It’s that magical time of year, “Doughvember”, when a donut and a cup of coffee on a brisk autumn morning make the world’s problems go away, if only for a moment.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have a lot of donut shops unless you count dunkin ‘(which is fine as a last resort). But we have a lot of good bakeries, some of which have exceptional donuts.
Doughvember just got cuter too – two new donut shops are slated to open this month. First, there’s Oliver’s Donuts anchoring a coffee shop on the upper floor of the new Lawrenceville Market House, a former bank building converted into a small business cooperative, on Butler Street.
There are also Valkyrie donuts, which evolve from a mobile trailer (usually parked at 4903 Penn Ave.) to a retail store on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue. They are known for their absolutely original square vegan donuts with flavors like creme brulee french toast, hibiscus lemon and oreo cheesecake. I can’t wait to give this job a try.
Perhaps the best of all donuts are the elusive, giant Amish donuts that sometimes show up at farmers markets in the area. They used to be sold at Soergel Orchards on select weekends (now there are often Oram’s), but they’re hard to find near Pittsburgh. (If you have any idea where to get it, let us know!)
Here is a list of our most popular (almost all non-chain) donut shops in the area.
Oram’s Donut Shop, Beaver Falls
The local donuts heavyweight champ is out and about in Beaver Falls, but there are plenty of people who head out of Pittsburgh early in the morning to pick them up before they sell out. (I’m not one of those people. I’ll go far for a donut – but I’ll draw the line when you get up early). Still, I’m here (later in the day, with fewer choices) 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 unusual flavors, though there are some seasonal donuts at play – just giant donuts, twice the size of most of the others. Get an Original Creme or a cinnamon bun and know that this helped make your grandpa’s hard week in the grinder worth it. Update: It looks like Coffee Tree Roasters in Squirrel Hill is getting a limited supply of Oram’s donuts on select mornings.
Father & Son Family Bakery, Observatory Hill
Somehow I ended up in this place on a shortcut from McKnight Road to longcut and couldn’t believe my luck. Every now and then it is good to get lost in Pittsburgh. Observatory Hill on the North Side had a longstanding, locally known bakery in Schorr’s that 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, although I like the ones with strawberries or blueberry jam on top which are even better. The cinnamon rolls are good too, and the one filled with powdered sugar / custard is a classic. In fact, this no-frills north side spot makes it so simple that one of each covers the bases.
Prantl bakery, several locations
Okay, so you’re really only here for one reason – the iconic Burnt Almond Cake. Well, here’s the second reason: Prant’ls Burnt Almond Torte Donut. The sugary, nutty crunch carries over perfectly to the top of a donut and can actually make the best delivery vehicle that doesn’t have to buy a whole cake. If you’ve never had it before, believe the hype.
Just Good Donuts / The Pub Chip Shop, South Side
Just Good Donuts are available in the Pub Chip Shop, next to the famous Scottish barroom Piper’s Pub. Get 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 tip over, preferably somewhere with a footie on TV.
Duck Donuts, Upper St. Clair
Okay, just an exception to our no chain rule – because this Duck, NC (Outer Banks) chain is the future of donuts, and we’re lucky enough to have one. They make every donut fresh to order in front of your eyes and you can dream your own heavenly combination of glazes, drizzle and toppings. Or you can choose from the list of suggestions, such as Bacon in the Sun (maple icing, caramel drizzle, chopped bacon), Blueberry Lemonade (blueberry frosting, lemon drizzle), and Sand Dollar (vanilla frosting, coconut, powdered sugar). . They also started offering donut sandwiches which I don’t think I can support. Many problems in the world can be solved by donuts, but not this one. Now let’s work on actually getting Duck Donuts near town (please?).