Donut Works 2224 South Shore Center, Alameda. 510-769-7516
The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the donuts. At first glance, Donut Works is hardly the type of place to draw you in. It's in a strip mall, near a cigarette shop and a half-baked sporting goods store, and it has oh-so-brutal-in-the-morning fluorescent lighting. But after just one big bite of a maple bar, with its perfect mix of fluffy cake and sugary icing, those flickering ballasts will become your a.m. beacon. Five-and-a-half bucks gets you a mixed dozen in one of those pink boxes that scream "goodies!" (You know the ones.) The magnetic-letter menu boasts donuts, favorites, and fancies -- all for a buck or less. Chocolate, glazed, cream and jelly, danishes, muffins, fritters, éclairs, and cinnamon rolls -- all are fresh (sometimes still warm) and waiting to be washed down with pour-it-yourself coffee, hot chocolate, or cold milk. Croissants are on a par with those at a Paris boulangerie -- flaky, light, and buttery -- and you can get the ham-and-cheese variety heated. Feeling racy? Choose from eighteen varieties of Lotto games while you eat!