When it comes to a simple morning indulgence, few things beat a cup of coffee and a warm donut—except maybe two donuts.
Luckily, like with most foodie favorites, the Bay Area has a plethora of donut spots for you to try.
Maybe you're looking for the best classic donut, or you want to try a bunch of different flavors without committing to an entire donut. Maybe you're on the hunt for an understated yet satisfying vegan option.
For this Bay Area Bites Guide, we have you covered. We've rounded up some classic favorites and exciting newcomers to the donut scenes in San Francisco and Oakland, taking you on a tasty tour from one side of the Bay bridge to the other. It's worth noting, however, that this list is not exhaustive. There are always new sweet spots to be discovered—even if you haven't had your coffee yet.
A cup of coffee and a Fruirrito at Twisted Donuts.
Located smack in the middle of the Sunset district in San Francisco (just between the Inner and the Outer), Twisted Donuts is a small shop with a lot to offer. Open since 2014, Twisted specializes in nailing the classics during the week, like their old-fashioned cake or bavarian cream-filled donuts. But on the weekends, you can expand your palate to something a little more adventurous—like a "Fruirrito."
A Fruirrito is a deep-fried wrapped confection filled with something sweet and it is absolutely a two-person undertaking. For example, the Nutella Fruirrito is layers of flakey pastry wrapped burrito-style around Nutella filling. The outside is glazed with sugar and topped with walnuts. It's delicious, ridiculous, and unique to Twisted's weekend menu.
Like many donut shops around the Bay, Twisted Donuts asks for a $5 minimum when using your card for purchases, so either bring cash or plan to grab a cup of coffee to go with your donuts. If the latter, then be prepared for choice paralysis as the brew offerings range from several flavors, blends, and roasts so you can pair your cup with your bite. Once you're ready, you can hike up the Mosaic Stairs on 16th, just a short walk away from Twisted. It's a great view of the Bay and the perfect way to walk off your breakfast. // 1243 Noriega St. (Outer Sunset), twisteddonutsf.com
Artwork by Camila Valdez on the roof of Dynamo Donut + Coffee.
One of the first things you'll notice walking up to Dynamo Donut + Coffee on 24th street in the Mission is the original Camila Valdez sculpture on the roof. Even though you have to crane your neck to see it, the pink donut with a pair of women's legs attached is hard to miss. Luckily, Dynamo's donuts are attention-grabbing, so between the art and the snacks there's plenty to see.
Dynamo has an impressive list of regular offerings, including some gluten-free options, that are anything but "everyday donuts." Flavors like Passionfruit Milk Chocolate and Maple Bacon Apple are on the board every day, or you can try a seasonal offering Pumpkin Chocolate Chip in October, or Persimmon in November. For the gluten-intolerant donut-lover there's monthly options like carrot cake or lemon poppyseed, but as a heads up to those with especially sensitive allergies, "I Am Not a Glutens" donuts are fried in the same oil as their more gluteny counterparts.
While the Mission location is a walk-up window, they also have a few tables inside their retro-inspired space. The open kitchen layout makes it so you can watch the donut making process while you enjoy your breakfast. If you'd like to munch and walk, you can take in the murals at Balmy Alley just a few blocks away. // 2760 24th St. (Mission), dynamodonut.com
A couple of donut holes and a fresh pour-over at Donut Savant in Oakland.
Jumping across the Bay Bridge lands you at Donut Savant in downtown Oakland, just outside the 19th street BART station. If you're looking for a way to try a lot of different types of donuts without having to commit to a full dozen, then the wide variety of donut holes and bite-size pastries will be the perfect fit for you.
You may be familiar with the traditional donut hole—a small, bite-sized ball of donut meant to symbolize the middle of the donut that's usually absent. In this case, however, you can get cronut holes and cinnamon roll holes in addition to more traditional glazed and cinnamon sugar donut holes. The cronut holes in particular are impressive as they manage to take all the flakey, sugary goodness of a cronut and make it bite-size without losing anything from the larger version. Of course, if you fall in love with a bite and want the full version, that's always available as well.
If you'd like to order a pour-over and stay awhile with your donut samplings, then Donut Savant's sleek and comfortable space has several tables for you to perch at. Otherwise, you can take a box to go and have a donut picnic at Lake Merritt, which is walking distance from the shop. // 1934 Broadway (Oakland), donutsavant.com
Sweet Belly Desserts
Two boxes of fresh donuts and dip at Sweet Belly Desserts.
If you'd like to make a day of your donut tour, Sweet Belly Desserts is just around the corner from Donut Savant in downtown Oakland. The sugary answer to Uptown's wildly popular Belly, Sweet Belly offers handcrafted ice cream creations and other desserts. It's the made-to-order mini donuts, however, that steal the show.
Much like its bright and immediately Instagrammable interior, ordering mini donuts at Sweet Belly is an experience. First, you decide the type of sugar your donuts will be tossed in—plain, cinnamon, and several exciting fruit options like citrus and strawberry. Then you choose a drizzle, which is a sweet syrup topping, and the dip, which can be a flavored whipped cream or a fruit sauce. It's not until you've completed your order that the donuts are fried, making them fresh and still warm upon arrival.
Sweet Belly's mini donuts come in boxes of six or twelve, and the packaging is lovely, with small designed desserts surrounding embossed lettering. You can take them as a gift or simply indulge in a few #foodie posts for your social media (we won't blame you).
For those looking to satisfy a particularly intense sweet tooth, you can combine Sweet Belly's handcrafted soft serve with a mini donut. It's about $5 and it's everything your daydream cravings have ever wanted. // 435 19th St
Pepples Donut Farm
Outside of Pepples Donut Farm in Oakland.
With multiple locations all across the Bay, Pepples Donut Farm is a favorite spot for vegan donuts—and just about vegan anything. Monday through Friday you can pick up donuts and coffee from 7am to 3pm, or you can settle in for a full vegan breakfast 9am to 230pm. If you're more of a brunch person, then you can grab a table on Saturday or Sunday for Donut Farm's full menu.
There are some skeptical parties that aren't sure what to make of vegan baked goods. Generally, it's clear that those skeptics simply haven't tried them yet, and Donut Farm's donuts are a great place to start. The plain cake donut, for example, is moist and springy, with the crunch of sugar on the outside that makes it a real "regular donut" imitator in every way. For the donut connoisseurs, the top shelf offerings range from Salted Caramel to Whiskey Tangerine Fig to Sweet Curry (if you can catch it on rotation).
If you're more interested in weekend donuts than a full brunch event, then Donut Farm has a special roster of donuts only available on Saturday and Sunday. You can snag a Banana Fritter, Cinnamon Swirl Twist or a Jelly-Filled, for example. // 6037 San Pablo Ave. (Oakland), vegandonut.farm
This article was written by Mel Burke and originally published on KQED's Bay Area Bites.