Chicago’s Donut Shops

When I was growing up in a mid-size Midwest town, donut shops were where the old men hung out and drank coffee all day.  After years of dwindling popularity, donuts (doughnuts?) have made a comeback in a big way.  At some of Chicago’s donut shops, you’ll find a line of hipsters out the door, but don’t let that deter you! These are some of my favorite Chicago donut shops.

The Doughnut Vault

Doughnut Vault started in a tiny hole in the wall (literally) and has grown to include a 2nd location and a food truck! Doughnut Vault is a classic Chicago donut shop, with a small assortment of classic flavors plus one daily special announced on social media every morning. Doughnut Vault is a small-batch operation, so keep an eye out for social posts indicating that they’ve run out of doughnuts for the day. There is usually a line on weekends, so grab a friend and a cup of coffee to wait it out. (Bonus: I always bring my dog along as the Vault is in walking distance of my house – the inside only holds a line of about 3 people, so it’s never been an issue as there isn’t indoor seating)

Doughnut Vault

Beaver’s Coffee + Donuts

Beaver’s Coffee + Donuts is located in the Chicago French Market and also has a food truck. Beaver’s starts with made-before-your eyes mini donuts and you choose from sugar toppings (free) or signature toppings like S’mores, Strawberry Bella or Nutella Dream, which are $1 extra. A $2 Mini order gets you 4 donuts, a $4 Small comes with 9, a Medium is $6 for 15 donuts and a Large is $14 for 35. Beaver’s also serves Metropolis coffee, water juice and milkshakes! As with all food trucks, follow them on social to see where they’ll be and when.

Chicago Donut Shop - Beaver's

Firecakes

Firecakes has two Chicago locations, in River North and Lincoln Park. Like the Doughnut Vault, they are open until they sell out, which means you know you’re getting fresh doughnuts. They have about a dozen flavors on offer, from the classic glazed doughnuts to Coconut Cream, Red Velvet and Apple Fritters. They are not too far from the Doughnut Vault, so you could technically hit up both and have a taste test!

Firecakes Doughnuts

Glazed And Infused

Glazed and Infused has five Chicago locations, including a walk-up window (dog-friendly!) in River North. Glazed already earns points for their cheeky name from my favorite movie, Dazed and Confused, but their raised sugar doughnut was my favorite of all the doughnuts I sampled to write this post. The simple, sweet taste took me back to the 80’s, when I didn’t know what a carb or a cavity was. While fancy doughnuts can be fun, it’s the simplicity of a sugar or glazed doughnut that really makes me smile. These doughnuts are quite large, though, so they don’t leave much room for sampling multiple flavors.

Glazed & Infused

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

Stan’s Donuts is an LA transplant, now with 6 Chicago locations plus 1 in Oakbrook.  While researching this post, I stopped by their Mag Mile location, tucked in the corner of Labriola cafe.  Pasta and donuts…shut up and take my money! Stan’s Donuts are what I think of as class donut shop donuts.  Sure, you can get some fancy flavors like Toffee Cake or Buttercream Bismarck, but their glazed donut is exactly what a glazed donut should taste like! Perfectly fluffy and sweet, with a sticky glaze that leaves you wanting more!

Chicago Donut Shop - Stan's

Are you a donut fan?  Of all the Chicago donut shops, what is your favorite?

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Chicago Donut Shops

This post was written for the 30 Places 30 Days Local Travel Challenge, to encourage local travel, of which I am a huge fan!  Check out the Honeybee Coffee Shop in Knoxville here!

This post is also part of the Weekly Postcard. Click here to check out other posts this week!

 

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Chelsea Market Food and Culture Walking Tour

Food tours are one of my favorite tourist activities while traveling.  I’ve had great food tours in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap and Mexico City.  I had one day to spend in NYC so of course I wanted to incorporate a food tour into my schedule.  Google and TripAdvisor led me to Foods of NY Tours, rated as TripAdvisor’s #1 New York Food Tour.  They have 6 different tours on their calendar, with additional options for private groups.  While the Brooklyn Tour was really tempting, ultimately I decided on the Chelsea Market Tour, in part so I could get a glimpse of the Highline I’d heard so much about.  I cannot recommend the Chelsea Market food tour highly enough!

Food Tours of NY

The reservation process was quick and easy, and detailed instructions were emailed and texted to me well in advance of the trip.  The New York weather went from 60 to 30 and snowing overnight, so the Chelsea Market tour was perfect because we were indoors most of the day.  We met up with our guide, Curt, who was quite possibly the best tour guide I’ve ever had!  If ever there was a perfect person for their job, Curt has found his calling!  His hilarious stories and witty observations kept us entertained while we stuffed our faces with way too much food.

Chelsea Market Food Tour

Chelsea Market Restaurants

Our first stop was at Creamline, a “farm to tray” spot with classic American food.  Our tasting here was a deep-fried Oreo with delicious whipped cream.  Nothing like starting your lunch with a big fried ball of dough! Not gonna lie, I’d totally buy these again!

Chelsea Market Food TourDeep Fried Oreos

Next up was Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, a butcher shop in Chelsea Market offering artisanal meats and house-made charcuterie. Our tasting here was steak tartare, made from home-schooled bi-curious cows, according to Curt.  If you told me I would eat steak tartare, I would have said you were crazy.  But, the power of not wanting to look like a child is strong!  It was served with potato chips, and I took a teeny-tiny bit.  It was good, and I was soon diving in for seconds and thirds!

Chelsea Market Food TourSteak Tartare

We then strolled over to Lobster Place, where Curt reminded us several times this wasn’t a tasting stop, although we did get a small sample of their lobster bisque.  This stop was mostly for a photo opp with a big lobster.  I would have loved to try the lobster rolls here, but was too stuffed by the end of the tour.

Chelsea Market Food Tour

After torturing this poor lobster, we headed over to Cappone’s Salumeria where we sampled a hero sandwich.  I was already starting to feel full at this point, so the sandwich was good, but I wanted to save room for everything else that was yet to come.

Chelsea Market Food Tour

Buon Italia was next on our stroll.  This was more of a grocery store than restaurant and had so many varieties of cheese, pasta and meats.  Definitely a fun place to come if you have a dinner party to plan! Here we had a slice of delicious frittata.

Chelsea Market Food Tour

For me, the sleeper surprise of the tour were the meat pies and kale salad at Tuck Shop. Oh my, I would definitely love to come back here for lunch!  So, this is two times in my life that I have enjoyed kale, for anyone who is keeping track…Mom!

Chelsea Market Food Tour

Chelsea Market Baskets is not specifically a food stop, but a gift shop.  We were offered a sampling of different salts, although served on cucumber sticks, so I passed on this portion.  Not a fan of cucumber, unless it’s in a lotion or facial mask!

Just when I thought I might burst, we headed to SaraBeth’s Bakery.  There’s no way I’m skipping a bakery sample, so I sucked it up and tried the biscuits and jam.  SaraBeth has a pretty cool story from making jam in her kitchen to building a food empire, and her bakery is walled with glass windows so you can watch all the action.  We saw bakers applying a crumble to pies and SaraBeth herself rolling up rugelachs!

Chelsea Market Food Tour

Can you believe we’re still eating? Me neither!!!

Our last food stop was at L’Arte Del Gelato where we chose from all their flavors for a tiny cone of gelato.  I was super full, but there’s always room for gelato, right?

Chelsea Market Food Tour

Before we headed outside, we made a quick stop at Morimoto.  No, we weren’t sampling any of their famous food, we were just there to check out the crazy Japanese toilets.  You know when you sit down after someone in a meeting room or restaurant and the seat is warm, which is kind of weird?  That’s how I felt about a heated toilet seat.  Anyhow, Morimoto looked super cool and chic and like someplace I would be totally out of place in.  More fried oreos, please!

The Highline

We then left Chelsea Market and headed outdoors for a short stroll on the snowy Highline and then up to the swanky roof of the Gansevoort Hotel, where our tour concluded.  At the beginning of the tour, we were given a booklet with a map and overview of all the shops, as well as coupons for some of the shops in Chelsea Market.  After the tour, we headed back to the market for a bit of quick shopping before heading back to our hotel.

I’m now writing this from my home in Chicago and my mouth is literally watering as I remember all this amazing food. My waistline is also suffering the aftermath of this food extravaganza, but YOLO, amirite?

Looking for other ways to fill your day in New York? Check out this Local’s Guide to NYC in 24 Hours!

Overwhelmed by food options in New York? Check out @foodsofnytours for all the best food tours!… Click To Tweet

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chelsea market restaurants

I paid full-price ($54) for this tour and was not compensated in any way for this review.

 

 

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Visiting Chicago’s Chinatown

When you hear Chinatown, you may think of New York or San Francisco, but you might be surprised to find that Chicago actually has a bustling Chinatown not far from downtown. I recommend adding a morning in Chicago Chinatown to your Windy City itinerary!

2.5.17 Chinese New Year - Chicago's Chinatown

Chicago Chinatown is south of the Loop and is easy to reach from the Loop and Mag Mile areas.  You can take the “L” (the red line stops right at Chinatown), drive (parking is plentiful and affordable), and the water taxi is a fun option in the summer.

CTA - Chicago Transit Authority - El Map

If you happen to be in Chicago in February, check out the schedule for Chinese New Year festivities.  I made sure to catch the parade this year and I am so glad that I did!  The parade kicked off with a bang, literally, as the entrance gate had ribbons of firecrackers streaming down.  It was quite loud to be so close, and many around me covered their ears, especially the little ones. It was so fun to see the colorful dragon costumes and experience a little bit of a different culture for the day.

2.5.17 Chinese New Year - Chicago's Chinatown

2.5.17 Chinese New Year - Chicago's Chinatown

My favorite part of a Chinatown visit is, of course, the food!  If you haven’t tried Dim Sum, this is the place to give it a shot!  Dim Sum are dumpling style food served in small plates or steamer baskets. It’s like tapas in that you order lots of items to share with your table.  The larger the group, the more dishes you will sample.  Some restaurants provide a menu to order from, others have carts that circle the room and you select what you want as the cart passes by.  It seems like most of the Chicago Chinatown restaurants go for the menu approach, which I liked.  As a picky eater, I am not prone to grabbing random things off a cart and just eating them! I like to know what I’m getting into!

Chicago ChinatownDim Sum at Phoenix Restaurant

On a recent visit, we went to Phoenix Restaurant for Sunday brunch. We arrived before 10am and got a table right away. By the time we left at 11:00, there was a line out the door! I’ve found this to be the case all over town. I don’t consider myself a morning person, but compared to the rest of Chicago, I guess I am!

Chicago ChinatownDim Sum at Phoenix Restaurant

You know what else I love about dim sum?  The price!  We ordered 5 plates, plus tea, and our bill was $24.  A visit to Chicago can be pricy, so this is a good option if you are traveling on a budget.  We sampled a variety of sweet and savory items, including Sesame Ball, creamy egg yolk bun, and seafood dumpling. The menu at Phoenix has about 70 small plates and a “regular” menu of rice and noodle dishes as well.

Chicago ChinatownDim Sum at Phoenix Restaurant

Be sure to save some room for dessert as Chicago Chinatown is lined with bakeries and pastry shops.

Chicago Chinatown Bakery

As with most Chinatown areas, shopping is plentiful in Chicago Chinatown as well.  Unlike New York, I didn’t see the faux designer stuff being sold on the streets here.  The shops are stuffed to the ceiling with your typical tourist trappings, Chinese trinkets, Buddha statues and regular household items.

Shopping Chicago Chinatown

If you’re visiting with kids, check out this post on WellTraveledKids.com for an afternoon itinerary in Chicago Chinatown.

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Chicago Chinatown

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