It’s the box, isn’t it? That iconic pink box, that ultimate symbol of hipsterdom, that’s what keeps you standing in a line for three hours in 95-degree weather, waiting for your chance to say, “Maple with bacon, please.” It’s gotta be the box.
I’m not going to cast aspersions on Voodoo Doughnut, I’m really not. Everyone loves fried dough, right? And I’ve eaten my own share of good Voodoo donuts. But Portland offers so many other versions of delicious donuts, so many, without the insane waits, I feel it’s time to give these other purveyors of delicious dough their due. For the sake of pastry fairness.
Here are five contenders for the title of Best Not Voodoo Donut in Portland. They represent five different, uniquely Portland donut experiences and all merit your patronage. In no order, because they are all equally awesome, here are my five frugal faves:
These guys are the real deal in putting science to work in the furtherance of donut perfection. This little cart is just down street from Voodoo’s original location but they are a world away from the long lines of cranky, overtired tourists checking “Voodoo” off that vacay “to do” list for tourist street cred.
Donut Byte Labs’ simple, elegant and elegantly fanciful creations are made fresh every couple of hours, hence they are served the way I maintain a donut oughta be, which is right outta the grease. (They let them cool, don’t worry.) They are my number one recommendation for folks staying downtown.
“Go big or go home” could be the motto of HD, both in terms of size of pastry and sheer number of different donut options. They have the famous maple with bacon, plus the largest array of fritter options I’ve ever encountered. The counter staff can be a bit on the surly side, but as a former professional baker myself, I accept that surliness comes with the territory. You’ll forget all about it when you take your first bite.
All right, they’re not exactly frugal, these artisan donuts, but they are worthy of the label “artisan.” Blue Star frequently sells out, with good reason, so don’t put your visit off ‘til the last minute. They use a brioche recipe for their batter, made with cage free eggs, French style butter … you get the mouth-watering picture. A bit higher priced than others on this list, but they didn’t get the moniker “Donuts for Grownups” for nothing.
You might be tempted to knock points off Delicious Donuts for location and general ambience; yes, the busy intersection of Burnside and Grand isn’t conducive to relaxation, and its next door neighbor, Plaid Pantry, isn’t exactly high society.
But any points you knock off at first glance will be quickly re-earned the moment you walk in the door and experience the friendliness, promptness, and competence of their abundant staff; see the amazing array of frugally priced donuts (Yes, they have maple and bacon, plus donut holes!), and realize that they actually have other food on the menu. You could eat a savory breakfast here and do all right by yourself. This is a true local neighborhood joint, one I am proud to support.
So, you think you know donuts? Fancy yourself a real donut connoisseur, do ya? Well, there’s only one place you need to go for donuts, then, and that’s Annie’s Donuts. A Portland institution, Annie’s boasts staff and customers who have been working at and patronizing the place for years.
On my most recent visit, I met two sets of sisters in Annie’s at the same time, both telling me they’ve been buying donuts there for over 20 years. They all had plenty of opinions about which donuts I should try, and nothing but the highest of praise for Annie’s fresh, extremely affordable options (see photo of price board).
Since it was my first visit, I was given a free donut. It was a maple bar. I don’t like maple bars. But one bite into the fluffiest donut I’ve ever had in my mouth, topped with the freshest and creamiest maple cream I’ve ever tasted, and that baby was gone in three wolf-bites. Do yourself a favor and make the trek up Sandy Boulevard. This place is something special.
There ya go, real street donut advice from one who’s been there, and there, and there. You’ve come all the way to our fair town, why not go a little bit further, try something off the beaten path, step out of the pink box? Your taste buds will thank you.