‘Chicago Fire’ gives sweet shout out to city’s best doughnuts

A pistachio old-fashioned from the Doughnut Vault, the best doughnut joint in Chicago. | Photo by Lori Rackl

I’m not sure I trust Jessica “Chili” Chilton’s taste when it comes to Champagne, but Firehouse 51’s new paramedic sure knows her sweet treats.

In her recent debut episode (“We Called Her Jellybean”), Chili declared Doughnut Vault the best in the city. (Props to Wolf Films and NBC for having a first-responder other than a cop on “Chicago P.D.” make this pronouncement.)

As soon as Chili hopped in the front seat of Ambo 61 and pulled out the Vault’s delicate brown paper bag, my mouth started watering like Pavlov’s dog.

She’s right: These are the best damn doughnuts in the city. Maybe the country. Maybe the world. Sorry, not sorry, Firecakes, Glazed & Infused and Do-Rite.

Jessica "Chili" Chilton (Dora Madison) pitching her Chilleze invention on "Chicago Fire." | Photo by Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Jessica “Chili” Chilton (Dora Madison) pitching her Chilleeze invention on “Chicago Fire.” | Photo by Elizabeth Morris/NBC

I live dangerously close to the Doughnut Vault’s flagship location, a closet-sized nook at the corner of Franklin and Kinzie in River North.

More times than I’d care to admit, I’ve been one of those folks standing in line for nearly an hour  — outside, in the winter — for a pillowy pistachio glazed or a buttermilk old-fashioned.

The original Doughnut Vault at 401 N. Franklin St. in River North. | Photo by Lori Rackl

The original Doughnut Vault at 401 N. Franklin St. in River North. | Photo by Lori Rackl

It’s not unusual for a queue to start forming at least a half hour before the Vault opens at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m. weekdays. It stays open until the doughnut racks are bare, which can be well before noon.

While I’d rather not wait in a line that can get ridiculously long — especially not before my morning coffee, and especially not when joggers run by and make me feel extra guilty — it’s a pretty social experience. You get to meet a lot of out-of-town visitors who’ve heard about the Vault and want to see what all the fuss is about.

The Doughnut Vault has been a hit since it opened its cornflower blue doors in 2011. It sells Bow Truss coffee for a buck and a variety of fluffy glazed doughnuts (chestnut, vanilla and chocolate plus a rotating mix of creative flavors), apple fritters, gingerbread stacks, doughnut holes, jelly-filled and old-fashioneds that taste just as fresh the next day. You can find out about daily specials via Twitter @doughnutvault, which also tweets when the day’s supply is sold out.

The Vault comes from prolific Chicago restaurateur and Hogsalt Hospitality founding partner Brendan Sodikoff, whose diverse portfolio boasts some of the city’s hottest eateries: Bavette’s, Maude’s Liquor Bar and Au Cheval, to name a few.

In addition to the Vault Van that migrates around the city hawking different flavors of old-fashioneds, another Vault outpost opened earlier this year at 111 N. Canal St. (7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays only).

It’s been reported by Crain’s Chicago Business that more on the way, both in Chicago and in Nashville, Tennessee. But for now, the biggest and best selection can be found at the original, 401 N. Franklin St.

I’m sure Chili would agree.

Cue the sad trombone. When the day's stock is gone, the doors close at Doughnut Vault's River North location. | Photo by Lori Rackl

Cue the sad trombone. When the day’s stock is gone, the doors close at Doughnut Vault’s River North location. | Photo by Lori Rackl

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