Doughnuts are hardly a new American treat. National and regional chains alike have thrived since as far back as the 1930s serving the fried-dough treat. But doughnuts, as with many other American favorites, are finding new life in today’s foodservice world, with emerging brands offering new and creative spins on the product.
Here, in honor of National Donut Day, we take a look at eight emerging brands taking the doughnut to a whole new level.
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Rise Biscuits Donuts
This Durham, North Carolina–based chain was launched by veteran chef Tom Ferguson, and the lean toward culinary creativity shows on the menu. The doughnut lineup, which changes frequently, can include everything from Crème Brulee and Maple Bacon offerings to a Cherry Mash doughnut with a sweet cherry and cream cheese filling and chocolate icing, crushed peanuts, and a cherry on top. There are also several biscuit sandwiches on the menu, along with other goodies that boost lunch business, like chicken strips and salads. The brand has 18 locations open in eight states, with more than 160 units in development across the country.
Launched in North Carolina’s Outer Banks in 2006, Duck Donuts became a franchise success partly because of all the tourists who had experienced the brand while on vacation and later inquired about franchising. Specializing in made-to-order doughnuts in a beach-themed atmosphere, Duck Donuts has grown to 65 franchise locations, with more than 200 in development in 23 states and two countries.
The Dapper Doughnut
What originally launched as a Chicago food truck called Beaver’s Coffee + Donuts has become a doughnut concept seeking aggressive franchise growth across the country. Founders Gabriel Wiesen and James Nuccio grew Beaver’s into a chain of five food trucks and a stall in Chicago’s French Market, specializing in made-to-order mini doughnuts and locally roasted coffee. Now rebranded as The Dapper Doughnut, the company has stores open or in development in cities across the U.S., including flagship stores at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and at the Fulton Center in New York City.
Things that start in Portland, Oregon, like to “keep things weird” in the spirit of the city, and Voodoo Doughnut is no exception. This funky and creative brand features dozens of outside-the-box flavor options, like the Oh Captain, My Captain with Captain Crunch cereal and vanilla frosting; the Voodoo Bubble with vanilla frosting, bubble gum dust, and a piece of bubble gum; and the Mango Tango with mango jelly, vanilla frosting, and Tang. There are now eight Voodoo locations in the U.S. dishing doughnuts in the brand’s signature pink boxes.
Five Daughters Bakery
Stephanie and Isaac Meek founded Five Daughters Bakery in 2015 in their hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, naming the brand after—yep—their five daughters. It focuses on better ingredients for its doughnuts and pastries, sourcing local, organic, and non-GMO foods. The star of the menu is the 100 Layer Doughnut, which is a cross between a croissant and doughnut. It’s infused with butter creams and topped with glazes and comes in varieties like vanilla cream and chocolate sea salt. The bakery also features paleo doughnuts, which are gluten-, dairy-, and refined sugar–free, made with almond, coconut, and tapioca flour. Five Daughters has locations in Nashville and Florida, and another opening in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market.
Sublime’s founder and creative director Kamal Grant served as a baker in the Navy before enrolling at the Culinary Institute of America, giving him a uniquely global education in the world’s pastry-making ways. In 2008 he opened Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta, a concept dishing a wide range of creative doughnut options, like the White Chocolate Peach Fritter, the Sweet Potato Cake Doughnut, and the Salt & Vinegar Doughnut. There’s also ice cream on the menu, as well as “burgers,” which are really doughnut ice cream sandwiches.
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Elliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern first opened Astro Doughnuts in Washington, D.C., in 2013, hoping to re-create the classic doughnut shop they visited after hockey practice when they were growing up in nearby Bethesda, Maryland. But shortly after rolling out the doughnut concept, they decided to expand the business’s potential with fried chicken and sandwiches that combine the chicken with doughnut buns. The combination was so popular in D.C. that the brand jumped to the West Coast with its third location, which opened in Los Angeles last year.
A Seattle mainstay since 2002, Top Pot boasts the tagline “hand-forged doughnuts” because of the way its crew makes the doughnuts by hand, which the company boasts preserves the “unique characteristics of each doughnut.” There are more than 40 doughnut varieties on the menu, along with a premium coffee lineup (it is Seattle, after all). Top Pot has grown to 23 locations in Washington and Texas, and is growing through franchising.