11 best places for donuts in Pittsburgh (because it’s Doughvember!)
This article first appeared at NEXTpittsburgh.com, a media partner of Kidsburgh. Sign up here for NEXTpittsburgh’s free newsletter filled with all the latest news about the people driving change in our city and the innovative and cool things happening here. Photo above courtesy of Duck Donuts.
It’s that magical time of year, “Doughvember,” when a donut and a cup of coffee on a brisk fall morning make the world’s problems melt away, if just for a moment. (We also hear that kids might like donuts just as much as grownups do.) Wondering where to find the very best places for donuts in Pittsburgh?
The city doesn’t have a lot of donut shops unless you count Dunkin’ (which is okay as a last resort). But the secret is this: We do have an abundance of good bakeries, some of which feature exceptional donuts.
Doughvember just got sweeter, too — two new donut shops are scheduled to open this month. First, there’s Oliver’s Donuts, anchoring an upstairs cafe at the new Lawrenceville Market House, a former bank building-turned-small business cooperative on Butler Street.
There’s also Valkyrie Doughnuts, which is evolving from a mobile trailer (usually parked at 4903 Penn Ave.) to a brick and mortar shop on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue. They’re known for their utterly original square vegan doughnuts with flavors such as Creme Brûlée French Toast, Hibiscus Lemon and Oreo Cheesecake. I can’t wait to give this spot a shot.
The best of all donuts may be the elusive, giant Amish donuts that sometimes show up at farmer’s markets in the area. They used to be sold at Soergel Orchards on select weekends (now they often feature Oram’s), but they are hard to find close to Pittsburgh. (If you have an idea where to get them, let us know!)
Here’s a list of our favorite (almost all non-chain) donut shops in the area.
Oram’s Donut Shop, Beaver Falls
The heavyweight champion of local donuts is out in Beaver Falls, but there are plenty of people who make the early morning drive from Pittsburgh to get them before they sell out. (I am not one of those people. I will drive a long way for a donut — but I draw the line at getting up early). Still, I have been here (later in the day, with less selection) and this classic donut shop, here since 1938, is the kind of old-fashioned family tradition that dreams and Rick Sebak specials are made of. No trends, no off-the-wall flavors, though some seasonal donuts are involved — just giant donuts, twice the size of most others. Get an Original Creme or a Cinnamon Roll, and know that this is what helped make your grandpa’s rough week at the mill worth it. Update: it looks like Coffee Tree Roasters in Squirrel Hill gets a limited supply of Oram’s donuts on select mornings. In fact, there’s a long list of places that sell them.
Father & Son Family Bakery, Observatory Hill
I somehow ended up at this place on a shortcut-turned-longcut home from McKnight Road, and couldn’t believe my luck. Once in a while, getting lost in Pittsburgh is a good thing. Observatory Hill on the North Side had a longtime, locally famous bakery in Schorr’s, which closed in 2019. But a new family decided to reopen the shop and continue the tradition with many of the original recipes. Their simple glazed donuts are light and airy, though I like the ones with strawberries or blueberry jam glopped on top, which are even better. The cinnamon twists are also good, and the powdered sugar/custard-filled is a classic. In fact, this no-frills North Side spot keeps it so simple that one of each covers the bases.
Prantl’s Bakery, multiple locations
Okay, so you’re really only here for one reason — the legendary Burnt Almond Torte. Well here’s reason two: Prant’ls Burnt Almond Torte Donut. The sugary, nutty crunch transfers perfectly to the top of a donut, and may in fact be the best delivery vehicle that doesn’t involve buying an entire torte. If you’ve never had it, believe the hype.
Just Good Donuts/The Pub Chip Shop, South Side
Inside the Pub Chip Shop, next door to the famous Scottish barroom Piper’s Pub, is Just Good Donuts. Get your fish and chips and Brisket Cheddar Pie, then stock up on Maple Bacon Donuts, chocolate-covered Yinz Cream Donuts, and Chocolate Toffee Crunch Donuts. Then find a place to keel over, preferably somewhere with some footie on the telly.
Duck Donuts, Upper St. Clair
Okay, just one exception to our no-chains rule — because this Duck, NC (Outer Banks) chain is the future of donuts, and we’re lucky to have one. They make each donut fresh to order before your very eyes and you can dream up your own heavenly combo of glazes, drizzles and toppings. Or, you can choose from their list of suggestions, such as Bacon in the Sun (maple icing, caramel drizzle, chopped bacon), Blueberry Lemonade (blueberry icing, lemon drizzle) and the Sand Dollar (vanilla icing, coconut, powdered sugar). They also started offering donut sandwiches, which I don’t think I can support. A lot of the world’s problems can be solved by donuts, but not this one. Now, let’s work on getting a Duck Donuts actually near the city (please?).
Better-Maid Donuts, Crafton Heights
Is this place even open? Is it ever open? I can never wake up early enough to get donuts here — they make a certain number, sell them, and then close for the day. But I’ve tasted enough of them brought to various offices by saintly coworkers to pass judgment — and these are the best in the city. On par with Oram’s in Beaver Falls and Duck Donuts in the South Hills, the donuts here have a thick, substantial exterior with a soft cake interior, and classic flavors such as chocolate-glazed, cinnamon and jelly-filled. The shop looks nearly abandoned except for those frequent and early lines of people out front. Set your alarm.
Oakmont Bakery, Oakmont
This beloved neighborhood bakery has grown into a massive new industrial-sized operation, but they’re always well-staffed, managing to serve enormous amounts of incredible baked goods to innumerable happy customers very quickly. Just take a number and listen for it while you browse the baked goods. Known best for their cakes and paczki (which are pretty much Polish donuts), this place also cranks out an amazing array of delicious donuts, as well as cakes, cookies and other pastries in just about every possible configuration
Freedom Farms Donut Shop, Butler
Okay, so these guys definitely don’t need more attention — they had their own reality TV show, “Farm Kings,” for crying out loud — but we’ve made this stop on occasion, and it’s worth it. They feature both raised donuts (the classic formula, where most of the flavor is typically in the glaze), and cake donuts (made with batter, which can supply its own flavors). Raised Glazed or Raised Iced Sprinkle is a good place to start here, or Chocolate Cake Glazed if that’s the way you like it. The Apple Fritters are also excellent, as are the Raised Chocolate Iced M&Ms, which come close to being too much, but not quite.
Big Daddy’s Donuts, Crafton
Now, that’s a name for a donut shop. Big Daddy sounds like a dude who knows something about donuts. This oddly-shaped building with its sloping triangular roof is easy to miss, but inside it’s warm and inviting. There’s a nice mix of tastes here, which include Blueberry, Powdered Cinnamon, Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Cake, German Chocolate. Diner-type stools and tables give you the opportunity to devour a box right on the spot, should that become necessary (and it might).
Dana’s Bakery, Homewood
This is a nice little family-owned neighborhood bakery that’s been serving Homewood sweet treats for more than 40 years. It’s a slim, bare-bones storefront, but filled with warmth radiating from the ebullient owner, Joe, who named the shop for his daughter. They feature both raised and cake donuts, Custard-filled, Danish rolls, Coconut, Cinnamon, Maple, Glazed, and a few others. The donuts don’t look like much, but are shockingly delicious — surprisingly light and stopping just short of being overpoweringly sweet. And they have the best prices in town. Dana’s also has cookies, pies and cupcakes.
Madsen Donuts, Castle Shannon
Here’s a just-opened favorite from the beach resort of Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio, brought to town by a super-fan. The raised dough Cream Sticks filled with their signature marshmallow-based cream and topped with chocolate are clearly the right place to start here. But they can execute a perfectly light and sweet classic Glazed raised donut as well.