Dynamo in San Francisco is known for its fancy, artisanal doughnuts. (Photo/dynamodonut.com)
Dynamo in San Francisco is known for its fancy, artisanal doughnuts. (Photo/dynamodonut.com)

Where to get a great box of doughnuts in the Bay Area this Hanukkah

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

From Israeli sufganiyot and the Polish treats they evolved from to the bimuelos found across the Sephardi world, Jews have long celebrated Hanukkah with one of the few things we all agree on: doughy desserts fried in oil.

In American cuisine, what more iconic fried, doughy dessert is there than the humble doughnut? As a devoted Hanukkah apologist and booster of Jewish Americana (or is that American Judaica?), I always gravitate toward doughnuts at this time of year. Whether it’s a single $15 deconstructed doughnut infused with hibiscus or a classic pink box from a Chinese doughnut joint, I have to have it.

Without further ado, based on years of my own research and advice from some of my J. colleagues, here are some great places to grab doughnuts this Hanukkah. (Or anytime, really. But definitely Hanukkah.)

San Francisco

Dynamo Donut + Coffee. Dynamo is a much celebrated doughnut shop. It’s my go-to for fancy, artisanal doughnuts. These are special occasion doughnuts. I get a box from here every Hanukkah. Get something that sounds weird — you won’t regret it.

Mochill Mochidonut. Take an afternoon to wander through Japantown, with its ramen shops and warrens of plastic collectibles. (Not a bad place to pick up some gifts, by the way.) And while you’re there, stop at Mochill’s flagship location for a really different take on a doughnut. Crispy, chewy rice flour rings with flavors ranging from chocolate to mango to matcha.

East Bay

Donut Farm. This 16-year-old Oakland spot, started by Josh Levine, is as East Bay as doughnuts get. They’re vegan, and they’re made from local organic ingredients. And at the end of the day, they’re really tasty fried dough. They’re also the prettiest doughnuts you’ve ever seen.

Dream Fluff Donuts. This Berkeley shop, which opened its doors in 1940, is the ideal of a classic American doughnut joint. And they have every kind. Cake doughnuts, risen-yeast doughnuts, gigantic crullers, bear claws and on and on. Everyone in the family (or office or group chat or whatever) will find their favorite kind here.

North Bay

Johnny Doughnuts. Remember the “cronut” fad? It’s still alive and well at Jewish-owned Johnny Doughnuts, though they call their croissant-doughnut mashup a cro-dough. Johnny’s offerings at four locations (including a new one in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights) run the gamut from American classics to more creative items. I hear the wheat-free doughnut is worth a trip if you’re living a wheat-free life.

Donut Alley. Old-fashioneds. Portuguese malasadas. It’s all good. But don’t miss the foot-shaped glazed doughnut at this Larkspur institution. “A favorite with kids and a conversation piece at the office for sure,” boasts the website. For sure.

Peninsula/South Bay

Stan’s Donut Shop. This Santa Clara landmark is the type of place where people get so hyped about the classic glazed that there’s a disclaimer on the website about limiting orders during peak hours. But they have the full range of classic doughnuts, as well. A tip from J. staff writer Emma Goss: This is a great spot for a jelly doughnut.

Psycho Donuts. The name is a little intense, but the doughnuts at this Campbell spot are over-the-top to match. There’s the root beer float, a vegan cake doughnut with root beer buttercream and a candy root beer barrel on top. And the feng shui, a bar of raised dough with green tea icing. And of course, the titular psycho doughnut, which features pretzels, chocolate icing and cayenne pepper.

Finally: Don’t overthink it — stop by your local Chinese doughnut joint.

From my apartment in the Mission District, I can walk to a half-dozen of them, but they’re all over this great state. Many, if not most, are actually owned by Cambodian immigrants — but the sign out front often says simply, “Chinese Donut,” and there’s often a full menu of American Chinese classics alongside the doughnuts. Are they always the best doughnuts around? Who cares. They’re still doughnuts. And while you’re there, get some more fried food. You like spring rolls? Scallion pancakes? General Tso’s? It’s all fried. ’Tis the season.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is director of news product at J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @davidamwilensky