What do you know about Oakland, California? For one thing, Vice President Kamala Harris was born there. She’s the first African-American and Asian-American Vice President, and also the first female elected official to get that high at the White House. So as we explore the best donuts in Oakland, we’re going to take a tasty dip into the history of this beachside city.
Best Donuts in Oakland
1. Golden Gate Donuts
Let’s start with one of its most famous residents. Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland to a Tamil Indian mother and a British Jamaican father. Her parents were immigrants, civil rights activists, and top academics with PhDs in their respective fields. The VP grew to be a DA, California Senator, and Attorney General before ascending as the 49th Vice President.
- Name: Golden Gate Donuts
- Address: 4201 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
- Website: https://www.restaurantji.com/ca/oakland/golden-gate-donuts-/
- Phone: (510) 655-0362
- Hours: Mon to Fri – 6 am to 8 pm; Sat – 5.30 am to 8 pm; Sun – 5.30 am to 7 pm
And while the VP got a lot of flak on Fox for visiting a cake shop, Oakland residents love a good doughnut. (Both spellings are correct, by the way.) So if you’re in the area, make a stop at Golden Gate Donuts. They have regular doughnuts like old-fashioned and blueberry cake. Try their fancy menu for buttermilk doughnuts, or their extra fancy fritters and rosettes.
2. Lucky Donuts & Sandwiches
The west coast was initially inhabited by a Native American community called the Huchiun. They spoke the Ohlone linguistic dialect, which is telling. In the Miwok tongue, Ohlone means ‘folk from the west’ and that’s probably how inland dwellers referred to people that lived along the Pacific Ocean coastline. The Huchiun heritage traces back thousands of years.
- Name: Lucky Donuts & Sandwiches
- Address: 4010 MacArthur Blvd Oakland, CA 94619
- Website: https://www.yelp.com/biz/lucky-donuts-and-sandwiches-oakland-4
- Phone: (510) 482-4348
- Hours: 6 am to 3 pm daily
The Ohlone people were lucky in their choice of homeland. The area sees the sun 260 days a year and even today, it’s voted the Number #1 climate in the states. But if you want that good luck in your tummy, pass by Lucky Donuts & Sandwiches. Apart from the regular donut fare, you can enjoy their in-house ice cream, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries like bear claws.
3. Colonial Donuts
In the early days of oceanic travel, Spain was an important power. And while the Florida quays were the first spot where they landed, some contingents came around the California way. In 1772, Spanish settlers arrived on a mission from the King. The area was granted to Luis María Peralta, and when he died, his four sons divided the territory among themselves.
- Name: Colonial Donuts
- Address: 3318 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA, United States, California
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/colonialdonuts
- Phone: +1 510-893-2503
- Hours: All day and night
Fortunately, Colonial Donuts has no connection to early occupiers. This donut shop has been owned and run by the same family since the 1980s. They serve everything from minimalist two-tone doughnuts to twists, doughnut holes, fritters, and jam infusions. You can order the donut holes separately or enjoy them as a frosted mocha strand with bright colorful crusts.
4. Dick’s Donuts
The Peraltas received the land in 1820, and it was known as the Peralta Grant or the Rancho San Antonio. They got their authority from Spain, and later Mexico, creating a community of Spanish speakers in the US. But after the Mexican-American War, Oakland joined the US and the family lost their land to squatters, unscrupulous leases, and actions by their mayor.
- Name: Dick’s Donuts
- Address: 3417 High St, Oakland
- Website: https://www.restaurantji.com/ca/oakland/dicks-donuts-/
- Phone: (510) 261-2212
- Hours: Mon to Fri – 5.30 am to 3 pm; Sat & Sun – 6.30 am to 3 pm
We’ll talk more about this mayor in a minute, but for now, he’s probably the kind of guy whose friends have nicknames like Deez Nutz and Dick’s Donuts. Fortunately, the Dick in question knows his sweet treats. Also, don’t confuse them with Dick’s Donuts in the UK – a whole ‘nother setup. The Oakland version serves filled donut bars, bear claws, and fritters.
Luis María Peralta died in 1842, and by the 1850s, the next wave of immigrants had arrived. They were from China, fleeing the Taiping Rebellion and the Opium Wars, and as the gold rush expanded the California economy, these laborers found work on the railroad. Sadly, they faced a lot of discrimination. Their rooms were often burned and they got sick a lot.
- Name: Pizzaiolo
- Address: 5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
- Website: https://www.pizzaiolooakland.com/
- Phone: 510-652-4888
- Hours: Dinner – 5 pm to 9 pm;
- Weekend Burgers: Sat & Sun – 11.30 am to 3 pm
A donut a day may not keep the doctor away, but it’s so much more fun than a fruit. Though you could compromise with a deep-fried apple fritter. Or a galette, which is a fruit-filled crust you can find at Pizzaiolo. The eatery specializes in Italian eats, but if you visit them in the morning, you can buy coffee and fresh donuts. Try their Back Alley Burgers on weekends.
6. Donut Savant
We mentioned a mayor known for bullying the Peralta’s. His name was Horace Carpentier, and he allegedly tricked Vicente Peralta into the punitive mortgage that cost his family their home. Horace and his friends Andrew Moon and Edson Adams built up the city with barely 100 residents, two warehouses, two hotels, and a wharf. Horace was mayor for a year.
- Name: Donut Savant
- Address: 3000 38th Ave Oakland, CA 94619
- Website: https://www.donutsavant.com
- Phone: (510) 9-SAVANT
- Hours: Wednesday to Sunday – 7 am to 1 pm; Monday & Tuesday – Closed
Horace and his pals weren’t the most pleasant folk, but they were skilled, almost savants. A savant has intensely detailed knowledge of their specialty but is clueless about everything else. The Donut Savant doesn’t have that problem. Their mix of pastries includes square cron’ts (donut croissants), cinnamon rolls, donut bars, and cake donuts served with their hole on top.
7. Orbit Coffee
Oakland was a key point for inland development based on the railroad and street cars. But being a major port city, it was hit hard by the plague of 1900 to 1904. Auto firms soon chose East Oakland as their headquarters, including Fageol Motor Company in 1916 and General Motors in 1917. The factories made Chevrolets, GMC trucks, tractors, and later ship engines.
- Name: Orbit Coffee
- Address: 1225C 7th Street, Oakland, CA 94607
- Website: https://orbit.coffee
- Phone: 510.910.0532
- Hours: Weekdays – 8 am to 4 pm; Weekends – 8.30 am to 4 pm
Stepping away from cars for a moment, let’s talk coffee houses. Orbit Coffee is a popular one with four venues around Oakland. Their truest claim to fame is the Vietnamese Iced Coffee infused with Bún Bò Huế spices. But they also serve doughnuts and sandwiches. You can get chocolate-filled beignets in white, dark, or hazelnut (weekdays), or mini donuts (weekends).
8. Mochill Mochi Donuts
By the 1930s, many people referred to Oakland as the Detroit of the West because of its thriving motor industry. Chrysler secured this reputation when they settled there in 1929. The city’s strategic location and access to raw materials made it a manufacturing hub as well. It was soon home to industries like canning, baking, shipbuilding, engine construction, etc.
- Name: Mochill Mochi Donuts
- Address: 5333 Adeline St Oakland CA 94608
- Website: https://www.mochillsf.com/
- Phone: +1 650-696-0434
- Hours: 11 am to 6.30 pm daily
Cake donuts have settled into the doughnut industry, and they’re often baked rather than fried. Then you have mocha, which elevates the humble donut hole by knotting them to form rings of fried, frosted bracelets. Mochill specializes in these Japanese-style Mochi donuts, which are typically made from rice flour. The store has five outlets spread around California.
9. Happy Donuts
Oakland thrived during the World War years because it was a major military hub. After the wars, low-income inland residents flocked to California seeking opportunities. The new wave included black, white, and Mexican Americans. But because so many came from southern states, those racial tensions filtered into Oakland, eventually incubating the Black Panthers.
- Name: Happy Donuts
- Address: 378 17th St, Oakland
- Website: https://www.restaurantji.com/ca/oakland/happy-donuts-/
- Phone: (510) 735-9335
- Hours: Mon to Fri – 6 am to 2 pm; Sat – 7 am to Noon; Sun – Closed
The Black Panthers started as a political movement, pushing for equal rights and against police brutality. But they also had feeding programs for school kids and low-income folk, so they’d probably approve of stores like Oakland’s Happy Donuts. They have a satisfying array of croissants, bagels, crullers, muffins, bear claws, donuts, twists, and buttermilk bars.
10. Cole Coffee
California is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and waters in the world. But due to its geography and climate, it’s also prone to forest fires and earthquakes. In the 1980s, it took a nasty hit from the crack epidemic. The city was almost half black by then, and coming into the early 2000s, litigation against police brutality led to over $50M in police settlements.
- Name: Cole Coffee
- Address: 6255 College Avenue & 307 63rd St. Oakland, CA 94618
- Website: https://www.colecoffee.com
- Phone: 510.653.5458
- Hours: Friday to Sunday – 8 am to 2 pm
On a lighter note, the stereotype of donut-loving cops is a hard one to break. But lots of regular people make friends at work by bringing a dozen donuts to meetings. So if you need to urgently influence your Oakland colleagues, stop by Cole Coffee. Their bean shop is open longer than their café though, so you may have to settle for fancy coffee bribes if it’s too early.
11. Miss Ollie’s
By 2010, less than 30% of Oakland’s residents were black. Lower-income families of all races were forced out through gentrification, and the city currently has a bigger homelessness problem than Berkeley and San Francisco. The issue was highlighted by Moms 4 Housing – a couple of homeless moms moved their kids into a vacant house and were publicly evicted.
- Name: Miss Ollie’s
- Address: 901 Washington Street Oakland, CA 94607
- Website: http://www.realmissolliesoakland.com/
- Phone: 510.285.6188
- Hours: Weekdays – Noon to 7 pm; Weekends – Noon to 8 pm
Lots of Oakland citizens worry about this homeless issue. And one eatery, Miss Ollie’s, stays closed on Tuesdays specifically to serve their houseless neighbors. The spot offers all sorts of soul food from plantain to fried chicken, rice, and peas. To feed your fried sweets craving, try their creole donuts and cream with a free mug of bush tea aka rooibos (aka red bush tea).
People who live outside California (and Florida) assume those places are one endless beach. In reality, while the Oakland coastline is close to 20 miles, they only have one functioning seaside spot at Radio Beach. Most of the city is flat while about a third is hilly, and residents used to refer to the poorer side of town as the flatlands while the hills are where the affluent live.
- Name: Bellanico
- Address: 4238 Park Blvd. Oakland, CA 94602
- Website: https://www.bellanico.net/
- Phone: 510.336.1180
- Hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 5 pm
- Weekend Brunch: Saturday & Sunday – 10.30 am to 2.30 pm
We started with a seaside city that only has one beach. Let’s move to an Italian restaurant that served divine doughnuts. Specifically, they offer bomboloni, a type of Italian donut hole filled with bittersweet chocolate sauce and sage custard. Its singular form is bombolone, and some people call them bomba while others call them Florentine donuts (i.e. Florence, Italy).
13. Donut Farm
Let’s close by paying homage to the Vegan Donut Farm. Formerly known as Pepples Donut Farm, it belongs to Josh Levine. He started the donut company in 2006 to offer wholesale vegan doughnuts to nearby coffee houses. He had always been an activist and his projects included a punk venue at 924 Gilman, food not bombs, and the Berkeley needle exchange.
- Name: Donut Farm
- Address: Donuts @ 6037 San Pablo Oakland, CA 94608
- Website: https://www.vegandonut.farm/
- Phone: (510) 338-6319
- Hours: Mon to Fri – 7 am to 4 pm; Sat & Sun – 9 am to 4 pm
By 2010, Josh had a retail doughnut outlet and a vegan brunch spot. They later added vegan pep tarts, pun intended, and yam rolls to their menu. The Donut Farm also takes part in the Oakland Burrito Project. This movement is supported around the country and has the task of serving homeless people by giving them a vegan burrito and a bottle of drinking water.
What’s your favorite spot for doughnuts in Oakland? Tell us where it is and why you love it!