In the past decade, Portland has become a nexus of Oregon’s burgeoning food culture, and dessert places – particularly, donuts! – are a big part of that development. VV contributor Lindy Tolbert details some of her favorite (& iconic) Portland sweet spots and where to find them.
*Note: All of these recommendations originated in Portland, but some have now expanded to many cities in the U.S.! We’ve added “other locations” where it was applicable.*
Written by Lindy Tolbert
I am intrigued by the inherent competition between all these trendy doughnut companies – who will stick around the longest?! While Blue Star is a more refined selection of doughnut, with more shall we say elegant flavors, like the Cointreau I mentioned earlier, VooDoo Doughnuts has an appealing creative flair, not to mention the colorful, often naughty branding to match.
Name the type of doughnut, they have it, be the dough yeast or cake style. Many of their mainstays involve 3D toppers like Froot Loops and they even have an actual VooDoo doll doughnut. Of course, many of their doughnut names are euphemisms, such as “triple chocolate penetration,” so make sure to take the time to appreciate some of the more hilarious titles as you’re carting your bounty out in bright pink boxes.
Hours: Open 24/7
Original location: 22 SW 3rd Ave
Neighborhood: Old Town – Chinatown, Southwest Portland
Other locations: Denver, Austin, Orlando, Hollywood, and several other cities in Oregon
VV Recommends: The cock and balls, triple chocolate penetration, the maple bacon bar, the old dirty bastard, or the Voodoo doll
Hot tip: The wait is always long, so try Voodoo Doughnut Too on the east side for shorter wait times.
Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai
Pip’s was VV founders Lindsay and Lanee’s favorite doughnut spot for their delectable minis that come fresh off the machine, “fried-to-order,” and pop right into your mouth! Adorbs in every way. Their signature treat – the Dirty Wu – is a classic cinnamon sugar doughnut, drizzled with warm Nutella, raw honey and a pinch of sea salt. Perfection. PS – there’s a secret menu, so ask some locals about it (did someone say Rocky Road Nutella and Marshmallow?!).
Hours: 8 am – 4 pm 7 days a week
Address: 4759 NE Fremont St, Ste C
Neighborhood: Cully, Northeast Portland
VV Recommends: Dirty Wu and a Matcha Latte
Ken’s Artisan Bakery
I went to Ken’s Artisan Bakery for the pizza, but would return for the truly delectable chocolate-raspberry mousse, which I consumed almost too quickly to savor! Their brick-and-mortar set up has a rustic feel, almost as if everything, including the furniture, is handmade. You can find their bread in cafes throughout Portland.
Hours: Monday through Saturday: 7 am – 6 pm, Sunday: 8 am – 5 pm
Address: 338 NW 21st Avenue
Neighborhood: Kerns, Southeast Portland
VV Recommends: Chocolate-Raspberry mousse cake and the chocolate pound cake.
Bonus: Ken’s Artisan Pizza, also founded by Ken Forkish in 2001, has excellent Margherita, mushroom, and fennel sausage and onion pizzas.
Cheese & Crack Snack Shop
Cheese and Crack is an industrial-themed enclave located underneath an apartment complex. It specializes in all things cheese. Though it’s not technically a ‘sweet,’ it’s most definitely a treat that could follow up a dinner or just be an anytime snack. Most of their platters come with honey as a side to add that extra flavor boost to the various cheeses. They’ve become renowned for their caramelized brie, known as the Brie Brulée, which is sweet and surprisingly both soft and crunchy.
The extensive mix-and-match menu allows you to sample a wide variety of cheeses and try something new each time. Best seat in the house? Sit at the bar and people watch (PDX has some incredible characters!) out their wide, street-facing windows.
Hours: 11 am – 10 pm, 7 days a week
Address: 22 SE 28th Ave
Neighborhood: Kerns, Southeast Portland
VV Recommends: The Brie Brulée and soft serve ice cream. Grab a plate and dress it with bread, crackers, nuts, and honey!
Salt & Straw
The first time I tried Salt & Straw was at one of their Los Angeles locations on Larchmont. It was beyond my expectations and I say that as a person whose favorite dessert is not ice cream. It broke the boundaries of vanilla, mint chip, and butter pecan and was the most unusual, savory-inspired and theme-inspired concoctions I’d ever tasted. And the flavors change monthly.
Even though they have franchises in other states now, Salt & Straw has still kept true to its roots and certain flavors are only offered in Portland. They also feature a guest chef collaboration series in which acclaimed chefs create unique flavors like Roasted Beets and Humboldt Fog and Tokyo PB&J.
Hours: 10 am – 11 pm, 7 days a week
Original Location: 838 NW 23rd Ave
Neighborhood: Alphabet District, Northwest
Other locations: Los Angeles, West Hollywood, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.
VV Recommends: Almond brittle with salt ganache and honey lavender (in Portland). Go crazy and get caramel ribbons on them! Check out some of the more unusual flavor pairings too.
Blue Star Donuts
It should be noted that no one can actually agree on whether it’s “donut” or “doughnut,” but Blue Star has gone with the shortened version of the word. I first tried the blueberry bourbon basil at their Venice Beach location but knew I had to try the doughnuts at their flagship where the craze began!
The Cointreau creme brulée was my first choice and it was delightfully sweet. Before I bit into it, I made sure to squeeze in some Cointreau from the eyedropper in the center. It had just enough alcohol to give it a zing, but not enough for me to feel guilty eating it for breakfast. My friend tried the Meyer lemon and key lime curd doughnut and my taste of it was enough to know that Blue Star doesn’t shy away from bold but surprisingly delicious flavor combinations.
Hours: 7 am – 8 pm, 7 days a week
Original Location: 1237 SW Washington St*
Other locations: Manhattan Beach and Venice Beach, California
VV Recommends: Blueberry bourbon basil, Valrhona chocolate crunch, peanut butter powder, Cointreau creme brulée, and Meyer lemon and key lime curd doughnut.
*Note: The original location will be closing in mid-June 2018 and moving to a new location at Southwest 12th Avenue and Morrison Street.
Crema Coffee + Bakery
I spent some of my time visiting Portland working remotely in Crema, across the street from Cheese & Crack, mentioned above. The staff is ultra-friendly and it’s suitable for work with a strong WiFi connection. Besides the sweets (and I’m embarrassed by the number of almond bearclaws I consumed), their honey vanilla latte charged me up for a morning of cranking out tasks on my to-do list. I never felt bothered to leave by the staff, even when the morning rush came through.
Hours: 7 am – 6 pm, 7 days a week
Address: 2728 SE Ankeny St
Neighborhood: Buckman, Southeast Portland
VV Recommends: Honey vanilla latte, cheddar corn biscuits, and almond croissant
This location was recommended to me by a friend from Portland and was honestly my favorite stop of the trip. I love all things unique and location-specific, and Tov filled all these requirements. It’s located in an upcycled English double-decker bus and the top has been turned into a Middle Eastern hookah den. But at the core it’s an Egyptian coffee place, and while it doesn’t serve food, their drinks range from black coffee to incredibly sugary concoctions, depending on your preference. It’s also located near a bunch of other food trucks like Fried Egg I’m in Love and Rollin’ Fresh.
Hours: 7:30 am – 5 pm, 7 days a week
Address: 3207 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Neighborhood: Hawthorne, Sunnyside, Southeast Portland
VV Recommends: The cold brew coffee with mint flavoring – “The Mint Thing”
Follow any of the listed sweets above with a Stumptown Coffee. The company was founded in 1999 and has become a staple in Portland culture. The original establishment features an extensive roastery and tasting area.
Beyond Portland, locations are now open in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, New Orleans, and Chicago. The coffee is also stocked in many independent cafes around the U.S.
Other Portland sweet spots on our radar
We are always adding to our list of spots to visit. You never know when you’re going to visit (or return) to a place! Here are some other PDX sweet spots we’d like to try. If you’ve been to any, or if we’ve overlooked one of your favorites, let us know in the comments below!
Photos by Lindy Tolbert unless otherwise noted.