Classic creations, both cake and raised, are available throughout Minnesota, made with old-fashioned love and a lot of sugar, powdered or otherwise. But the last several years have also seen a nouveau doughnut renaissance in the Twin Cities, with newer shops offering exotic twists (maple long john with bacon on top, anyone?) and cupcake-level marketing.
Whether you prefer classic or Instagram-worthy, these doughnut shops around the state guarantee a sweet start to your day.
Nelson Brother's Bakery
This bakery located inside the large Clearwater Travel Plaza is serving up sweet treats for travelers on Interstate 94. It's known for its "donuts as big as your face," but you should also try the fritter donuts that come in flavors like apple, strawberry and wild blueberry. Rows and rows of sweet treats fill the glass display case, so you might have a little trouble just picking one. We recommend going with a baker's dozen to get your fill.
Everyone loves a good comeback story, and Hans' Bakery has a great one. The Anoka bakeshop was a beloved favorite that shut down in 2013, only to be resurrected by new owner Kelly Olsen. Olsen has leveraged marketing (including a Food Network appearance) and the shop's unique giant Texas doughnuts and "German Beehive" layered, custard-filled pastries to stoke the fires of business and expand into a second location in Blaine.
A Baker's Wife Pastry Shop
A Baker's Wife is a South Minneapolis institution; its cinnamon sugar doughnuts are a mainstay on local breakfast tables, and its pies are among the city's best. Despite its urban location, the shop has a small-town feel, as do its simple-but-lovely doughnuts.
World's Best Donuts
Are the doughnuts at World's Best Donuts truly the world's best? They're certainly in contention. Made skillfully and pumped out by the dozen to feed the hungry tourists and campers that throng the shop's Grand Marais location, they stand out as the real deal among sub-par grocery store and gas station alternatives. And you can't beat the location near the shore of Lake Superior; grab a doughnut and a cup of coffee, and take 'em for a stroll.
Travelers be warned: The shop typically closes each October and reopens in late May.
Yo Yo Donuts
Should you find yourself in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Yo Yo Donuts is worth a diversion. This Minnetonka-based shop pairs classic tastes with new twists like maple bacon long johns, “Dirt & Worms” cake doughnuts (no actual dirt or worms used in their making) and espresso-glazed raised doughnuts. The secret to Yo Yo's success is the flour, a mixture of wheat flour, barley flour, potato flour and spices.
Coffee fans should note that Dogwood Coffee, a direct trade coffee company, is served on-site.
Mojo Monkey Donuts
Small, busy and welcoming, Mojo Monkey Donuts is St. Paul's reigning champ in the field of new-school doughnuts. Check out the doughnut schedule online—there you'll learn of the wonderfully authentic beignets (made to order until 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only) and specials like the blueberry pancake donut, s'mores Bismarck, spicy chocolate cake donut and more.
Founded in 1924, Winona's locally famous Bloedow's pumps out freshly made mainstay doughnuts, including a rotating array of filled varieties like the classic Bavarian cream. Loyalty to the local shop is said by some to have made a tough environment for Krispy Kreme, which worked to establish itself in Winona but couldn't make it work.
James Norton is the author of Lake Superior Flavors (University of Minnesota Press), a guide to eating and drinking on the Lake Superior Circle Tour. He is currently the food editor at The Growler magazine.
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