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Last year we took a look at the best donuts in just about every major American city. Our list included the classics, the new-wave, the dives, the places with lines around the block, the crazy ones, and the ones that you wouldn’t know were anything to write home about until you took that first bite into the gooey goodness that is the perfect donut.

Click here to see America's 12 Best Donut Shops

But what exactly makes a donut shop perfect? The freshness of the product, first of all. Like a bagel, a donut begins declining in quality as soon as it's removed from the heat. Creativity helps, but a balance always needs to be struck between adherence to authenticity and out-of-the-box inventiveness. Also, how have these establishments affected both the neighborhood they’re in and the city at large? Whether their specialties are simple cake donuts, maple and bacon-topped behemoths, or ones shaped like a voodoo doll, these shops are all standouts in their own way, and aren’t to be missed next time you find yourself in their neck of the woods.

We tried to represent as many cities as possible in our list. Chicago's Dinkel’s has been turning out some of the best donuts anywhere for nearly 90 years. Los Angeles' Randy’s is a whole lot more than a giant donut-shaped sign. New York's The Doughnut Plant singlehandedly made people realize that there was a lot more to a donut than what you could pick up at the Dunkin' Donuts.

We’ve searched high and low. Here’s our ranking of the 12 best donut shops in the country.

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Tags: Dessert, Kid-Friendly, Vegetarian, American

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