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A perfectly fried fresh doughnut is a bite of ephemeral beauty — and one that's not easy to re-create at home. At least not without a lot time, oil and a good range hood.

That's why it's best to leave it to the experts. Places like Mojo Monkey have perfected their propriety dough to coax out incredible flavor, and the about-to-expand Cardigan builds pure nostalgia into a perfect cruller.

We've pulled together a list of a baker's dozen of favorite doughnut spots from across the metro area, ranging from the neighborhood bakeries you'll amble to while you're still bleary-eyed to destinations worth the drive. And we've barely scratched the sweet surface. Just know that when the craving hits, you're in good hands.

Angel Food Bakery

Soon after chef/owner Katy Gerdes launched Angel Food Bakery in downtown Minneapolis, it became a huge draw for early morning workers craving a classic doughnut and coffee pairing. Since then, demand has grown and now the shop is open inside the atomic-aged chic of the Texa Tonka strip mall, and there's a gorgeous shop inside Terminal 1 of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where travelers gather like moths to a glazed flame at all hours of the day. Angel Food's doughnuts are so popular that they can even be sent across the country via Goldbelly. Order up a happy birthday message spelled out in sweet fried dough ($39).

8100 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park,

Bogart's Doughnut Co.

Anne Rucker launched countless cravings when she began selling her doughnuts at a local farmers market. Now there are clusters of patient fans waiting outside her white brick shop in south Minneapolis every day it's open. The brown butter-glazed doughnut is irresistible, coated with a toasty, just-sweet-enough glaze that is so popular she now sells it in jars. Rest assured that fans of sprinkles, chocolate and more can find their own tried-and-true favorite breakfast treat here, as well. Order ahead online to get a glimpse of the daily menu.

904 W. 36th St., Mpls., 612-886-1670,

Crullers from Cardigan Donuts in Minneapolis.
Crullers from Cardigan Donuts in Minneapolis.

Rick Nelson, Star Tribune

Cardigan Donuts

Downtown Minneapolis is about to get even tastier with the impending opening of a second Cardigan Donuts, in the IDS Center. The original drew long lines to its City Center location when it first opened. Throughout the pandemic the doughnut-making never stopped — they were delivered around the metro area, too — and now this shop has been cemented in the minds and hearts of fans.

40 S. 7th St., Mpls., 612-259-7804,

Cub Foods

Whether shopping for a roast or making a purposeful early morning stop, the local grocery store chain has some of the most reliably fresh, tasty, classic doughnuts around. While there aren't any breakfast cereal doodads on top, there are alluringly yeasted raised, glazed and crumbly moist cake doughnuts prepared with a heartening consistency. It might not be where the snobs go, but we know a few who can't resist a Cub doughnut.

Many metro locations,

Denny's 5th Avenue Bakery

A bakery that's been around more than 50 years must be doing something right. Or a lot of things right. Now in its third generation of Hirman family owners, Denny's has robust offerings that check all the doughnut boxes — old fashioned, cake, French, filled, fried and holes — all in a variety of flavors and all really, really good. The efficient staff ensures that lines move quickly, but if you're not in a hurry, the sunny interior is a welcoming place to enjoy your breakfast (or snack). And you'll also want to grab a bag of fritter bread to go; your French toast will never be the same.

7840 5th Av. S., Bloomington, 952-881-4445,

The Donut Trap

Nothing says good times like an airy square of fried dough topped with crushed Oreos. Place weekend orders for these puffy squares of bliss online, track down the truck via social media or stop by the area's only fresh-doughnut vending machine in the hallway between Blackstack Brewing and Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul (755 N. Prior Av.). In addition to traditional doughnuts, they also stock a few vegan varieties.

Hans Bakery

It takes a special plastic container to hold the Texas doughnut, a Hans Bakery legend. The $5.25 yeast-raised, glazed and sprinkle-topped doughnut is the equivalent of five normal rings and can cover the entire faces of the children who make it an after-school tradition.

1423 5th Av., Anoka, 763-421-4200,

Heights Bakery

Heights Bakery is a tribute to the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery — the kind where a bell tinkles upon entry and a wall of sweet flour and crispy sugar scents greets the day. Heights Bakery has been serving Central Avenue since 1953 and as always, the glazed doughnuts and cream cheese Danish deliver on what those sweet smells promise. The raised doughnuts have a pleasant chew and the glaze is just sweet enough to crackle against the teeth and dissipate. This family-owned bakery is in its fourth generation and opens at 5 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

4925 Central Av. NE., Columbia Heights, 763-572-0624,

La Boulangerie Marguerite

There's an early morning line out the door of this St. Paul neighborhood bakery nearly every day. La Boulangerie Marguerite brings together the best of French pastries with American nostalgia, where a case of puffed and glazed doughnuts shares space with world-class breads and laminated dough. This address has been a neighborhood bakery since 1921, and in 2017 West African-born French pastry chef and owner François Kiemde and his Midwestern rooted wife/business partner, Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, purchased what was then PJ Murphy's Bakery and continued that tradition. Along with several neighborhood favorites, Marguerite continues to sell (and often sells out) fresh doughnuts every morning. Indulge in the chocolate ganache-dipped cake doughnuts for a simple bright and early treat.

1279 Randolph Av., St. Paul, 651-699-9292,

Mel-O-Glaze Bakery

The white cardboard boxes at Mel-O-Glaze Bakery are imprinted with a "Box of Bribes" logo, a sterling example of truth in packaging. This south Minneapolis classic, which has nearly 60 years of know-how in the deep-fried arts, turns out dozens of springy raised doughnuts, liberally dunked in a vat of sticky glaze. Bonus: There's a gluten-free option, too.

4800 28th Av. S., Mpls., 612-729-9316,

Mojo Monkey Donuts

This Friday-Sunday doughnut shop from chef/owner Lisa Clark somehow manages to fry up cake and raised doughnuts — both traditional and creatively flavored — all with equal care. Follow them on social media for the flavors of the week and place orders ahead of time to make sure you don't miss out on a favorite. Doughnuts are available at the shop or can be delivered. This year, just for National Doughnut Day, one enviable customer will receive free doughnuts for a year and the first 150 customers get a free lemon doughnut drop.

1169 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-224-0142,

Valley Pastries

Sure, it's called Valley Pastries, but this place's reputation since 1987 is built entirely on doughnuts, doughnuts and more doughnuts. Enormous doughnut holes, too. If you're looking to branch out, there are cookies, fruit-filled Danish and fried cinnamon buns. But we like the baseball-mitt-sized raised ring, swiped with a fine, crackly glaze.

2570 Hillsboro Av. N., Golden Valley, 763-541-1535,

YoYo Donuts

Located inside a Minnetonka strip mall, YoYo Donuts always strikes a balance between classic treats and modern whimsy. Beat the crowds and order a selection of classic flavors ahead of time — its sour cream old-fashioned doughnuts are among the most popular. Doughnuts are made fresh by hand daily on-site, and a bonus for those with allergies: the shop is entirely nut-free.

5757 Sanibel Drive, Minnetonka, 952-960-1800,