers.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Dunno ... just see the donuts alot. What do they fry the churros in?

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            If they have churros, they've got a deep fryer.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Or a pot with hot fat. I will say, skip the cold churros at panadrias ... so far ... ick ... even if there is the promise of cream-filled churros ... do the visual inspection ... a sad looking churro usually is.

                                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Just about every culture likes dough fried in lard or oil, in one form or another, must be a genetic desire for carbs and oil. The most "exotic" donuts I've ever had were panikeke - Samoan donuts.

                                        3. re: chemchef

                                          Chowhound threads are intended for everyone, not just the OP. You may not be willing to venture beyond Berkeley in search of a good donut, but the out of town recs are still valuable for other donut-seeking hounds reading this thread. When it comes to Chowhounding, more information is never a bad thing.

                                        4. Well, it depends what you are looking for, if you want the off the beaten path donuts then you may not be looking for, but, if you want the lightest, most delicious "regular" donuts (raised glazed, long chocolate, donut holes etc.) Johnny's in Lafayette is by far the best around, not only that but the owner and his wife are both extremely nice and friendly. He is the only one who makes the donuts in the shop and it is just the 2 of them that work it (except when their son is around).

                                          1. Anyone interested in an artisan doughnut near Berkeley should visit the Oliveto street fair in Oakland this weekend (Jan 20 & 21) and try the fresh Zeppole.

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