Need something to do this weekend? Here are five doughnut shops that are worth ruining your New Year's resolutions over.
Cartems Donuterie, 534 West Pender Street
Just as local craft brewers have emerged as a visceral reaction against Big Beer, Cartems is Vancouver’s artisanal response to Big Doughnut, aka Tim Hortons.
Entering Cartems’ West Pender location is the antithesis of a trip to a cramped Timmies. The expansive entranceway, polished hardwood floor, warm lighting, brick walls, and high ceiling create a luxurious ambiance, which is topped off with a beautiful window display of dunkable treats.
The maple-walnut doughnut is out of this world—soft, succulent, spicy, and offset with just enough sugar to twinkle the taste buds. The nuts are smoked in-house. In fact, all the doughnuts are baked at Cartems’ roomy new outlet at 2190 Main Street and brought to the West Pender store. We also recommend the legendary Cartems Earl Grey doughnut, which is loaded with the taste of organic tea and sprinkled with rose petals. Other doughnuts are flavoured with Canadian whisky and bacon (this one is especially decadent), salted caramel, and vanilla beans.
They’re fried in coconut oil, which is a favourite of vegans everywhere. In fact, nearly everything inside this place seems to be sourced locally and ethically, including the flour, eggs, and spices. Founder Jordan Cash, like many of our craft brewers, isn’t shy about plugging other local businesses—for proof, check out the Cartems Twitter feed.
We may not be able to afford the big luxuries, like a single-family home in Vancouver, but Cartems still gives us a chance to feel like a king or queen with its epicurean delights. Top one of them off with an Elysian Coffee beverage at the espresso bar. It beats what you’ll find over at Big Doughnut.
Lucky’s Doughnuts, 2902 Main Street
Anyone who thinks gourmet doughnut is an oxymoron has not visited this sleek Main Street outpost in a renovated former laundromat.
Glazes, fillings, dough: they’re all artfully hand-crafted from scratch. Simple beauties include the sour-cream Old Fashioned dipped in vanilla glaze; the Bismarck stuffed with raspberry jam and covered in a snowy coating of powdered sugar; and the almost obscenely sinful salted-caramel.
Those who want to sink their teeth into something fancier have a lot of bling rings to choose from. Over the holidays, we tried a to-die-for orange-cake version with a cranberry glaze and toasted pistachio. In the New Year watch for the resolution-ruining Memphis Flash, a rectangle of dough packed with peanut-butter pastry cream, Nutella, and caramelized banana.
And rest assured: everything in the display case has been made within the last hour and a half. Best of all, you can wash your goodies down with an equally “gourmet” coffee, care of 49th Parallel Roasters and a rad Kees van der Westen “Spirit” espresso machine.
Krispy Kreme, 7153 120 Street, Delta
Yes, it’s a big multinational corporation, and that makes us a little ambivalent about mentioning Krispy Kreme in Vancouver Weekend.
Then there’s the fact that the chain’s lone Lower Mainland outlet is located in Delta, which means you’ll spend three hours on public transit before you can get your hands on a Karamel Kreme Crunch. But screw the downsides, because, just as Starbucks makes a damn fine cup of coffee, Krispy Kreme sure knows how to make a doughnut.
Keep it simple with a half-dozen stupidly delicious Original Glazed™, which have been made from the same recipe since the 1930s. Or sink your teeth into the sinfully fruity Glazed Raspberry Filled or the Triple Chocolate, featuring dark-chocolate Kreme™ and a white-chocolate ganache drizzle.
A warning, though, that there are drawbacks to Krispy Kreme besides the Delta location and that whole multinational thing. Thanks to the outlet’s location out in the ’burbs, you inevitably end up springing for a half-dozen doughnuts to make the trek worthwhile.
And because having just one is futile when it comes to the gloriously sugary Original Glazed™, you’ll be pulling a U-turn for more before hitting the Knight Street Bridge back into Vancouver.
Lee’s Donuts, 122—1689 Johnston Street, Granville Island
This unassuming, cozy little family-owned bakery in Granville Island’s Public Market has been operating since the market opened back in 1979. Owner Alan Lee, who passed away in 2014, set up shop with his wife Betty-Ann after his favourite East Van doughnut joint shut down in the late ’70s. Unable to appease his cravings, he learned the art of doughnut making and opened Lee’s.
Ever since, staff have focused on one thing: consistency. These cakey, old-fashioned donuts are so texturally sound that the old “melt in your mouth” cliché doesn’t quite do them justice. Made fresh daily using whole eggs and fried in vegetable shortening, these handmade treats will take you back to a simpler time, when the emphasis was less on fancy flavour combinations and more on quality.
The most popular choice, by far, is the honey-dip: a delicate but filling pastry best served warm. You can’t go wrong with other traditional recipes, like Lee’s sugar-raised, powdered, or jelly donuts, made with fresh local jam. The Mango Madness and coconut-cream are top picks if you’re looking for something with a smooth, creamy filling. If it’s that added texture you’re looking for, go for the peanut or chocolate-crunch. End your next trip to Granville Island with a stop at Lee’s and satisfy that sweet tooth with a fluffy, honeyed piece of heaven.
The Gluten Free Epicurean, 633 East 15th Avenue
You’d think the words gluten-free and doughnuts would have to be preceded by a severe no when uttered in the same sentence, but the folks at the Gluten Free Epicurean have somehow defied the laws of baking physics.
Not only does the hip Fraser ’hood joint pump out treats that are completely void of—you guessed it—gluten, but it also takes care to offer dairy-, nut-, sugar-, and soy-free options as well. The best part? You can’t even tell.
Take the organic apple fritter, for example, a heavenly morsel that’s soft to the bite and loaded with chunks of warm, honeyed apple. Or the Boston Cream doughnut, which has custard so light and rich, it’d make even the purest pastry lover a believer. Similar praises can be sung for the Epicurean’s maple-bacon-apple and lemon-blueberry fritters. Check the shop’s baking schedule and be sure to arrive early to avoid disappointment.