Orange County holds a surprising amount of doughnuts in its scant 1,000 square miles. Even within a subregion of OC (which I called The Donut Zone while researching this article), one can find doughnuts that run the gamut from totally traditional to quite nouveau, or even hipster-y.
Pretty much our favorite, as a group. Sidecar uses high-quality ingredients with the perfect balance of classicism and inventiveness. Many flavors rotate on the daily or monthly (click here for the current menu), but there are several mainstays, such as the huckleberry. You really can’t miss here, though. Open until 9:00 pm on Friday and Saturday – #dinnerdonuts, anyone?
Downtown does one thang and one thang only: mini donuts. Little puffs of goodness fried to order and coated/dipped in various things. Makes a great bookend to any evening spent exploring DTSA. Plain sugar is the most popular, and owner Denise advises first-timers/first-daters to skip the whole “oh I’ll just get a half dozen” modesty thing and just vault up to a dozen or two. Anything short of that will only leave you with a craving.
Situated a stone’s throw from CSU Fullerton – maybe not quite walker, err, walking distance though – and sporting a year-round zombie/Walking Dead theme. Donuts bear such names as “Rabies Babies,” “Eyeball,” and “The Coffin.” Closed Tuesdays.
Open 24 hours, in case you ever find yourself in Huntington Beach at 3:00 am and itching for a donut. We’ve all been there, right? They explicitly tend toward the traditional, but who doesn’t like a good old fashioned donut and a cup of coffee? They even have a decent amount of vegan options.
5. Poqet Donuts
Just a short drive away from UCI! They offer a huge range of flavors, including PB&J, tiramisu, and green tea in both standard and mini sizes, and all in a tiny hole-in-the-wall space. Both classicists and seekers of novelty will find something to love here. Excellent across the board.
Seaside is already a bit of an institution here at UCI. Great for a midnight donut/pastry/beach run (it’s literally beside the sea), and they have more savory offerings if you’re tired of donuts, like this one food writer I know who’s eaten more donuts this past week than he has in his entire life.
Ube donut. Ube donut and ube ice cream sandwich, if you want to double down on your Ube-mensch cred. Also, #dossants (can’t legally write it without the hashtag). They are the exact same thing as cronuts, but the NYC bakery that invented them copyrighted that name. How crazy is that?
8. DK Donuts
Cash only, old school Orange spot. Lots of old school offerings, as well as #dossants (literally less than a mile from Friendly, the first to introduce #dossants to Orange County, because capitalism), red velvet, and not-quite-donuts-but-related things like apple fritters and big ol’ cinnamon rolls.
Saturdays only, at the Irvine Farmers’ Market. Classic flavors done well, and their donut holes are the size of a standard donut from anywhere else. The standard donuts are similarly proportioned – as in, as big as your head. Great to snack on while getting your veg for the week. The vendors don’t usually mind the glaze-encrusted cash.