The hole truth

There are two simple truths that some Portlanders seem too scared to admit: 1. Portlandia isn’t funny, and 2. Voodoo Doughnuts might be the worst place in the city to get doughnuts.

There are two simple truths that some Portlanders seem too scared to admit: 1. Portlandia isn’t funny, and 2. Voodoo Doughnuts might be the worst place in the city to get doughnuts.

We’ve all seen it. You’re walking up Burnside and a long line of tourists (from far-off locales like Camas and Lake Oswego) are waiting for subpar doughnuts like it’s the premiere of The Phantom Menace. The truth is, when you look behind the veneer of phallic shapes and stale cereal the doughnuts themselves just aren’t that great. Barely above grocery-store quality. Granted, the Eastside location (1501 NE Davis St.) is open late and is usually free of tourists. Still, there are many more Portland doughnut slingers worth your attention and hard-earned cash.

Photo by Karl Kuchs.
All photos by Karl Kuchs

1. Coco Donuts

(709 SW 17th Ave., 814 SW Sixth Ave., 2735 NE Broadway)

Coco Donuts has quietly built an empire of adorable doughnut shops with solid doughnuts, great coffee and friendly service.

The Staples: With the doughnuts divided into raised and cake categories, it’s easy to find old favorites. The maple bars are excellent, probably the best in the city. Cake doughnuts, like crowns, are delicious, but more substantial crafts such as buttermilk bars can be a bit dry.

The Unique: The namesake Cocoa Donut is manna from heaven for the chocolate lover. Coco’s take on the apple fritter is a traditional knotted dough creation with a more subtle hint of apple than its competitors.

Photo by Karl Kuchs.

2. Sesame Donuts

(6990 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy.)

Sesame Donuts is a purveyor of doughnuts at their most decadent.

The Staples: If stuffed doughnuts are your thing, then make ye way to Sesame Donuts. Bavarian cream, Boston cream, coconut cream, vanilla cream and various kinds of jelly doughnuts are on offer. Sesame also has an excellent bear claw.

The Unique: Doughnut ice cream sundaes. Yes, really. Imagine a warmed apple fritter topped with vanilla ice cream. Patrons are able to select a sundae from a list of suggested options or dream up their own creation.

Photo by Karl Kuchs.

3. Pip’s Original

(4759 NE Fremont St.)

This quaint doughnut shop nestled in the heart of the Fremont neighborhood captured my heart and taught me how to love doughnuts again.

The Staples: Pip’s Original only has two kinds of raised mini doughnuts stocked regularly, a solid cinnamon-sugar and a divine honey-and-sea-salt. The key to Pip’s success is freshness, as doughnuts are made only after they’re ordered. Pip’s mini doughnuts are light and airy with just the perfect amount of crunch.

The Unique: They serve a Nutella cream doughnut after 4 p.m. that looks heavenly.

4. Donuts Plus

(13500 NW Cornell Rd.)

The Kim family has been making some of the best doughnuts available in the Portland area at Donuts Plus since 1992, and it shows.

The Staples: Donuts Plus is simply unparalleled in this category, with classic apple fritters as big as your head and chewy, doughy maple bars. One glance at their slogan, “We know our P’s and Q’s about donuts from A to Z,” says it all.

The Unique: The blueberry crown has whole pieces of blueberry and a delicate fruit flavor.

5. Blue Star Donuts

(1237 SW Washington St.)

The only shop on this list to have their pastry chef listed on the door, Blue Star serves up gourmet doughnuts in the heart of downtown.

The Staples: Blue Star only serves doughnuts in exotic varieties, so those looking for a simple, old-fashioned crown will leave empty handed (and need to live a little). I was sad to see their fried chicken/doughnut combo had been discontinued, but I enjoyed my visit nonetheless.

The Unique: A simply incredible array of flavor pairings. The coconut-cheesecake doughnut I tried came at the end of a long day of doughnut sampling, and it still managed to knock my socks off. This is in addition to more regular flavors like dulce de leche, blueberry bourbon basil and Valrhona Chocolate Crunch.