3350 Brighton Boulevard
1644 Platte Street
Acorn and Brider chef/co-owner Steven Redzikowski may have created the perfect doughnut, and enough people appear to agree, given that the limited selection served at these two Denver restaurants sells out every day. At Acorn, the fifteen or so doughnuts made daily disappear before lunch ends, and at Brider the situation is the same, though there are a few more made — along with addictive apple fritters. The flavors change daily and have included roasted blackberry-ginger, grapefruit glazed, Chinese five-spice with sugar, and bourbon with mint. The first doughnut special made an appearance at Acorn on a Saturday as a treat for customers, but the demand proved high, and soon it was clear the eatery needed to offer them every day at lunch time. Get there early to nab one, but don't be surprised if they're already gone.
4918 East Colfax Avenue, 720-485-5706
746 Peoria Street, Aurora, 303-367-4603
If you aren't looking, you might drive right past City Donuts' small storefront on East Colfax. Don't let this happen; after all, the quaint shop won our Best of Denver award last year for its sweet pastries for a good reason. The selection (lacking the newfangled inventions of other shops) may look a little dull, but those looks are deceiving. The yeast-risen options prove light, fluffy and totally addictive, while the cake doughnuts have a nice lemony freshness that sings with not-too-sweet frosting and multi-colored sprinkles. You might also want to try the apple fritters, which have a deep flavor and density perfect for dipping in black coffee or taking on the road. Just make sure you get there early: The doughnuts are made at the Aurora location, and they sell out just about every day.
Glazed & Confuzed
2501 Dallas Street, Aurora (Stanley Marketplace)
950 Broadway (Broadway Market)
When doughnuts taste fresh and bouncy and boast a bevy of unique, inspired flavors, the shop making said treats surely stands out. At Josh Schwab's Glazed & Confuzed, such is the case, and it's not just the witty name that makes the offerings so good. You'll want to hang out in the spacious shop in Stanley Marketplace and take a deep dive into a plate of bacon-and-maple-laced Breakfast of Champz doughnuts while nestled in a booth, or feed your kids bites of bright-pink strawberry-glazed morsels while they play with toys. The flavor list changes frequently; recent highlights on the menu include the Mojito, a yeast doughnut with rum, lime and mint glaze that gets topped with a candied mint leaf; the Mexican hot chocolate, a stuffed doughnut oozing with cinnamon-tinged chocolate goodness; and the Confuzed Somoa, the shop's take on the classic Girl Scout cookie. If you come in and the case is empty, don't worry: Schwab and his team restock with fresh doughnuts all day long, something that can happen more than a dozen times on a busy Saturday. To top off the wonderfulness of this venue, Schwab uses organic, sustainable and local ingredients in almost all of his doughnuts, so that makes them good for you (right?). There's also a second location now at the Broadway Market.
Habit Doughnut Dispensary
1553 Platte Street
Habit Carbon Five Points
2200 California Street
The doughnuts at the original hipster shop on Platte Street aren't for everyone. But if you crave brioche doughnuts in flavors like strawberry jam, peanut-butter drizzle and candied peanuts, or mint-buttercream filling with mint-chocolate ganache, well, then, give Habit a go. French-toast doughnuts come with a "syringe" of maple syrup, and a range of streusels make an appearance on all sorts of daily flavors. The brains behind the creations is chef Jason Graf, and the menu speaks to his love of the pastry as well as his fondness for whiskey. That's why you can opt for doughnuts infused or paired with booze, a novelty that's open to guests over 21. But don't worry, kids can find goodies, too, including the Habit, a raspberry and blueberry doughnut with white chocolate, or the simple malted-milk-glazed option. There are no tables at Habit on Platte, so take your doughnuts to go — even if it's right next door to Carbon Cafe & Bar for a cup of coffee. Note: For more capacious surroundings, hit the new spot on California Street.
3450 Larimer Street
Whether you drop by Hotbox Roasters Cafe for a shot of caffeine or a beer (taps open weekdays at 7 a.m.), you'll definitely want a doughnut with that. This triple-concept cafe, part of Oskar Blues Fooderies, cranks out roughly twenty hand-cut varieties while you're sleeping so doughnuts are fresh every morning. Don't miss the glazed, a ring of yeast-raised yumminess that takes two hours to make and is full-bodied thanks to high-protein bread flour. And by all means, venture out of your comfort zone with the Earl Grey-lavender (trust us), with a colorful drizzle of naturally flavored frosting. If you're a cake purist, you'll be hot for Hotbox's cake doughnuts, which are tender but never oily. The blueberry is a fan fave, but we can't resist the vanilla-scented old-fashioned and the chocolate glazed. So don't kid yourself when you're at the front of the line: You'll want a box, not a bag, and whichever side of the raised/cake divide you fall on, you can go home with plenty of both.