By Molly Dunn
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By Kaitlin Steinberg
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Best of Houston®Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we'll be rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!
Unless you eat 15 raised, glazed doughnuts, all of them fresh and hot, one right after the other, it might be difficult to judge who in town has the best doughnut. Yes, some places make doughnuts that are clearly superior to others, but, you know, fried rings of dough are pretty awesome, generally speaking.
So instead of a roundup naming the single best doughnut from a number of places, we've compiled a list of the best spots in town to get your fix — regardless of whether you're a raised/glazed fan, an old-fashioned connoisseur or a lover of the jelly-filled variety. We guarantee these are all ideal places to satisfy your cravings. However you spell it — donut, doughnut or do-nut — these are some sweet and tasty treats.
Note: Even though they're often sold at doughnut shops, kolaches, croissants, apple fritters and the like will not be addressed in this post. Doughnuts only! (That other stuff will come later.)
10. River Oaks Donuts, 3601 Westheimer
Billionaires Mindy and Jeff Hildebrand opened a little doughnut place in River Oaks back in July, and they have been mocked from time to time for opening a semi-ritzy shop for a food not usually considered gourmet (unless you're Dominique Ansel), but there's definitely no need to mock their wares, because they're some of the best in town. The Hildebrands worked with store director Scott Niemeyer for months to develop the recipes, and the results are not only delicious, but pretty, too. Raised, glazed doughnuts are iced in every color of the rainbow and dotted with contrasting sprinkles for a treat almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.
9. Fresh & Best Donuts, 5214 Bellaire
Part of the beauty of Fresh & Best Donuts is the awesome deals the shop offers as an incentive to load up on fried goodies. If you buy a dozen doughnuts, you get six free. If you buy six doughnuts, you get a dozen doughnut holes free. If you're really nice, the servers will probably throw in some extra holes as well, because they're eager to clear out the cases by the end of service each day. I recently called them to ask about their opening hours, and they said they were technically closed but would be willing to stay open for me because the cases weren't yet empty. What service! The basic glazed doughnuts here are light and airy but still substantial, and they strike the perfect balance between bready and overly sweet. Fresh & Best also sells a giant doughnut about the size of your head for $4. Now that's a meal.
8. Pena's Donut Heaven, 11601 Shadow Creek Parkway
To my knowledge, Pena's was the first place in Houston to re-create the famous (infamous?) doughnut-croissant hybrid known as the cronut that took the country by storm after it was invented in New York City. I have never had the pleasure of eating a cronut in New York, but Pena's take, which they called a "dosant," was pretty damn good. No need to go there for cronuts, though, because the doughnuts themselves are amazing. Arrive early to get your hands on some of Ray Peña's uniquely flavored wares. If you make it in before mid-morning, you'll likely find maple bacon doughnuts, s'mores doughnuts (topped with crushed graham crackers), peanut butter Reese's Pieces doughnuts and even doughnuts topped with cereal (the ultimate breakfast treat).
7. Provisions, 807 Taft
I know Provisions is in no way a doughnut shop, but hear me out. From time to time the chefs, Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner, add doughnuts to the dessert menu, and they're always out-of-this-world good. Recently, the restaurant has been offering carrot-cake doughnuts that are much like normal filled ones, but instead of being pumped full of sugary-sweet strawberry jelly, they have a creamy carrot cake batter that's almost like a custard. The doughnut itself is on the less sweet side, which I appreciate. Less common is Provisions's pumpkin doughnut, which I had the opportunity to try recently at the restaurant's first birthday celebration. I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since. A light, flaky doughnut filled with pumpkin pie? I'll take them all, please.
6. B&B Donuts, 515 Westheimer
Three words: Blueberry cake doughnut. I'm generally not a huge fan of blueberry cake doughnuts because they always seem to be too sweet, but the perfect little glazed rings at B&B have converted me. They're a wonderful hybrid of blueberry bagel and glazed doughnut that hits all the right notes: cakey, sweet, dense and tart. B&B's chocolate old-fashioneds are also some of the best in town, and they, too, are dense without being greasy and sweet without being cloying. As at Peña's, arrive early for the best variety, and pick up a Vietnamese sandwich for lunch while you're there.