Bacon with donuts! Say what? What a perfect combination.
Usually, bacon donuts are paired with a maple glaze which makes them tasted like pancakes with maple syrup and a side of bacon, all in one mouthful. Only the donuts are even better. I first heard of bacon donuts when I lived in Chicago. I made it my mission to find and eat as many different varieties as possible. Since I was traveling from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine via Amtrak, I thought, let’s eat them across the US. You know to make it easier on you next time you visit. Hence, the Bacon Donut Challenge was born.
Bacon Donut Challenge
Cities: Portland, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, and Portland.
I tried to sample donuts from two shops in each city. Not good for my waistline but sometimes you have to sacrifice in the name of travel. Each shop produced vastly different donuts. Some were really sweet. Some were light and fluffy. Others were dense. Variety was the name of the game.
Located in the arts district on Alberta St., Tonalli’s offers a huge array of donuts as well as loads of ice cream. Their donut selection is on the old fashion side which is a welcome diversion from the multitude of gourmet shops available nowadays. It is a larger shop with lots of seating. Situated on the corner, it is probably the local hangout spot in the summer time. For the Bacon Donut Challenge, I knew I had to revisit Tonalli’s. Originally, I found this place last year as it was down the road from my Airbnb stay.
Their version is a raised bar donut with a thick maple glaze on top and loads of real bacon crumbles. It has a lighter texture and a good bacon flavor. Easy to devour.
With multiple locations, Stan’s is a newer shop in the Chicago area. The lovely Erika and Amy who cut my hair at Novachis Salon suggested I try Stan’s once they heard about my donut challenge. Lucky for me, there was a location within walking distance of Getaway Hostel. Little did I know I went on National Doughnut Day. Nor did I know there was such a thing as National Doughnut Day. It should be a Federal holiday. Stan’s offers a mix of traditional and gourmet selection of donuts with such names as Peanut Butter Banana, Dreamsicle Bar and Lemon Pistachio Old Fashioned, which I tried.
Their version is a more cakey-like bar with a crispy outside. Traditional glaze coats the donut while heaps of large chunks of bacon and walnuts cover the top. The amount of bacon makes this donut almost a clear winner. I mean look at how much bacon is on that sucker. Too bad the glaze is overly sweet. Too crispy, too sweet. Eventually, I picked the toppings off and only ate them.
Glazed and Infused
No visit to Chicago would be complete without a stop at Glazed and Infused. It is becoming an icon of Chicago foodie scene. Currently, they have seven locations. I stopped by the most convenient location right at the Brown Line Armitage stop. It is a smaller shop but they still had their wildly popular Maple Bacon Long John available as well as seating. Glazed is a gourmet shop which switches up their offerings but has a few that are standard staples.
Their raised bar is the only one in the Challenge that had a full slice of candied bacon laying on top. It adds a sweet full-on bacon flavor that works well with the maple glaze which isn’t overly sweet. One is enough as long as you know you can come back and get more another day.
Golden Brown Delicious
This DC shop was recommended to me by some of the ladies at Girls Who Travel. Oh, I am so glad that they did! Golden Brown is not your typical donut shop. It is more of a restaurant with donuts as an add-on. Their main focus is fried chicken. Don’t let that keep you from trying their donut selection which includes such items as Espresso with Chocolate Drizzle and seasonal favorites. The restaurant is a short bus ride from the Hostel International DC location. Well worth the short trip.
The uniqueness of their bacon donut is the addition of bourbon. Booze makes everything better. Light on the glaze, the Maple Bourbon Bacon donut was served warm and soft. It melts in your mouth. Plus you can taste a hint of the bourbon. They also switched up the shape which is square not that that creates a different flavor, but it is unique. Get two. Trust me, you will eat them both. Easily.
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Apparently, doughnut and fried chicken places are a thing in DC. Not a bad combination. Located within walking distance of the White House, the suggestion of Astro came from an article I pinned from Pinterest. You never know where good suggestions will come from. This place is teeny tiny. Don’t plan on sitting down with your coffee and donut to catch up on your newspaper reading unless it is warm outside. There are a few outdoor chairs. I ate mine while walking around the White House and Federal Building.
They had the first round raised bacon donut on the challenge tour. The donut was pretty basic with thick maple glaze drizzled on top and bacon pieces. Nothing too exciting but at least they had a lot of bacon.
Union Square Donuts
Another place recommended by Girls Who Travel as well as a Pinterest pinned article. Double whammy means I had to try them. Union Square sports two locations, one in Somerville and a new one in Boston Public Market as well as popups at several farmers markets. Yes! because the new location is in the heart of downtown where I spent most of my time and within walking distance from my Hostel International Boston stay. They offer several interesting flavor choices such as Sea Salted Bourbon Caramel and Brown Butter Apple Pudding Cake. I purchased the Maple Bacon as per the challenge rules and saved it to savor with a cup of hot tea before bed.
This raised round donut sported minimal glaze with large cuts of bacon which appeared to be uncandied, only fried or baked. Good donut texture with very strong bacon flavor and a subtle maple glaze. Delicious.
Located south of the HI Boston hostel in the South End, still within walking distance, this place features serious gourmet donuts. The likes of which this donut fanatic has never seen. I thought the Lemon Pistachio from Stan’s Donuts was stretching it but nowhere has had original flavors like Blackbird. Salted Pepper Lemon? White Pizza? Maple Peanut Butter? Say what? Have you ever heard of such flavors before? What do you suppose they paired with their bacon donut? Not maple like most. But coffee. Yup, Coffee & Bacon is the name. I had to try two flavors. The Lemon and Bacon ones, of course.
These round raised donuts were by far the puffiest ones. Very good donut base, however, the coffee flavor turned me off right away. To their fairness, I am not a coffee fan and can only tolerate it mixed with chocolate. I picked the minimal amount of sporadic bacon off and ate it instead. I’m not sure if the small slash of bacon is part of their artisanal flare, but it definitely was not enough for me even if I liked the coffee flavor. I had better luck taste-wise with the Salted Pepper Lemon. It’s good but a little odd.
The Holy Donut
This was the only locally owned donut shop I could find within a reasonable distance of my Airbnb stay. It was also recommended by a server at Portland Pie Co. They have two locations in the Portland peninsula area. The Holy Donut is known for their potato usage in the donut batter. I had never heard of potato donuts before. It creates a very moist dense donut base with amazing flavor.
Now, it was a tossup as to which bacon donut to order. They have the traditional Maple Bacon round raised donut plus something unique. They use the donut batter to make a Bacon Cheddar turnover-like pastry. I went with the more traditional Maple Bacon as the counter guy suggested the turnover was pretty hardy which wouldn’t work well since I wanted to try their Lemon Old Fashioned too.
Too much glaze on both overpowered the deliciousness of the potato donut. I ended up picking the glaze off and eating the donut base which is amazing.
Winner of the Bacon Donut Challenge
Union Station Donuts
The big cuts of bacon without all the glazey sweetness won them first place.
Golden Brown Delicious
That warm boozy bacon flavor melting in your mouth is addictive.
Glazed and Infused
A large strip of candied bacon is like nirvana.