Let Paris have their croissants, New Orleans, their beignets, and Santa Fe, their sopapillas. Portland’s got donuts! Even if Portlanders can’t claim sole ownership over something as simple as fried dough, they can certainly stake a claim on donut shops. On a road trip north recently we stopped in Portland for a culinary adventure on the Portland donut scene.
First Stop – Voodoo Doughnut
One of the Portland’s most unusual and delicious culinary destinations is Voodoo Doughnut. I’ve heard it called an international tourist trap. I’ve seen it featured on the Travel Channel’s series No Reservations, Man v. Food, and Doughnut Paradise. It’s been on my to-do list for ages.
Voodoo Donuts is an independent donut shop known for its unusual donuts, quirky décor, and pink boxes featuring illustrations of voodoo priests. They have over 90 different variations/shapes of donuts. Some of these donuts are interesting concepts like the cereal covered donuts or donuts with alcohol-infused fillings. With over 90 donuts to choose from it was difficult to decide what to sample. These were our picks.
Voodoo Doll – It’s a cute, raspberry jelly-filled donut with chocolate frosting in the shape of a voodoo doll. It comes with a little pretzel stick perfect for poking at the belly to watch the filling ooze out.
Memphis Mafia – Think of a banana fritter with glaze, drizzled PB & chocolate, sprinkled with peanuts and chocolate chips on top!
Maple Bacon Bar – The bacon was so crispy; I’m not sure what bacon they used, but the flavor paired well with the maple frosting and donut. It was the perfect sweet and salty mix.
The business only accepts cash payments (no debit, credit, or checks though they do have an ATM.) Voodoo Doughnut offers legal wedding services, complete with coffee and donuts for the reception. The shop is open 24 hours. You’ll still encounter long lines but when it’s your turn you’ll be glad you waited.
Voodoo is quirky and original and with delicious, outside-the-box doughnuts, it’s not surprising it has earned such a reputation! A trip to Voodoo should be treated as a culinary adventure, not simply a tourist stop.
Next Up – Blue Star Donuts
Our next donut stop was Blue Star Donuts. Blue Star Donuts offers “donuts for grown-ups,” featuring gourmet donuts and fine coffee. Considering the line out the door, this isn’t one of Portland’s best kept secrets. But, like Voodoo, Blue Star has become a hot spot and lines can go down the block. So get there early. And be prepared for that stuff to be sold out if you’re late.
While waiting in line, you’ll see the employees rolling, shaping, baking and dipping donuts. In addition, the donut related phrases on the walls made me laugh.
The donuts are made from a classic brioche recipe that originated in the south of France. The dough takes 18 hours to make and is made from scratch every day. The donuts are simple, elegant and light.
Their selections change daily and sell out quickly, but there was a decent amount of flavors when we arrived. Blue Star’s sophisticated flavors include blueberry with bourbon and basil, salted caramel, hazelnut dulce de leche, lemon poppyseed, bananas Foster and, of course, maple bacon.
They have even more unique flavors – like chocolate almond ganache, Meyer lemon and lime curd, blueberry basil, creme brûlée, or Meyer lemon and lime curd. These were our picks.
Chocolate Valrhona Crunch – Nothing short of rich and decadent and amazing.
Apple Fritter – Super deep fried and delicious.
Lemon Poppyseed – Exactly what you’d expect, and good.
Spicy Marion Berry – Made with peanut butter powder was extremely unique.
The donuts are tasty, sweet but sophisticated. They are made from scratch daily and the process takes 18 hours. They have some classics and their fun flavors are creative without being bizarre.
Last, But Certainly Not Least – Pip’s Original Donuts
Last stop on our self-guided culinary donut tour was Pip’s Original Donuts. Pip’s is a locally-owned cafe in NE Portland, operated by husband and wife, Nate and Jamie Snell. It is all about simplicity. Located in a beautiful space with white clouds and blue skies on the walls, they specialize in made-to-order mini doughnuts and house-made chai tea lattes.
My favorite part about Pip’s is the size of the donut – small, bite-size, and perfect for dunking! Each donut was perfectly fried with a crunchy exterior. They’re prepared on order, so you get FRESH hot little donuts.
- The honey used at Pip’s comes from the local NE Portland neighborhood near Pip’s. Folks in the community rent out a piece of their backyards to house the bees and then the honey is collected from different homes around the neighborhood
- The counter was made by the owner with his own hands over a period of months. He pulled out countless nails from the wood and planed and sanded until it was perfect
- Pip is a character in Charles Dickins’ novel, Great Expectations
These were our picks.
Candied Bacon and Maple – Bacon was caramelized in tiny soft chunks (more like pork belly jam than bacon in terms of consistency.) So good.
Dirty Wu (named after a character in the TV show Grimm) – an indulgent Nutella-drizzled number with Sea salt brought out the sweetness.
Raw Honey and Sea Salt – This was a standout with the local honey and Himalayan sea salt. Pip’s was recently awarded a prize for best doughnut in Portland by the Portland Tribune for this flavor.
Pip’s donuts were fantastic, free of trans fats and exceeded our expectations. All donuts are made fresh upon ordering and are the perfect bite size. Go early in the morning to avoid the breakfast rush!
Donuts! They are our beloved sweet treats on the run. They’re a quick breakfast, a guilty pleasure, a workplace snack and a family favorite. There is no beating the delectable taste of deep-fried dough.
Quirky, eclectic, or downright weird – a tour of the Portland Donut scene is a culinary adventure.