This is the final tasting round for the Portland Donut Crawl, folks! Boy, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we started this thing. In the beginning, it seemed like we’d have a relatively short list of wonderful donuts to try. In the end, we’ve tasted WAY too many donuts, which we ended up spreading out over the course of three months. I apologize that it took so long to get to part four of the crawl; but honestly, our bodies needed a pretty serious sugar break. You can’t eat donuts every day, folks.
So here’s what we have lined up to conclude the Portland Donut Crawl:
-This post, which covers the final four donut shops in our tasting rounds.
-A final post with the official winner of the Portland Donut Crawl, along with a few breakdowns of superlatives.
-We’re making ice cream! That’s right. We’re taking the winning donut and including it in an ice cream recipe that I think is going to knock all of our socks off. Get excited, y’all.
Without further ado, here are the final four shops in our tasting: Ataula, Heavenly Donuts, Delicious Donuts, and Voodoo Doughnuts. You can see the rest of the Portland Donut Crawl here.
1818 NW 23rd Place
What we spent: $6
What we got: 3 Cinnamon Sugar Brioche Donuts
I never would have ever heard of this place, much less selected it as a part of our donut crawl, if it weren’t for Nate from Pip’s Original, who recommended these donuts in our quest for the best. Ataula is a pretty swanky (read: expensive), Spanish tapas place in Northwest Portland that was hoppin’ on this Wednesday night. After Nate’s recommendation, I knew this was where I wanted to have my birthday dessert (I also considered making a cake and topping it with donuts, but that seemed like a poor decision with just the two of us eating said cake). So we headed to Ataula after eating dinner elsewhere. I felt really terrible as the waiter explained the menu to us in great detail, giving history and stories and serving suggestions, and we just ordered donuts and decaf coffee. Our bad, sir. (Eric would like to point out that this was the best Americano he’s ever had. So there’s that.)
You’ll have to forgive these really terrible photos, as it was very dark, and I was trying to not be the really lame girl taking photos of her food in a fancy restaurant. Luckily, the folks at the table next to us seemed to find us more amusing than annoying.
At Ataula, they make your donuts fresh to order, which thrills me like no other. They take the dough they use to make their fresh brioche buns (I believe they make all of their breads in house), cut it into a donut shape, fry it, and then roll it in cinnamon sugar. Huzzah.
These donuts were pretty good. They certainly tasted fresh. My only real complaint was they tasted a little gummy in the middle, as if they didn’t get cooked all the way through. But otherwise, they were lovely. Not terribly sweet, but nicely coated in cinnamon sugar. Eric swears he could taste cardamom too, but apparently my taste buds are not nearly as sophisticated as his.
In the end, no cinnamon sugar donut can compare to Pip’s cinnamon sugar donut. Eric thinks this is because of the size of Pip’s donuts. Since they are mini, you get a higher cinnamon sugar to donut ratio per bite. I think it’s because Pip’s uses a coarser blend of cinnamon sugar that sticks to the donuts a bit better and gives you a bigger burst of flavor.
1915 N Lombard St.
What we spent: $4.84
What we got: Old Fashioned with Maple Glaze, Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Sprinkles, Plain Cake with Blueberry Frosting, Chocolate Glazed Yeast, Twist
Best of the bunch: Plain Cake with Blueberry Frosting
I’ll be honest. I did not have high expectations for Heavenly Donuts. In fact, I’d been putting off this final portion of the donut crawl because I didn’t particularly want to visit any of these places. We’d left the world of artisan donuts behind, along with all the cute little shops. Heavenly Donuts kind of looks like a gas station from the outside (and since I completely dropped the ball and forgot to photograph the shop, you can see photos of it here on the website), and there’s nothing impressive about the inside (plastic booths, bright colors). But they are open 24 hours a day, which means you can get your donut fix anytime the mood strikes! They also win some points for having a super friendly girl working at the counter, which always makes for a better donut experience (I’m looking at you, Helen Bernhard Bakery).
Onto the actual donuts: Eric liked the Old Fashioned with Maple Glaze. I’ve taken my opinion out of the running, as I’ve learned during this donut crawl that I just don’t like maple glaze. But Eric felt this one had a nice amount of maple frosting that wasn’t overpowering. After our first bite of the Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Sprinkles, we both said (at the same time), “This tastes exactly like chocolate cake!” Obviously, that was delicious. The Plain Cake with Blueberry Frosting was our favorite of the bunch, despite the fact that there weren’t any blueberries actually in the donut. It had a really nice texture, and still tasted plenty blueberry-ish. Our least favorite was the Chocolate Glazed Yeast, which had frosting that tasted like the frosting from a cake. This was lovely on the chocolate cake donut, but way too overpowering on a yeast donut. Also, the yeast donut just wasn’t nearly as good as the cake donuts we tried. The Twist had a really nice texture and tasted exactly like a Krispy Kreme donut. So if that’s your jam, this is the place to go.
12 SE Grand Ave
What we spent: $5.50
What we got: Blueberry Cake, Crumble Cake, Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Sprinkles, Maple Glazed Old Fashioned, Yeast with Chocolate Glaze, Glazed Twist
Best of the bunch: Blueberry Cake
Delicious Donuts seems super sketchy. It’s just across Burnside Bridge on the east side of the river, and I wasn’t willing to go there by myself. They also have the most limited hours of all the donut shops we tried, only open from 5 am till noon (but I just read they are open for an extra hour in the summer). And from everything I’d read, they sell out of donuts pretty quickly (apparently a lot of offices get their morning donuts here). So we woke up really early on a Saturday morning to get there before all the donuts were gone. We rolled in around 7 am, and there was already a short line, along with people sitting at every table in the place. Luckily, the fella who took our order was incredibly friendly (I might vote him the friendliest of all the people we’ve encountered in our donut crawl), despite having just rolled in on his skateboard early on a Saturday morning.
The Blueberry Cake donut was really good, and was definitely our favorite of the bunch. It had a nice amount of blueberries, and didn’t taste artificial at all (which I’ve learned is a pet peeve of mine after tasting approximately 10 different blueberry cake donuts over the past few months). The Crumble Cake was our second favorite. It was really fluffy with a delightful kick of cinnamon. It was a little dry, but we’ll take that over a really oily donut (I’m looking at you, Rocking Frog Cafe). The Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Sprinkles was good, and tasted a whole lot like the one from Heavenly’s, but we declared Heavenly’s a little better. The Maple Glazed Old Fashioned was pretty dense, with really thick maple frosting, which was kind of a turn off for me, but Eric thought it had nice flavor, without being overwhelmingly sweet. The Yeast with Chocolate Glaze was surprisingly tasty. I’m not usually one for yeast donuts, but I was more than willing to eat my half of this one. It had a really nice texture. The Glazed Twist was our least favorite of the bunch, underwhelming us with its dry, somewhat flavorless existence.
22 SW 3rd Ave
What we spent: $6.70
What we got: Blueberry Cake, Butterfingering, Glazed Old Fashioned, Bacon Maple Bar
Best of the bunch: Blueberry Cake
I really debated whether or not to include Voodoo in our donut crawl. I know it’s the donut synonymous with Portland, but generally, it’s just for tourists. I don’t know anyone who lives in Portland and visits Voodoo on the regular. Plus, the donuts are more of a “let’s see how crazy we can get with this sugar explosion” sort of situation. But everyone we talked to said we had to include Voodoo, so we gave the people what they wanted.
In general, I would avoid Voodoo because of the lines. I’ve walked by at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and seen hundreds of people waiting in line outside. Nothing is worth that to me (although that’s kind of the way dining in Portland works). Plus, we had a Voodoo back in Eugene, and we could go there any time of day without any line, so it just seems silly to wait here in Portland.
But, we kind of cheated the system on this tasting and went to the OTHER location on the east side of the river around 7 am. There was only one other person in the place. So, if you must go to Voodoo, go early. Especially if it’s a weekend. I cannot tell you how many tourists I see walking around Portland on Saturday afternoons with those pink boxes in their arms.
Onto the donuts. To be fair, this isn’t really the place you visit for a regular donut. Voodoo is famous for its weird concoctions, mostly involving cereal toppings. And let’s be real, sometimes you want a donut covered in cereal or candy. I went with my two go-to donuts from when we lived in Eugene, the Blueberry Cake and the Butterfingering, which is a chocolate cake donut with some crazy sugary frosting and butterfingers sprinkled on top. The Blueberry Cake was probably the best of the bunch, since it is a more traditional donut that just tastes good. It is super moist, super blueberry-filled, and pretty darn sweet. But it’s good. I feel ashamed saying this, but it was the best of the blueberry cake donuts we tried in Portland. Then there’s the Butterfingering. The frosting kind of tastes like marshmallow creme, and obviously, it is really sweet. We both agreed we’d pick a classic donut at Voodoo over a “tourist donut” like this one, but it definitely tastes good. Eric picked a Glazed Old Fashioned, which we determined was sweeter than other old fashioned donuts we’ve tasted, but was still good. Then there’s the Bacon Maple Bar, which I hate, but Eric enjoys. Eric liked that the bacon added a savory element to an otherwise very sweet donut, but declared it was not worth the whopping $3 we paid (is that you, Blue Star?).
The winner of this round of the Portland Donut Crawl was, I hate to say it, Voodoo Doughnuts. If you look past the touristy donuts, you’ll see that the actual donut base, without all the crazy toppings, is pretty solid. And, when we tasted all three of the blueberry cake donuts from this round (Heavenly, Delicious, and Voodoo), Voodoo’s was far superior. I didn’t want to admit it, but the donuts are good, guys. And they have just about any donut you could want, whether it’s a classic donut or one topped with all the sugar.
Come back soon for the final word on the Portland Donut Crawl, as we declare the best donut shop in all the land!