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Portland Doughnut Battle

March 22, 2013

God bless food trends.  Seriously, I’m so happy that funky burger joints, cupcakes and most recently, fancy doughnuts, have come into my life.  In Portland, doughnuts are not a boring breakfast pastry relegated to Dunkin Donuts and gas stations.  They’re a delicacy.

I’m pretty sure Voodoo Doughnut can be credited with starting this movement.  (correct me if I’m wrong Portlanders!) Voodoo is a Portland institution with a major following (as evidenced by thousands of online rave reviews).  And according to our Portland friends, there is always a line to get into Voodoo.  Even late at night.  Even at 4:00 on a rainy afternoon.

Voodoo Line

Based on what we heard, this line wasn’t even that bad.  We were probably in the store in about 15-20 minutes.  And at least while we were waiting we could take in our surroundings.

You know I'm going to like an establishment with a glittery brick exterior.

You know I’m going to like an establishment with a glittery brick exterior.

Keep Portland Weird Sign

People love Voodoo for their creative variety of doughnuts, ranging from the Voodoo Doll (a jelly filled doughnut shaped like a person with a pretzel stick through the heart), to a Captain Crunch-topped doughnut, to more traditional varieties.  The doughnuts are creatively named, some witty and some a little crude.

Voodoo Donuts

The inside of the tiny shop is as whimsical as the flavors.

Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut

I chose a Maple Bacon Bar for my doughnut and loved it.  The cake was sweet and airy, the thick maple frosting was on point and the bacon (oh, the bacon!) is what really put it over the edge.  It was thick cut and super flavorful.  They definitely didn’t skimp on the bacon.  It might sound a little out there, but if you’re a lover of sweet/savory combinations like I am, you’d enjoy this doughnut.

Maple Bacon Bar

I also got to try the boyfriend’s Portland Cream, which was basically a really good Boston cream doughnut.

Voodoo Pros: Yummy doughnuts, huge variety, open all day and late night, bacon.

Voodoo Cons: Juvenile doughnut names, long wait.

Overall verdict: Worth it.

For comparison’s sake, we thought it only fair to check out one of the city’s other renowned doughnut shops: Blue Star Donuts.  (Is it donut or doughnut??)

I think the "Donuts for Grownups" slogan might be a slam on Voodoo, no?

I think the “Donuts for Grownups” slogan might be a slam on Voodoo, no?

Blue Star Donuts are created by an actual pastry chef using locally sourced ingredients, and all of my local friends told us that their doughnuts were even better than Voodoo’s.  Their shop and menu are less gimmicky and more focused on putting out a quality product.

Blue Star was a much more relaxing experience than Voodoo.  We walked right in and ordered our doughnuts, and then were able to sit at their bar and enjoy our pastries.

Blue Star Donuts

Unlike Voodoo, which is basically open around the clock, Blue Star bakes everything they are going to sell each morning and then stays open until they run out.

Blue Star Donuts

It was late afternoon by the time we made it in, so the flavors I’d been dying to try – blueberry-bourbon-basil and fried chicken (really) – appeared to be sold out.  We ordered a Passion Fruit Cocoa Nib, Creme Brulee and Blackberry Compote with Peanut Butter Powder donut to split three ways.

PB&J Donuts

I fear that we ordered poorly, because my choice of Blackberry Compote with Peanut Butter Powder was underwhelming.  A little dry and not peanut buttery enough for me.  The Passion Fruit didn’t quite work either.  The one doughnut that blew us all away was the Creme Brulee.  It was a cream-filled doughnut with a crackely sugary glaze on top that was the perfect pastry interpretation of the creamy dessert.  It made me doubt my order and consider going back up to the counter to see what other amazing tricks they had in store.

Blue Star Donuts

If I could go back in time, I would have ordered their Real Maple & Bacon to do an apples to apples comparison.  Next time!  Their Apple Fritters looked amazing too.

Blue Star Donuts

We also got a huge kick out of their wall art, especially this:

Social Media for Donuts

Blue Star Pros:  Great atmosphere, amazing Creme Brulee donut, funny wall art, no wait

Blue Star Cons: Some mediocre flavors, limited hours

The Verdict: I want to go back one morning and do it up right.

If Voodoo and Blue Star were people, I’m pretty sure I would want to be friends with Blue Star.  Voodoo, on the other hand, would be that obnoxious fratty guy who is funny in small doses and then drives you crazy.  That said, I enjoyed my doughnut from Voodoo more than Blue Star.  In a perfect world, I’d like to eat a Voodoo doughnut while hanging out at Blue Star.

Keep Calm and Eat Donuts

If you’ve ever been to either or both of these spots, weigh in – Voodoo or Blue Star?  Or is there another amazing doughnut place I’ve totally missed?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2013 12:11 pm

    Yep always a line outside of Voodoo, but its always worth the wait. I haven’t had Blue Star, but next time I’m up that way I’ll look for it.

  2. March 26, 2013 4:38 pm

    Take it from a local: Tonalli’s Donuts & Cream. No hype, no tourists, just great donuts at unbeatable prices.

    • March 26, 2013 4:46 pm

      Yum! Putting Tonalli’s on my to-do list for whenever I’m lucky enough to return to Portland. I loved your city!

      • March 26, 2013 4:49 pm

        Glad you enjoyed it! You chose wisely, especially with the Screen Door – hands down my favorite brunch spot. Next time be sure to try Bunk Sandwiches (also a staple of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives). And…well, I could probably recommend a hundred different places, depending on what you like!


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