If there’s a city with a higher density of donut shops than Portland, please point me in that direction, please and thank you. When Cascadia Quidditch and the Rain City Raptors asked me to run a Portland tournament for them, I jumped at the opportunity for a variety of reasons. Near the top of that list: donuts.
Day 1: Blue Star Donuts at PDX
I knew exactly what I wanted the moment I touched down in Portland. When my friend Sequoia introduced me to Blue Star back in 2016, I fell in love with two of their donuts: the Blueberry Bourbon Basil and the Passion Fruit Cocoa Nib.
Blueberry Bourbon Basil
Sometimes you miss something so much that you build it up in your head into something better than it actually was. Was this donut a delicious welcome back to the PNW? Absolutely. The blueberry is nice and jammy, the basil adds a herbaceous kick, and the bourbon doesn’t overpower it. It just wasn’t what I built it up to be, which is my fault, not the donut.
Passionfruit Cocoa Nibs
This, on the other hand, was better than I remembered. I love all things passion fruit, and this was so brightly acidic that tasted like straight up sunshine. The chocolate is nice but the name is a little misleading: there’s also cayenne in this donut, which snuck up on my mother when she tried the one I brought home for her. I like that bit of heat at the end, but buyer beware.
Day 2: Blue Star Donuts on Morrison Street
I spent day two in Portland wandering the city with my friends who were in town for NCxNW. Naturally, we started the day with the breakfast of champions: donuts.
Meyer Lemon and Key Lime Curd
This was straightforwardly good. I love Meyer lemon and key lime, and they complimented one another instead of having one drown out the other. The curd was a beautifully sharp and tart contrast to all the rich donuts I’d been eating… and would continue to eat. #fatforquidditch
Bacon Bourbon Breakfast Fritter
I’m a girl who likes to plan things. I checked out the Blue Star website before flying up to Portland and picked out which donuts I wanted to try each day. The lemon-lime donut was on my list for that day, but when I locked eyes with this seasonal donut, I threw out the rest of my plans.
This thing was almost the size of my face. It was everything I love about breakfast in fritter form: shredded potato, c h u n k s of bacon, pepper & sage, all covered in a maple bourbon glaze. The only thing missing from my ideal breakfast was runny eggs.
Day 4: Doe Donuts
No, I didn’t forget a day. I was hoping to find a moment to grab donuts on Day 3, but I was a liiiiiittle busy running a tournament. Ah well.
The next morning, I met up with some SJSU Quidditch alumni for breakfast. While Gil and I were down for Blue Star yet again, Marina forced us to expand our horizons. (And I am so glad she did!) we headed to Doe Donuts instead.
I should have probably only gotten two, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach so I went for three. This wasn’t a bad donut, but what flavor differences can you think of between a donut and French toast? Nope, I couldn’t think of anything, either.
Sour Blue Raspberry
This one made me feel things that I had hoped the BBB at Blue Star would make me feel. The zing comes from the raspberry powder and the sour pucker sprinkled over the blueberry glaze. Definitely the best of the bunch.
Salted Vanilla Bean
This was exactly what it said it was. While I found the vanilla bean cider I had the day before a bit cloying, the salt provided a nice balance to the sweetness of the rest of the donut.
Day 5 (and beyond): Souvenirs from Blue Star @ PDX
The only souvenirs I brought back (other than postcards and a refrigerator magnet for my collection) were donuts. Can you blame me? Some were requests, but mostly, I wanted my friends and family to love what I love. These are the donuts I brought home that I didn’t try during my time in Portland.
I was planning on bringing the Bacon Bourbon Breakfast Fritter home to my boyfriend, but alas, they were out. I brought this home to him as an attempt to make it up to him, and another for my parents because they’ve never tried anything like this.
But I’m gonna be real: 90% of the time, I think adding bacon to things is a stunt. This was a maple donut sprinkled with bacon. Yay, I guess. The breakfast fritter was a far better use of bacon.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
This one… develops. You take a bite and think, “Oh, it’s just a fancier name for a chocolate donut.” But the more you eat it, the more it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. You want to keep eating it because each bite tastes more and more like someone took a hot mug of Abuelita and transfigured it into a donut. This donut made me sad when it was done in a way that no other donut on this list did.
Orange Olive Oil
This, my friends, is a donut for grownups. It’s very light and more of a floral orange than a fruity orange. The olive oil kept it nice and moist, which was nice since I ate it for breakfast the day after I got home.
Take a jelly donut. Stuff it with peanut butter as well. Another straightforwardly simple but tasty donut. This was what I was supposed to get on Day 2, but the breakfast fritter was a better replacement.
Pumpkin Panna Cotta Brulée
When you order a donut that comes with a pipette of whiskey, you know that you’re signing up for a stunt donut. Gil had it when we were at the Morrison Street location, so I brought one home for Jim on a whim. He likes pumpkin pie more than I do, but the combination of cream filling and injectable whiskey made it a bit hard to eat.
It takes a lot for a chocolate donut to impress me these days. You can get a decent chocolate donut pretty easily. The Mexican Hot Chocolate delivered on that need to find something special. This one took a close second to it’s Abuelita inspired sister. It’s a cream filled donut covered with chocolate ganache, then topped with chocolate pearls with the texture of Rice Krispies. The texture contrast was cool, but I still liked the Mexican Hot Chocolate donut better.
A notable absence
Some of you may have noticed that I skipped what’s arguably the most famous donut shop in Portland: Voodoo Donuts. I went there during my first visit to Portland in the summer of 2015, but it wasn’t somewhere I longed to return to the second time around.
Why? Well, as you might have noticed by now, I’m more of a fan of interesting flavors than of cool stunts. Voodoo does a great job of delivering on the latter, and their donuts aren’t even bad, I just had no desire to go back. One visit was enough.
TL;DR: I think Voodoo is for tourists and I don’t care how hipster that makes me sound.
Okay, I can’t straight up rank all these donuts. They ran the gauntlet from sweet to tart to savory and every combination in between. Instead, I decided to put them into tiers.
Tier 1: Don’t miss out on these!
- Blue Star: Bacon Bourbon Breakfast Fritter (seasonal)
- Blue Star: Passion Fruit Cacao Nib
- Doe Donuts: Sour Blue Raspberry
Tier 2: Worth trying
- Blue Star: Blueberry Bourbon Basil
- Blue Star: Orange Olive Oil
- Blue Star: Mexican Hot Chocolate
- Doe Donuts: Salted Vanilla
Tier 3: Get this if you’re a fan of these flavors/textures
- Blue Star: PB&J
- Blue Star: Valhrona Chocolate
- Blue Star: Maple Bacon
- Blue Star: Pumpkin Panna Cotta Brulée (seasonal)
Tier 4: Skippable
- Doe Donuts: French Toast