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Kara Johnson has an unusual hobby. Do-nut judge her.

For the past three years, Johnson, of Cambridge, Minn., has been seeking out one new doughnut each week. She never skips a week, and she never repeats a bakery. Visiting her daughter in Rochester? Pit-stopping in Goodhue for doughnuts. Spring break in Las Vegas? Go exploring for doughnuts. Lazy weekend at home? Nope, just doughnuts.

At the time of this writing, she'd had 186 of them. And she's not stopping.

"I never will get sick of doughnuts," said Johnson, an elementary school teacher in Crystal, for whom National Donut Day (on June 7 this year) is practically a sacred holiday.

She calls it her "Donut Odyssey," with each bakery stop a "donut trek."

It began as a pandemic project, a way to get out of the house and support small businesses just re-emerging from closures. That was November 2020.

"I had no idea just how long it would last," Johnson said. "I thought, oh, maybe I'll get to 20. I had no idea."

The first shop was Puffy Cream Donuts Plus in Eagan. Johnson had seen a Facebook post from the business saying that it was struggling since it had lost a lot of its business and group accounts due to COVID. She made her way there the following Saturday and waited in a long, cold line with other people who had come out to support the bakery. She was inspired.

"I thought, 'How many places are there like this that sell doughnuts in the area?' " she said. "I just thought it would be a fun pandemic tradition to do something like that every week."

While her list of doughnuts is Minnesota-heavy, she doesn't let borders stand in the way of a good pastry. She's sampled them everywhere from Zion National Park to Gatlinburg, Tenn., from the Mall of America to a truck parked outside a Home Depot.

As time goes on, she has to work harder to find new ones. When she hears of a new pastry shop, she will call ahead to find out where the doughnuts are made to avoid any duplications.

"I'm a purist in that way," she said. "It has to be an original source."

She works off a spreadsheet of running doughnut ideas, with more than 60 future options in Minnesota alone.

"I definitely like working through a list," Johnson said.

Up for a food challenge

Johnson isn't alone among Minnesota foodies on a mission, armed with a spreadsheet.

There's the refrigerated delivery van driver who stopped for pizza wherever his work took him. The Instagrammer who followed along with the Star Tribune's Iconic Eats series to try every dish listed. The software engineer who chronicled his monthly marathons of wings, desserts, dumplings and more.

Shari and Todd Beranak of Shakopee are wrapping up their quest to eat their way through Twin Cities-area restaurants in alphabetical order. The idea started when they realized they were in a rut, going to the same IHOP every weekend after church.

The couple sourced ideas from a 74,000-member Facebook group, Eat Minnesota. The parameters: The restaurant had to be new to them, it couldn't be a chain, and it should take them to a different part of the metro area. (They were up to W when we last checked.)

This isn't the Beranaks' first time working their way through a list. "My husband and I, we do all these kinds of weird things," Shari Beranak said with a laugh.

Last year, they tried to visit every farmers market in the Twin Cities; they got to about 60 of them. They've gone on road trips to every state park in Minnesota. They're on an ongoing journey to visit every state fair in the country. Their next goal? Dining out in every metro suburb.

"Just something different to get yourself out of just going to IHOP every Sunday," Todd Beranak said.

More than just doughnuts

As she continues her doughnut journey, Johnson and her husband are also working on seeing every U.S. national park.

"Any kind of list that I can check off, I like having a goal that I can accomplish that's fun like that," she said. The best? When both align, and Johnson gets a new doughnut out of one of their road trips.

She posts all of her finds on Instagram (@karas.donut.treks), and tries to include a little back story about the bakery.

"The basic purpose of it is to get people to just get out there and explore new things," Johnson said. "There's a lot of places, even in Minneapolis, that I had no idea."

In her social media feed, she makes an effort to highlight doughnut-like fried pastries from different cultures. Beignets, bunuelos, Chinese doughnuts, churros and zeppoles are all on her list. She tends to favor filled doughnuts, and ones with out-there flavors, like a mango filling with a Tang orange topping. "I love any unusual flavor," she said, "but I won't turn down any doughnut."

That doesn't mean there's no such thing as a bad doughnut. Johnson won't name names, but she bristles at the ones that taste like they've been sitting out more than a day. (Although even those, she has found, can be made better by a few seconds in a microwave oven.)

Still, even the stalest doughnut can't stop Johnson's Donut Odyssey. Like a frosted round of fried dough, this quest has no end. "I think I'll always be on the lookout."

Kara Johnson's 10 favorite Minnesota doughnuts

You don't eat doughnuts every week for three years without having a few favorites.

Churronuts, Órale Mexican Eats, 5447 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.,

Crème Brûlée donut ("Unreal!"), Snack Bar, 800 Washington Av. N.,

Cream-filled Delight, Blue Egg Bakery, 713 Main St. NW., Elk River,

Beignets with bourbon caramel dipping sauce, the Birdhouse Eat & Drink, 4153 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale,

Beignets filled with melted dark chocolate, Reverie Cafe + Bar, 1517 E. 35th St., Mpls.,

Guava doughnut ("Amazing!"), Drift Dough, 832 NW. 7th St., Rochester,

Key lime doughnut, Pine River Bakery, 215 Barclay Av., Pine River,

Cream-filled coconut long john, Johnson's Bakery, 2230 W. 3rd St., Duluth,

Peanut Butter Twist, although the representative photo is of the lemon honeymooner, Hi-Quality Bakery (now Sweet Kneads), 121 N. 4th St., Cannon Falls,

Banana split ("probably their most unique one"), Dutch Maid Bakery, 512 Benton Drive N., Sauk Rapids,