For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a sweet tooth. When I was maybe six or seven, my family went out to dinner, and I remember being allowed to order something off the dessert menu — which was not a common occurrence in our household — and to my parents surprise I ordered cheesecake. It was love at first bite.
Unfortunately for me, cheesecake has not seen an explosion in popularity like cupcakes, cake pops or my current obsession, donuts. I’m not sure what it is about these fried pieces of dough but let’s be real, they’re basically taking over the world. I think part of the appeal is that they’re the sweet treat that’s acceptable to eat any time of day. While you might get weird looks if you ate a piece of cake at 9 a.m., no one questions the coworker who brings in a dozen or so donuts on Monday morning. Red flag warning: When you start researching the best donut shops to visit in each new city that you go to, you might need to seek professional help, or at the very least a personal trainer.
I think its fair to say, I’ve eaten more donuts than the average human over the past three years, and now I want to share my knowledge of Richmond’s local donut shops with you! In my mind there’s a clear front runner, but donuts are like snowflakes — each one is unique — so I’ll let you decide for yourself which shop is your favorite. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are five local spots where you can find the best donuts in Richmond.
Mrs. Yoder’s Donuts
These pillowy sourdough donuts are served piping hot on Saturday mornings at the South of The James Farmer’s Market (SOTJ). You won’t find crazy creative toppings here, just plain glazed. And to be honest these donuts don’t need anything else. Without a doubt, this is the best glazed donut in Richmond. When you decide you’re ready to have this life changing treat, pack your patience. It isn’t uncommon to wait up to 30 minutes in line for a freshly fried donut.
The Yoder family was kind enough to let me inside their operation one Saturday morning. Full disclosure — when they invited me in, I almost cried. While watching the family make donuts for the 75 or so people waiting in line, I learned that the donut recipe really does come from Mrs. Yoder and that the glaze is a family recipe, passed down from her mother-in-law. Fun fact: When SOTJ is in full swing, they crank out 2,800 donuts in just four short hours.
You can also find Mrs. Yoder’s donut truck at Westbury Pharmacy on Monday mornings from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. if you need a pick me up to help you get over the Monday blues.
The dish: Run, don’t walk to try these donuts. Run because (a) they’re that good, and (b) we all probably need to burn a few calories before stuffing our faces with sugary treats. First timer’s warning: Be careful, after your long wait in line. You’ll want to inhale it immediately, but these babies are hot and best when savored slowly.
Richmonders went crazy when Sugar Shack opened, and for good reason. Sugar Shack consistently puts out quality donuts with creative toppings — I’m still trying to track down the elusive Lee’s Fried Chicken donut. Since opening in 2013, these donuts have been featured in USA Today, Southern Living and Thrillist.
When you walk into the shop, one thing you won’t find is a menu listing what donuts are available. That’s because the variety changes so frequently it’s easier to just give customers the run down as they get to the counter to order. Classic glazed is typically my favorite, but at Sugar Shack I go for the chocolate glazed donut with sprinkles.
Fun fact about Sugar Shack, I once ordered a specialty donut that resembled a cat to give to one of my former roommates for her birthday — you can’t tell in the photo, but it was literally the size of my face. Now, I can’t confirm if they’ll still make you whatever your little heart desires out of donuts, but I do know you can order a giant donut the size of a small or medium pizza.
If you don’t live in Richmond, you may be in luck. This gem that got its start in Richmond has expanded quite rapidly. Sugar Shack has multiple locations in the Greater Richmond area and in Arlington, Alexandria, Fredericksburg and Cocoa, Florida (with more locations and a food truck in the works).
The dish: If you’re looking for something creative to start your morning with, or if you’re craving something sweet after lunch or dinner, make the trip to Sugar Shack. You’ll feel like a kid again eating the chocolate glazed donut with sprinkles – or maybe try the bacon maple donut if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
Country Style Donuts
This is the donut shop that’s been making donuts since before they were cool. Country Style Donuts has been open since 1968 and that old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” applies here. According to a Richmond Times Dispatch article, the Nassereddine family learned to make donuts while working at Dunkin’ Donuts, after immigrating from Lebanon. In 1984, they purchased Country Style Donuts and have made only minor changes. Really, when you walk in the door it is almost as if you’ve been transported back in time.
The shop is open 24 hours, Tuesday through Sunday, so you can satisfy your craving at almost any hour and they’re making 38 varieties — sadly I have not tried them all, at least yet. And for all you West Enders, the Nassereddine’s have opened a second location on Broad Street. My donut of choice at Country Style Donuts is the blueberry chip — a dense cake donut, coated in a light glaze. You’ll want to have a glass of milk or a cup of coffee on stand by, this option is not light on sugar. I’ve also heard the peanut covered donuts are highly addictive, if you’re able to snag one, please let me know what you think.
The dish: This donut shop might be a little off the beaten path, especially if you’re going to the East End location, but it is worth the trip. I like to stop by whenever I’m heading back to the city from the airport. Pro tip: If you’re feeling generous but don’t want to break the bank, pick up a dozen for the office, it will only cost you about $11. Your coworkers will thank you.
Westhampton Pastry Shop
While I don’t know as much about the history of the Westhampton Pastry Shop (W.P.S), what I do know is that they make a darn good donut. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Guy “Boots” Rogers III has been making donuts for more than 30 years at W.P.S and baking runs in the family – his grandfather actually started Thalhimers Bakery.
The large Donut Squad Headquarters banner hanging in the window lets you know you’re in the right place. This somewhat nondescript pastry shop sells only two donut options: glazed and chocolate glazed, which should make self-proclaimed donut purists happy. It also makes me happy that you can try every variety and not break the bank.
The dish: Stop in after checking out the shops around Patterson, or make the longer walk over from the shops at Libbie and Grove. After all that walking and shopping, maybe you won’t feel as guilty if you try both the plain glazed and the chocolate glazed — just bring a friend that won’t judge you. While you’re there, you can also pick up a few of the other pastries the shop sells.
The Treat Shop RVA
Southsiders need easy access to donuts too! Okay, I’ll admit it, when I saw the news that a donut shop that also serves funnel cakes, fried Oreos and barbecue was opening, I wrote it off as something that would never make it. But, man was I wrong. I’ve changed my tune, and now I think the concept is genius. Who doesn’t love donuts, funnel cakes, fried Oreos and barbecue?
The Treat Shop RVA is situated in an unassuming strip mall and when you enter the shop you’re greeted with friendly faces and bright decor. On a recent trip I picked up a raspberry filled powdered donut and a classic glazed. I think you might be sensing a common theme here, for my taste testing purposes the glazed donut is an important indicator of success. One of my “blind” taste testers (did you really think I ate nine donuts in one sitting?) described the glazed donut as light and pillowy. “You can tell a donut is going to be good by the way it reacts when you cut into it.” This glazed donut passed both the knife and taste test.
The dish: If you’re heading to the SOTJ on Saturday and you don’t have time to wait in line for Mrs. Yoder’s stop here first. A donut or two keep you from getting hangry while you drive around searching for that elusive farmer’s market parking spot. And a little birdie told me that the Treat Shop RVA’s donuts can now be found daily at Crossroads Coffee. I can’t wait to go back and try the massive apple fritter and maybe a funnel cake and fried Oreo, just for good measure.
I’d love to know hear your thoughts on the great Richmond donut debate. Share your favorite donut shop in the comments below. And if (gasp!) I didn’t write about your favorite donuts in Richmond, let me know — I can never have enough donuts in my life.
P.S. If you have any San Francisco or New York donut shop recommendations, do tell. I’ll be visiting both cities later this year!