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The first time I ate a donut with Cap’n Crunch on top I was standing on a street corner in downtown Portland, having just snaked my way through the line at Voodoo Doughnuts. I’d just waited for longer than I care to admit, and by the time I got this round piece of raised yeast into my hands, my stomach was grumbling. My donut experience up until that point had been limited to Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme, and this, I was told, was something I shouldn’t miss now that I was a Portlander.
The first bite, of course, was maintenance: taking care of all of the Cap’n Crunch morsels that were about to fall to the ground. The second bite, though, it was magic. Pillowy soft dough, light and airy, just a touch of salt to meet and harmonize with the sweet, creamy glaze. Seriously, this was a damn fine donut. It was also 2009. Now Voodoo is part-owned by San Francisco-based venture capitalists, and the quality is… markedly different.
Sure, when it started, Voodoo was just a hole-in-the-wall cash-only place pumping out confections that were in every way suited to the now-famous Keep Portland Weird ethos. Vegan donuts, donuts with sugary cereal and Oreos on top, donuts with Nyquil, giant dick-shaped donuts, maple bars with bacon… you get the idea. Perhaps these seem passé now, but that’s because Voodoo laid the groundwork. They’re one of the core reasons Portland is a donut destination. They’re also played out AF.
In 2019, there’s a better way to experience Portland as a donut paradise. You don’t have to stand in line for hours on end just to eat your disappointment and walk away with Voodoo’s iconic pink box. The town has upped the stakes — both in flavor and experience. Here’s how to have the donut-crawl of your life without ever stepping foot inside a Voodoo.
Blue Star Donuts, NW 23rd, SW Morrison, SE Division, and more
We really don’t mind lines if the food is worth it—and you will certainly find lines here.
Blue Star is New Portland’s fancy-schmancy answer to Voodoo: sleek, chic, with just a little bit of cheek. With five locations around the city (six if you count the airport) plus more popping up in locations like L.A. and even Tokyo, this donut chain gives you all the tongue-in-cheek and unexpected flavor combinations without any of the feeling like maybe you could have gotten a pastry from the grocery store. You may get antsy after 20 or 30 minutes in line, but the wait is well worth it.
Using brioche as the base for all their raised yeast donuts, Blue Star’s little love-cakes are a seemingly impossible combination of rich and airy. (Except for the cake donuts. Those suckers are dense flavor bombs.) When you order, get half a dozen assorted (or, if you’re feeling flush, shell out almost $50 for 12 assorted) and follow your heart. Expect to see tart passion fruit glazes, melty vanilla custard-filled creme brûlée with Cointreau pipettes for the over-21 crowd, and orange-olive oil cake donuts that will make you forget where you are.
Then, of course, there are the classics — original glazed, apple cider fritters as large and as compact as a fist, and old fashioned chocolate buttermilk donuts that taste like they were made by the southern grandmaw you never had. Make sure you go relatively early, though. Blue Star sells until they run out of dough, and then they close up shop. No exceptions.