A Must Eat Donut Tour of Portland in celebration of Donut Day
This post is part of my Must Eat A to Z series. Join me as I share my favorite Must Eat Experiences from around the world.
Donut Day Celebration
Around the United States, each year, we celebrate National Donut Day on the first Friday in June.
Are you rolling your eyes right now? Yes, there seems to be a food holiday for every food imaginable.
Even a Lima Bean Day, really?!
Many food holidays are created as a marketing tactic and can lend themselves for a bit of trivial celebration. I think they are as good a reason as any to get together with friends and celebrate.
If you love lima beans, then go for it! GO have a party! Ironically, it falls on my birthday, April 20. Again, really?! It couldn’t have been chocolate day? I’m sorry, I digress.
Back to Donut Day.
Whether you spell it donut or doughnut – I don’t understand the difference but I’ve seen both spellings and so will you throughout this post – it was nice to learn that National Donut Day had more noble origins than just business. It was created in 1938 by The Salvation Army, to raise funds for charity and honor the volunteers, known as “Donut Lassies”, who brought a little cheer to soldiers during World War I, with homemade meals and lots of donuts.
I don’t know about you, but a baked treat always brightens up my day. I can only imagine it did the same for those who bravely served our country.
Operation Donut Day
Last year, I was back home in Portland, Oregon on National Donut Day, and decided to explore the donut scene and have some fun. I chose four donut shops around town, each for unique reasons, and my sister happily joined me on the mission that would be known as “Operation Donut Day”.
Donut Day Stop #1: Krispy Kreme
On National Donut Day, this popular chain, open since 1937, offers a free donut of any kind, to all who come in, and who could resist that offer.
Although Krispy Kreme is not a Portland original, it is a favorite around town and the world with over 1,000 locations worldwide! We were mourning the passing of our dad, just a few days prior, and Krispy Kreme was his Must Eat Donut. It was a weekly tradition to get a dozen donuts for him to enjoy with his morning coffee (he actually only got 11 because one always mysteriously went missing -wink-). On this day, those glazed donuts brought us comfort. They will always bring a smile to my face, especially when I see them coming out “Hot” from the conveyor belt.
Krispy Kreme serves a variety of traditional donuts, however, the Original Glazed Doughnut reigns supreme. My sister devoured hers, leaving only sticky fingers behind, before I could even attempt to take a picture.
I decided to be a rebel and try something new. I got an Old Fashioned Cake doughnut, and loved it. Dare I say, I actually liked it better than the glazed? A rebel, indeed!
The cake donut was not as sweet. The consistency was dense, yet moist, very different from the glazed, which practically melts in your mouth like cotton candy. I honestly don’t want to know what makes it do such a thing. I swear they must be from another planet. Whatever alien DNA they have, I call those Krispy Kreme donuts simply glorious nostalgia.
Follow Krispy Kreme on Facebook for Donut Day details and other special offers. You can also download their “Hot Light App” to get alerts when donuts are the hottest!
Donut Day Stop #2: Pip’s Original
Our next stop was Pip’s Original in Northeast Portland. What I’m about to say I don’t say lightly. These are the best mini donuts in Portland, and probably anywhere. If you only have one donut in The City of Roses, this should be it.
This true mom and pop small store, with a homey feel and a fairly simple menu of only six donut flavors, local Extracto Coffee Roasters coffee, creamy chai lattes and refreshing iced teas, is big where it counts. They have a big heart for their community, employees and customers, and they are big on quality.
These tiny donuts, made fresh to order, can be ordered drizzled with local raw honey and sea salt (the most popular), cinnamon sugar, or Nutella and sea salt.
The Dirty Wu, my favorite, an “Everything Doughnut” topped with cinnamon sugar, creamy Nutella, sweet raw honey, and Himalayan sea salt. Created in honor of Reggie Lee, aka Sgt. Wu on NBC’s Grimm, which films in Portland and are big fans of Pip’s. People travel from all over the world for these amazing mini bites of what I imagine heaven must taste like. I’m drooling just thinking about them!
A Doughnut Special, made with local seasonal ingredients, is available daily. During this visit it was Peanut Butter and Jelly made with the most exquisite Strawberry Rhubarb jam. Absolutely amazing. Perfectly deep-fried, using organic soy shortening, with a crispy golden exterior, soft and warm on the inside. We also ordered some without the peanut butter, and oh my! That homemade jam had the right blend of sweet and tangy that burst with flavor.
The incredibly nice girl behind the counter proclaimed we must have one of their unique chai lattes to accompany our assorted dozen doughnuts (they are minis!). I’ve never had a chai latte before but she was so convincing we had to go for it. They offer a variety of lattes, all made in small batches in-house with delicious ingredients like local lavender, chrysanthemum, chamomile and raw honey for an herbal delight called Emmylou, or cardamom, clove and anise with black tea for a bolder orange tinged concoction called The King and I. Other tempting choices included Heart of Gold with coconut, golden turmeric, clove and cardamom, and the Ginger Rogers with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, molasses, Thai chile with Assam black tea for a spicy brew.
We chose the iced King and I chai latte. All I could think of is where has this sweet beverage been all my life? If they all taste that good, I am officially hooked. Next time, I’m going for the Chai Flight and sampling all flavors.
I also loved the Jasmine Lemongrass green iced tea. It was fresh, crisp and incredibly refreshing.
Quality ingredients is what Pip’s Original is all about and you can taste it. These mini doughnuts are comfort food to the max, the place and the people are warm and inviting as if they were inviting you into their home. A home with vintage furniture and small homey touches. You can’t help but feel pure joy after your visit. This is why it has found a permanent spot on my Must Eat Portland list.
Located at 4759 NE Freemont Street, Suite C, Portland. 503-206-8692. Follow them on Facebook for seasonal flavors and offers, plus you will love all the updates from owners Nate and Jamie Snell.
Donut Day Stop #3: Voodoo Doughnut
We then headed to one of the most recognizable donut shops in Portland. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m certain you’ve heard of Voodoo Donuts. Thanks to features on the Travel Channel, Food Network, and even The Amazing Race, plus countless other national shows and print articles, they are the official donut representatives of Portland.
The Portland Creme Donut, a cousin of the Boston Cream but with two eyeballs on top said to represent the vision of this great city, was designated as Portland’s “Official City Doughnut” on December 24, 2008 by then mayor Tom Potter. Example #3,847 of why Portland is such a cool city.
The city’s motto of “Keep Portland Weird” could very easily apply to this mecca of weird donut flavor combinations.
They put bacon topped donuts on the foodie map with their delicious Bacon Maple Bars and the cereal topped varieties with Capt’n Crunch, Fruit Loops or Cocoa Puffs are always popular.
You want Tang on a donut, you got it. I don’t particularly care for it.
One of my favorites, the Old Dirty Bastard doughnut topped with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s and peanut butter is killer! Who doesn’t love the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter?
With over 90 varieties, displayed on a rotating case, Voodoo Doughnut strives for shock value. Likely influenced by its original neighbor, The Paris Theater, a historic adult movie house, they offer several X-rated varieties such as the phallic shaped bar filled with cream, enough to make mom blush. The signature Voodoo Doughnut, in the shape of a voodoo doll with a pretzel stick poking into its stomach and raspberry jelly oozing out of it, is also a fun one.
They have cake, raised, and vegan doughnuts, fritters and crullers and yes, they even have plain, traditional donuts, but here, you must always go big or go home! Pick up one of their signature pink boxes and fill it with a variety of doughnuts to satisfy your crazy side.
Like I said, weird is their middle name and that makes this one of the funnest, most irreverent donut shops in town. Not always fun is the usual long line, especially at their original location on SW 3rd Street. I recommend going to Voodoo Donut Too on the east side of town for a much shorter wait.
Some call Voodoo Donuts a tourist trap, as if admitting they visit the shrine of the weird donuts would automatically revoke their cool kid card. Or, God forbid, have their foodie status downgraded. My sentiment is quite opposite from the hipsters out there that want to shun it, simply because this once cool, 24-hour donut hole in the wall, is now mass consumed and no longer a hidden secret. My philosophy is, if there is a line, it’s for a reason. Are these the best donuts ever? No, probably not. However, they are worthy of a visit.
Voodoo Doughnut is an experience. You may fall in love with the donuts, and the guy in line in front of you which you can actually marry in the store, standing beneath the holy doughnut and a velvet painting of Isaac Hayes, or you may be satisfied with just one visit to see what all the hoopla is about. The choice is yours, but don’t miss out.
Check their website for details and locations. One more thing. They are cash only, so don’t forget your paper bills. An ATM is available.
Donut Day Stop #4: Blue Star Donuts
I don’t like to admit defeat but I must say that on this day, we were unable to complete our mission. Operation Donut Day was sabotaged by a horrible super villain known as “Sugar Overload”, accompanied by his side-kicks “Full Stomach” and “Time Crunch”, as we were unable to make it to our fourth stop, Blue Star Donuts in time.
I am told by all authorities this doughnut store offers yet another delicious face of the donut landscape in Portland. Here you will find “donuts for grown-ups” with a decadent French brioche donut topped with gourmet toppings like blueberry-basil-bourbon glaze, Cointreau creme brulee, hazelnut dulce de leche, lemon poppy-seed, bananas foster and vegan pistachio with raspberry hibiscus, to name a few. They are made from scratch daily, with local ingredients. We found they are only open until they sell out of donuts, so best bet is to get there early. You can guarantee Blue Star Donuts will be my first stop on my upcoming trip to Portland. They now have three locations to choose from and I’m determined, the evil “Sugar Overload” will not beat me this time.
So there you have it. Operation Donut Day, despite only being three-quarters completed, was an absolute delicious success.
We went from one extreme to the next, from the comfort of Krispy Kreme to the homey simplicity of Pip’s Original to the weird and garish flamboyance of Voodoo Doughnut and that, my friends is exactly how I describe the city of Portland. Here you can easily find both extremes and everything in between, and is what makes this city so absolutely special.
The Portland Donut scene is as diverse as the city. Whether you like your donuts on the traditional side or the crazy side, the gourmet or the classic, one of these four stops is sure to satisfy. That is why they are on my Must Eat List.
GO Epicurista, get some friends together and head out on Donut Day, or any day, and check out these Must Eat Donuts of Portland or the best donuts in your town. Word of advice, learn from my mistake. Start early and pace yourself or else the evil “Sugar Overload” will come for you too.
Portland Donuts on My Someday List, which I plan to cross off this Summer, include:
- ^ Blue Star Donuts, top of my list.
^ Coco Donuts for the chocolate butter bar and old-fashioned donuts.
^ Helen Bernhard Bakery, open since 1924, I must find out why. Plus, I’ve seen it on several ‘Best of’ lists.
^ Fleur De Lis Bakery, this French bakery is known for their potato donut coated in cinnamon sugar and the donut hole on top. You get the hole and the donut, what a bonus?
^ Annie’s Donuts, another old-fashioned donut shop with killer crullers, bear claws and fritters.
^ Staccato Gelato, for the homemade Italian gelato paired with a variety of donuts like Marionberry and S’mores. Donuts and gelato together! Enough said.
I would love to hear about you. What is your favorite donut shop? Do you plan to celebrate Donut Day? Please share in the comments below and let’s chat.
Join me on my Must Eat A to Z journey. Do you have a Must Eat experience that starts with the letter D? Please share it.
D for Donut Day is complete. On my next stop I plan to eat around the world in one day! E is for…
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John Rolston says
You missed the best donut shop in Portland: Delicious Donuts on Grand St. not only are they the best, but this husband and wife team are socially conscious and happily promote other donut shops.
Christina Thomas says
I will definitely check them out on my next trip to Portland. Thanks so much for the recommendation. I can’t wait to visit.