Where to Go for Your Donut Fix in San Diego

An insider look at 10 extraordinary shops throughout the county
January 6, 2016
by Darlene Horn

Diets be damned. Donuts are having a moment in San Diego. You'll even find the fried pastries featured on dessert menus at some of the finest restaurants in town, but we much prefer munching out of a cardboard box. When it comes to grab-and-go donut shops in San Diego, we have them in spades — both tried-and-true haunts and some new upstarts offering an artisanal spin. Read on for our 10 favorite San Diego donut shops. Don't forget to cast a vote for your favorite.

V.G.’s Donut & Bakery

Its name is short for “very good,” and this Cardiff bakery's main draw is its wide selection of donuts ringing in well under $1 a pop. Locals snap up fried rings shellacked with cherry, chocolate, maple or vanilla icing or dipped in cinnamon-sugar or crumb coating all day long — the shop is open from 5 AM until 9 PM. While you’re there, we recommend asking for the shoe donut (pictured), a glazed pastry that’s half-buttermilk and half-raised.

Insider Tip: Try the doissant — the shop's take on the Cronut, a donut-croissant mash-up — available as glazed, chocolate or cinnamon crumb.

106 Aberdeen Dr., Cardiff; 760-753-2400

Nomad Donuts

While other shops focus on standard flavors like vanilla and strawberry, this North Park spot features donuts inspired by global tastes. Look for flavors like watermelon tamarind chile, zucchini chocolate chip and ube taro coconut. Those looking for standard flavors will appreciate the vanilla bean, chocolate and maple pastries. This shop opens at 6 AM and closes when the donuts sell out.

Insider Tip: A vegan selection is also available.

4504 30th St.; 619-431-5000

Devil’s Dozen Doughnuts

You know donuts have hit the big-time locally when a restaurant offers its own take. That’s the case for this sister shop to Kettner Exchange in Little Italy that has executive chef Brian Redzikowski in charge of both operations. At Devil’s Dozen, you’ll find the usual donut classics like cinnamon-sugar, chocolate-glazed and Madagascar vanilla bean alongside churro bites and a rotating daily special sold through the shop’s walk-up window.

Insider Tip: If you’re looking to eat nearby, head upstairs to the open patio overlooking Little Italy.

2001 Kettner Blvd.; 619-780-0914

Donut Panic

Vegans and non-vegans alike will devour these pastries with glee. Located in Grantville right on Mission Gorge Road, the shop sells handmade donuts with a pleasant chew from a dough that incorporates potato flakes and soy milk. Owner and baker Linda Dami takes her creations one step further adding flavorings reflecting her father’s Iranian background. On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, you’ll find Thai tea crème, rose cardamom and another flavored with nooch (nutritional yeast), garlic and black pepper.

Insider Tip: Check the shop’s Facebook page for a sneak peek at flavors.

6171 Mission Gorge Rd. #113; 619-280-1894

Peterson’s Donut Corner

This Escondido shop is open 24/7, so you'll be set whenever the donut craving strikes. Before heading up to place an order at the walk-up window, take a walk around the tiny building to take in the wide variety of flavors. Peterson's has it all, from standard raised rings to glazed twists to hefty Vienna cream–filled bars. There’s a lot to chose from and a deal starting at $1.65 for a dozen donut holes. And for a party, place an order for the shop’s Texas-size donut that serves up to 10 people.

Insider Tip: The shop also sells muffins and croissants.

903 S. Escondido Blvd., Escondido; 760-745-7774

Mary’s Donuts

The big donut on the roof seen from Mission Gorge Road is now gone ginormous apple fritters, blueberry cake and raised crumb donuts and fruit burritos are just a few of the popular mainstays offered since 1985 at their new location down the road. And once you get inside the door, there’s a lot to see. Between the front counter lined with pastries and photos of patrons tacked up on every available free spot on the wall, you'll know you’re in a much–beloved institution.

Insider Tip: In February 2016, the shop is scheduled to move a mile-and-a-half to Carlton Hills Drive.

8959 Carlton Hills Blvd, Santee; 619-448-4800

Donut Bar

In terms of megastar attraction, this Downtown donuttery has it in spades. It’s been featured in major publications, and celebs such as Brad Pitt, Ryan Seacrest, Steve Harvey and Ellen DeGeneres are among its fans. Open daily from 7 AM until they sell out for the day (usually around noon), the shop offers lots of choices including the Big Poppa-Tart (a donut stuffed with a Pop-Tart), a strawberry split and, on the weekends, a French toast–style donut cooked to order.

Insider Tip: Avoid donut sellout by ordering by the dozen online in advance.

631 B St.; 619-255-6360

Stardust Donut Shop

There are a few reasons to head south to Imperial Beach, but one taste of these glazed beauties and Stardust will top your list. The shop was opened in 1967 by brothers Ed and Cliff Arnold, and Cliff continues churning out handmade donuts (Ed passed away a few years ago). Operating times may be sporadic, but there are lines outside every day for cinnamon rolls, German chocolate and classic glazed.

Insider Tip: Cash only.

698 CA-75, Imperial Beach; 619-424-6200

Streetcar Merchants of Fried Chicken, Doughnuts & Coffee

The inside of the shop is gorgeous and the pastry selection huge at this North Park restaurant that's a go-to for artisanal donuts. Using a brioche-base pastry as a starter, the kitchen tops each tasty creation with the likes of lemon ginger snaps, salted Nutella and horchata-flavored icing. Once lunch starts there's made-to-order fried chicken cooked either Southern-style, Nashville hot or Korean twice-fried, with the option to add a waffle on the side.

Insider Tip: Add extra time when ordering fried chicken.

4002 30th St.; 619-546-9010

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