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From malasadas to maple bars, here are 13 can't-miss doughnut destinations on the Peninsula

A rundown of where to go for the deep-fried dessert

The bomboloni at Tootsie's, located in the old Stanford Barn, are fluffy and sweet. Filled ones with Nutella and banana cream are often available early in the morning. Photo by Kate Bradshaw.

Although the Peninsula has plenty of places to satisfy your sweet tooth, I'd been wondering whether it might be dotted with "doughnut deserts" — pockets of neighborhoods without an eatery to pick up a fritter or maple bar with a cup of coffee. For those who crave a more down-to-earth delicacy, or a better indulgence-to-dollar ratio, there's nothing like the humble doughnut to satisfy that urge for carbs, oil and instant gratification.

I went in search of where people can go to get their deep-fried dessert fixes, mapping out many of the Peninsula's doughnut spots and sampling some of the best doughnuts in the region in the process.

The journey brought me to a small window on a frontage road paralleling 101 in San Mateo, where I picked up a set of three churro doughnuts with dipping chocolate, to 24-hour staples providing light-as-air raised donuts, to new outposts branching into mochi donuts with innovative flavors. I also sampled offerings from several eateries that offer doughnut variants, like Italian bomboloni and the Portuguese malasada. Upon closer analysis, it turns out that true doughnut deserts are few and far between on the Peninsula.

Italian bomboloni

Tootsie's, Palo Alto

These are rounder and breadier than traditional doughnuts. In the morning, Nutella- and banana-cream filled bomboloni are often for sale, but they usually sell out early. The barn where Tootsie's usually operates is under construction, so the brunch favorite has relocated to the neighboring Vino Enoteca for the time being.

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Tootsie's, 700 Welch Road, Palo Alto; tootsiesbarn.com/location/tootsies. Instagram: @tootsiesbarn. Open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Anytime go-to

Rolling Pin Donuts, San Bruno

Rolling Pin Donuts wins points for being open 24/7 and offers a strong selection of staples. Their crumb doughnut was moist and rich, while the classic raised glazed doughnut is the most popular.

Rolling Pin Donuts, 429 San Bruno Ave. West, San Bruno; open 24/7.

Instagram-worthy, gluten-free, healthy-ish

Saltwater Bakery, Pacifica

Chocolate rose and pistachio lemon doughnuts sit inside their bag from Saltwater Bakery in Pacifica. Photo by Kate Bradshaw.

Saltwater Bakery, founded by Tawnya Marsh in 2018, offers unique gluten-free doughnuts, including flavors like chocolate rose and pistachio lemon. Marsh started the gluten-free bakery after searching for ways to help her daughter overcome digestive issues and said in a previous interview that the doughnuts took a year of trial and error to get right.

Saltwater Bakery, 1905 Palmetto Ave., Pacifica; hellobakery.com. Instagram: @saltwaterbakery. Open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Churro doughnuts

Suavecito's Birria and Tacos, San Mateo

Churro doughnuts from Suavecito's Birria and Tacos in San Mateo. Courtesy Sommer Cattani.

Hidden along a frontage road to Highway 101 in San Mateo, Suavecito's Birria and Tacos can be hard to find, but the journey is worth it to try out their churro doughnuts, golden rings of deep-fried ridges coated in cinnamon sugar. They're sold in a pack of three with chocolate sauce for dipping.

Suavecito's Birria and Tacos, 1100 S. Amphlett Blvd., San Mateo, located in Baker's Floor and Surfaces; suavecitosm.com. Instagram: @suavecitobirriaandtacos. Open 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Longtime local favorite

Stan's Donuts, Santa Clara

A standby for Peninsula doughnut lovers since 1959, Stan's in Santa Clara has the retro interior to match its age, with old signs advertising "take home service" for fresh, no-frills doughnuts. The family-owned shop has been a community fixture since Stanford "Stan" Wittmayer and his wife Florence opened more than 60 years ago. The couple's nine children each spent time working in the store, and several are continuing the business to keep the family legacy alive.

Stan's Donuts, 2628 Homestead Road, Santa Clara; stansdonutshop.com. Instagram: @stansdonutshop. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Upstart challenger

Cruel Donuts, San Mateo

The interior of Cruel Donuts, a new doughnut shop in San Mateo. Photo by Kate Bradshaw.

This brand-new doughnut shop has a wide variety of classic doughnuts. On weekends, the selection expands to standout specialty doughnut flavors like creme brulee and strawberry shortcake. The name is derived from the owners' favorite doughnut, the French cruller. I especially loved their custard-filled chocolate bar doughnut, which was both fresh and indulgent.

Cruel Donuts, 35 Laurie Meadows Drive, San Mateo. Open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Friday, when they're open until 6 p.m.

Hot and cold combo

Cudos, Palo Alto

Cudos, a portmanteau of custard and doughnuts, is just that — a dessert shop in Palo Alto's Town & Country Village offering frozen custard topped with small cake doughnuts.

Cudos, 855 El Camino Real #160, Palo Alto; cudosforyou.com. Instagram: @cudosforyou. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Old-school classic

Chuck's Donuts, Redwood City

A Peninsula favorite, Chuck's Redwood City outpost is cash-only and has signature stacks of pink pastry boxes that line the walls and display cases offering something for everyone — classics galore, vegan doughnuts, crullers, limited-edition Pride rainbow doughnuts, and even a jalapeño popper flavor.

Chuck's Donuts, 801 Woodside Road, Redwood City; restaurantji.com/ca/redwood-city/chucks-donuts. Open 24/7. Other locations: 641 Ralston Ave., Belmont and 495 Old County Road, San Carlos (check for hours).

Flavor innovation

Mochinut, San Mateo

Mochinut offers visitors the opportunity for some creative pairings of soft serve ice cream and mochi doughnut flavors. Soft serve flavors include honey butter, melon and strawberry lemon, while doughnut flavors include black sugar, banana milk, taro and yuzu depending on location. Other locations are in Hayward and San Jose.

Mochinut, 250 S B St., San Mateo; toasttab.com/mochinut. Instagram: @mochinut_sanmateo.

Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Malasadas

Noelani's Island Grill, San Carlos

Malasadas from Noelani's Island Grill in San Carlos. Courtesy Sommer Cattani.

These Portuguese and Hawaiian desserts were served piping hot from the to-go counter at Noelani's Island Grill on a recent Sunday. Breadier than traditional doughnuts and rolled in sugar, the desserts were historically made on Fat Tuesday in the lead-up to Lent in an effort to help Catholic households empty their pantries of sugar and fat.

Noelani's Island Grill, 1037 Laurel St., San Carlos; noelanis.com. Instagram: @noelanisislandgrill. Open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

Cronuts

Happy Donuts, Palo Alto

It's a mystery why the cronut fad faded, but you can still find some at Happy Donuts in Palo Alto. They also offer a wide range of classic doughnuts, from glazed twists to doughnut holes.

Happy Donuts, 3916 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; happydonutspaloalto.tripod.com. Open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sweet and savory

Apple Fritter, San Mateo

The over-the-top doughnut sandwiches offered at Apple Fritter combine the sweetness of a doughnut with the savory of a sandwich filling. Try the Y.O.L.O. sandwich with turkey, bacon, cheese and a sunny-side up egg using a grilled glazed doughnut as the sandwich bread. They also offer a wide array of cake doughnuts, including strawberry rose, matcha, ube and apple cider.

Apple Fritter, 1901 S Norfolk St., San Mateo; applefrittereatery.com. Instagram: @applefrittereatery. Open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Mochi doughnuts

Modo Hawaii, Santa Clara

A pandan mochi doughnut from Modo Hawaii in Santa Clara. Photo by Kate Bradshaw.

Modo Hawaii's mochi doughnuts have a chewy texture that's different from more traditional doughnuts, but very appealing. The pandan flavor is subtle, with elements of vanilla and coconut. Other flavors include black sesame, cookies and cream, passion fruit and churro.

Modo Hawaii, 2000 El Camino Real, Santa Clara; modohawaii.com. Instagram: @modohawaii. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The doughnut-tasting team of extended family members assembled to help this reporter sample the Peninsula's doughnut offerings. From left: Mark and David Gallagher and Sommer Cattani. Photo by Kate Bradshaw.

Dig into food news. Follow the Peninsula Foodist on Instagram @peninsulafoodist and subscribe to the newsletter to get insights on the latest openings and closings, learn what the Foodist is excited about eating, read exclusive interviews and keep up on the trends affecting local restaurants.

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From malasadas to maple bars, here are 13 can't-miss doughnut destinations on the Peninsula

A rundown of where to go for the deep-fried dessert

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 6, 2022, 12:12 pm

Although the Peninsula has plenty of places to satisfy your sweet tooth, I'd been wondering whether it might be dotted with "doughnut deserts" — pockets of neighborhoods without an eatery to pick up a fritter or maple bar with a cup of coffee. For those who crave a more down-to-earth delicacy, or a better indulgence-to-dollar ratio, there's nothing like the humble doughnut to satisfy that urge for carbs, oil and instant gratification.

I went in search of where people can go to get their deep-fried dessert fixes, mapping out many of the Peninsula's doughnut spots and sampling some of the best doughnuts in the region in the process.

The journey brought me to a small window on a frontage road paralleling 101 in San Mateo, where I picked up a set of three churro doughnuts with dipping chocolate, to 24-hour staples providing light-as-air raised donuts, to new outposts branching into mochi donuts with innovative flavors. I also sampled offerings from several eateries that offer doughnut variants, like Italian bomboloni and the Portuguese malasada. Upon closer analysis, it turns out that true doughnut deserts are few and far between on the Peninsula.

Italian bomboloni

Tootsie's, Palo Alto

These are rounder and breadier than traditional doughnuts. In the morning, Nutella- and banana-cream filled bomboloni are often for sale, but they usually sell out early. The barn where Tootsie's usually operates is under construction, so the brunch favorite has relocated to the neighboring Vino Enoteca for the time being.

Tootsie's, 700 Welch Road, Palo Alto; tootsiesbarn.com/location/tootsies. Instagram: @tootsiesbarn. Open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Anytime go-to

Rolling Pin Donuts, San Bruno

Rolling Pin Donuts wins points for being open 24/7 and offers a strong selection of staples. Their crumb doughnut was moist and rich, while the classic raised glazed doughnut is the most popular.

Rolling Pin Donuts, 429 San Bruno Ave. West, San Bruno; open 24/7.

Instagram-worthy, gluten-free, healthy-ish

Saltwater Bakery, Pacifica

Saltwater Bakery, founded by Tawnya Marsh in 2018, offers unique gluten-free doughnuts, including flavors like chocolate rose and pistachio lemon. Marsh started the gluten-free bakery after searching for ways to help her daughter overcome digestive issues and said in a previous interview that the doughnuts took a year of trial and error to get right.

Saltwater Bakery, 1905 Palmetto Ave., Pacifica; hellobakery.com. Instagram: @saltwaterbakery. Open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Churro doughnuts

Suavecito's Birria and Tacos, San Mateo

Hidden along a frontage road to Highway 101 in San Mateo, Suavecito's Birria and Tacos can be hard to find, but the journey is worth it to try out their churro doughnuts, golden rings of deep-fried ridges coated in cinnamon sugar. They're sold in a pack of three with chocolate sauce for dipping.

Suavecito's Birria and Tacos, 1100 S. Amphlett Blvd., San Mateo, located in Baker's Floor and Surfaces; suavecitosm.com. Instagram: @suavecitobirriaandtacos. Open 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Longtime local favorite

Stan's Donuts, Santa Clara

A standby for Peninsula doughnut lovers since 1959, Stan's in Santa Clara has the retro interior to match its age, with old signs advertising "take home service" for fresh, no-frills doughnuts. The family-owned shop has been a community fixture since Stanford "Stan" Wittmayer and his wife Florence opened more than 60 years ago. The couple's nine children each spent time working in the store, and several are continuing the business to keep the family legacy alive.

Stan's Donuts, 2628 Homestead Road, Santa Clara; stansdonutshop.com. Instagram: @stansdonutshop. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Upstart challenger

Cruel Donuts, San Mateo

This brand-new doughnut shop has a wide variety of classic doughnuts. On weekends, the selection expands to standout specialty doughnut flavors like creme brulee and strawberry shortcake. The name is derived from the owners' favorite doughnut, the French cruller. I especially loved their custard-filled chocolate bar doughnut, which was both fresh and indulgent.

Cruel Donuts, 35 Laurie Meadows Drive, San Mateo. Open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Friday, when they're open until 6 p.m.

Hot and cold combo

Cudos, Palo Alto

Cudos, a portmanteau of custard and doughnuts, is just that — a dessert shop in Palo Alto's Town & Country Village offering frozen custard topped with small cake doughnuts.

Cudos, 855 El Camino Real #160, Palo Alto; cudosforyou.com. Instagram: @cudosforyou. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Old-school classic

Chuck's Donuts, Redwood City

A Peninsula favorite, Chuck's Redwood City outpost is cash-only and has signature stacks of pink pastry boxes that line the walls and display cases offering something for everyone — classics galore, vegan doughnuts, crullers, limited-edition Pride rainbow doughnuts, and even a jalapeño popper flavor.

Chuck's Donuts, 801 Woodside Road, Redwood City; restaurantji.com/ca/redwood-city/chucks-donuts. Open 24/7. Other locations: 641 Ralston Ave., Belmont and 495 Old County Road, San Carlos (check for hours).

Flavor innovation

Mochinut, San Mateo

Mochinut offers visitors the opportunity for some creative pairings of soft serve ice cream and mochi doughnut flavors. Soft serve flavors include honey butter, melon and strawberry lemon, while doughnut flavors include black sugar, banana milk, taro and yuzu depending on location. Other locations are in Hayward and San Jose.

Mochinut, 250 S B St., San Mateo; toasttab.com/mochinut. Instagram: @mochinut_sanmateo.

Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Malasadas

Noelani's Island Grill, San Carlos

These Portuguese and Hawaiian desserts were served piping hot from the to-go counter at Noelani's Island Grill on a recent Sunday. Breadier than traditional doughnuts and rolled in sugar, the desserts were historically made on Fat Tuesday in the lead-up to Lent in an effort to help Catholic households empty their pantries of sugar and fat.

Noelani's Island Grill, 1037 Laurel St., San Carlos; noelanis.com. Instagram: @noelanisislandgrill. Open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

Cronuts

Happy Donuts, Palo Alto

It's a mystery why the cronut fad faded, but you can still find some at Happy Donuts in Palo Alto. They also offer a wide range of classic doughnuts, from glazed twists to doughnut holes.

Happy Donuts, 3916 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; happydonutspaloalto.tripod.com. Open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sweet and savory

Apple Fritter, San Mateo

The over-the-top doughnut sandwiches offered at Apple Fritter combine the sweetness of a doughnut with the savory of a sandwich filling. Try the Y.O.L.O. sandwich with turkey, bacon, cheese and a sunny-side up egg using a grilled glazed doughnut as the sandwich bread. They also offer a wide array of cake doughnuts, including strawberry rose, matcha, ube and apple cider.

Apple Fritter, 1901 S Norfolk St., San Mateo; applefrittereatery.com. Instagram: @applefrittereatery. Open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Mochi doughnuts

Modo Hawaii, Santa Clara

Modo Hawaii's mochi doughnuts have a chewy texture that's different from more traditional doughnuts, but very appealing. The pandan flavor is subtle, with elements of vanilla and coconut. Other flavors include black sesame, cookies and cream, passion fruit and churro.

Modo Hawaii, 2000 El Camino Real, Santa Clara; modohawaii.com. Instagram: @modohawaii. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dig into food news. Follow the Peninsula Foodist on Instagram @peninsulafoodist and subscribe to the newsletter to get insights on the latest openings and closings, learn what the Foodist is excited about eating, read exclusive interviews and keep up on the trends affecting local restaurants.

Email Contributor Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

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