|This man needs coffee and crullers, STAT!|
The classic American doughnut shop is a time-honored tradition, the second most crucial of the Great American Gathering Places (right behind diners). Before coffee shops got fancy and then fancier, the doughnut shop was the centralized early morning meeting place of business people and old-timers alike. There are many truly classic doughnut shops in metro Detroit; some have been around 50 years or more (and look it, gahblessem). These places all serve beautifully misshapen homemade doughnuts and are open EARLY to LATE (many are 24 hours, in theory if not in actual practice). Like stepping back in time, each of these independent doughnut shops that have ridden out the proliferation of Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme offer a little bit of that homey, down-to-earth small-town feel. The coffee isn't fancy; it's all good old-fashioned 1950's commodified American brew. "Good" means it's not burnt, and that's good enough, because the nuanced flavor of a freshly-roasted Nicaraguan French press would just be lost in the mouthfuls of glazed deep-fried dough anyway.
#1 Knudsen's Danish Bakery (Detroit)
Located in Northwest Detroit's Rosedale Park neighborhood, one of those inexplicably adorable areas of Detroit surrounded on all sides by post-apocalyptic bombed-out third-world Detroit, Knudsen's Danish Bakery is a cute little bakery that specializes in cakes, breads (like thick, dense egg bread), donuts, and - naturally - danishes. Try a rich raspberry or cheese danish and savor the dense, soft, vanilla-perfumed danish dough. Unlike nearly every other bakery on this list, they actually accept credit cards here, but you probably won't need it - prices are incredibly cheap, even by doughnut shop standards.
#2 Dutch Girl Donuts (Detroit)
Dutch Girl Donuts has been on its little corner of 7 Mile and Woodward since 1947, serving up glazed donuts like crack rocks. (Um. That's not meant as commentary on the area; just to indicate how addictive they are.) The donuts are always fresh and they churn out all the favorites: gooey cinnamon rolls, melt-in-your-mouth traditional raisin and maple doughnuts, crumbly cake doughnuts. Don't plan on hanging out long because the entryway is barely big enough to accommodate four people, but for a quick grab-and-go to/from work/home, this place can't be beat.
You have to love a place with a name that gets right to the point. The doughnuts at Yum Yum Tasty Doughnuts are indeed yum yum tasty! (And in unique flavors like honey-glazed chocolate and Oreo.) So are the soft fresh-baked bagels (in a variety of flavors like cheese, salt and garlic), the monster-sized turnovers and cinnamon rolls, and the French crullers dripping with liquidy glaze. They also serve bagel sandwiches and homemade soups and chili, with plenty of room to sit down at a vinyl-and-formica booth and enjoy them. With all the sleek and shiny new doughnut shops in popping hues of pink and orange with sparkling white counters under bright fluorescent lights, there's something comforting in the old 1970's design palette of orange and brown with a faded old sign out front. This place is definitely an old-fashioned throwback in the grand tradition of donut-shop-as-social-center, and the staff is incredibly welcoming and friendly. This is the full-throttle doughnut shop experience as it was meant to be (even the coffee is better than most).
#4 Apple Fritter (Ferndale)
At the Apple Fritter in Ferndale, the early bird gets the doughnut. The late sleepy-in bird gets only disappointment. But if you get here early enough (i.e., before the crack of noon) to catch these guys still serving fresh, hot apple fritters right out of the oven, you're in for a spiritual experience in fritterdom ... think of it as warm cinnamony apple pie, but in a doughnut. They have a vast variety of other delicious, fresh fried dough-balls too, but when a place actually names itself after a particular item you should probably take their word for it and go with that.
#5 The Donut Cutter (Berkley)
Cinnamon- and sugar-drenched delicate French crullers. Heavy eclairs filled with homemade custard. Melt-in-your-mouth traditional glazed doughnuts. Moist, dense cake donuts fried up crusty on the outside but soft and crumbly on the inside. The Donut Cutter serves all the favorites; they open at 3 a.m. so after your post-bar Taco Bell bender you can have a post-post-bar-bender here with fresh, piping hot, gooey doughnuts ... or, if you're a Responsible-pants, stop in a few hours later during the decent hours of the A.M. and sidle up next to one of the senior citizen sentinels who keep dutiful watch over the place.
Bubbling under Avon Donuts (Pontiac), Knapp's Donut Shop (Rochester, Troy), Detroit Donuts (St. Clair Shores), New Palace Bakery (Hamtramck), Peoples Brothers Bakery (Southwest Detroit), Donutown Dghnt (Redford), Donutville USA (Dearborn), Variety Donuts (St. Clair Shores), Main Doughnuts (Royal Oak), New Martha Washington Bakery (Hamtramck)