By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
San Francisco loves donuts. Paris has its croissants and New York City has its bagels, but in a city where summertime means downright chilly, donuts are a warm and energy-boosting sugary remedy for starting off foggy mornings and ending late nights out. Besides, if you’ve been surfing, hiking, or biking, the calories don’t count.
Even if this place didn’t have opening hours around the clock, Bob’s Donut in Nob Hill would be famous. Luckily, it’s always open and has been since 1960. The independent, family owned and operated business has refined the art of making handmade donuts from scratch using old time recipes and techniques. In addition to “the usual suspects” such as glazed, jelly filled, chocolate sprinkle, and the beloved raised glazed cake crumb, Bob’s is known for The Big One, a super-sized donut built for group sharing. Local wisdom says you can’t eat it alone in under two minutes, but if you can, it’s free.
Remember this: Maple Glazed Bacon Apple, described thusly,”Diced Fatted Calf heritage bacon and sautéed apple base, glazed with real organic maple and topped with crispy bacon.” Meant to be an edible work of art, a composition of sweet and savory, it’s one of the edgy artisan creations at pastry chef Sarah Spearin’s Mission District donut haven. If you can’t quite wrap your head around that hand held device, Caramel de Sel and Meyer Lemon Huckleberry are also popular choices. Serving Four Barrels brand coffee, this is a daytime destination, so if you’re thinking of donuts as dessert, come in for take out. There’s a kiosk in the Marina District, also closed on Mondays and also never open beyond late afternoon.
Good morning, Tenderloin. Is there a line outside the front door? You must be in the right place. Cruffin aficionados (if a croissant and a muffin had a sugary baby) are anticipating their daily release at 9 a.m., but donut fans are always in the money as long as they come before 1 p.m., when a sellout is commonplace. That donut with the pineapple filling is probably still on your mind from your last visit here, or perhaps the passion fruit filled one, or the unmistakeable matcha? Chef’s creations of the day are usually featured on Instagram.
Just follow the aroma that’s been spicing up this neighborhood since 2014. This husband and wife team produces a long menu of freshly baked classic, glazed, raised, cake, bear claw, and old fashioned donuts throughout and the week and then go a “little crazy” on weekends. Specialty donuts with a twist include options like Nutty Monkey, Berry Crunchy, Baconpeno, S’Mores Galore, PB & J, Lemon Berry, Fruirrito, Pumpkin Fritters, and Milky Way Under A-Salt. Pair these pastries with Twisted Donuts’ iced coffee served with coffee ice cubes.
Caution: These buckets of donuts are meant for sharing. Come to Fisherman’s Wharf to carry away three dozen mini donuts, which should keep any group in good stead for a day of exploring San Francisco, hills included. Described by one fan as “delectable, morsels of slightly crunchy outside and hot tender inside mini donuts,” you may actually need two buckets. Made on the spot, covered in cinnamon sugar, they’re perfect for children, accompanied by a Ghirardelli hot chocolate and a spin on the Pier 39 antique carousel.