It’s no secret that hipsters love donuts. They love taking instagrams of them (over 2.2 million photos with the hashtag #donuts), they love wearing ironic donut jewelry, and swimming in donut floatation devices. So it should come as no surprise that Portland has not just one, but two, world famous donut chains — VooDoo Donuts and Blue Star Donuts.
Here are my thoughts on both fried confectionary establishments.b
VooDoo Donuts — Multiple locations, original one is 22 SW 3rd Avenue
VooDoo Donuts is one of those popular “must see” Portland activities that you find on the Top 10 lists for visiting the city. It is the established donut place and has been around since 2002. They have become so popular that they expanded into other cities around the country (such as Austin & Denver) and even have plans to take it international.
When I visited this place back in 2012, I was not sure quite what to expect. Inside their original shop, you’ll find bright pink walls, funky dressed staff and a twirling case of sugar-laden donuts in all shapes and sizes. Their style is big and bold. The donuts are topped with all kinds of crazy treats, like sugar cereal, snickers pieces or chocolate chips. The whole vibe is meant to be over the top.
I ordered a few of their more “famous” flavors, like Old Dirty Bastard, Maple Bacon and Snow Capped. The Old Dirty Bastard (seen in the first photo) had all kinds of crazy toppings, like oreos, peanut butter, and fudge frosting. The snowcapped had shaved coconut, chocolate frosting on a chocolate donut. Maple bacon is pretty self explanatory but you get the gist — VooDoo donuts shoots for outrageous flavors. Their portion sizes are big, so bring your eating pants.
I think the consistency of the donuts is pretty good. Very traditional, so fluffy, squishy and velvety insides. The toppings, are yes, completely over the top and ridiculous. But that’s what sort of cool about the whole experience. It’s meant to be fun. It is meant to be something that you do once in a while. It’s something you enjoy for the thrill and naughtiness inherently associated with eating donuts.
Blue Star Donuts — Multiple locations, I went to Hawthrone location
If Voodoo is meant to be a whole experience, Blue Star is the opposite. It’s all about the donuts. Their locations are simple and small on the inside, with minimal flair or fancy bells and whistles. Expect plain white walls, a few bar stools and a single counter showcasing about 10 different flavors.
They pride themselves on the food and only the food.
Blue Star has equally creative flavors as Voodoo, but they are creative in their flavor profile and complexity of taste, not for the crazy or excessive toppings. This is like a foodie version of donuts — elevated combinations of ingredients designed to excite and enlighten your palette.
Again, I ordered a few different options to try them out. I got a blueberry bourbon basil classic glazed donut, as well as a lemon poppyseed glazed buttermilk donut. I don’t always love classic donuts, but this one was great. Like really great. Amazing consistency with a fluffy doughy inside and perfect glaze to donut ratio.
And then there was the lemon poppy seed donut. Wow, just wow. I’m partial to buttermilk or sour cream donuts as it is, but this was top-notch. Like top 3 I’ve ever had. The inside managed to be dense and fluffy at the same time, and the flavor from the lemon was well balanced and not overwhelming. The sugary light glaze was just enough to fulfill your sugar tooth without completely blowing out your taste buds and giving you gut rot.
Overall, I liked both establishments for different reasons. Voodoo is a fun and quirky experience all around, and the donuts they serve up only reaffirm the excessive vibe they are going for. Their staff are interesting people and their locations are cool.
Blue Star is simple in it’s experience, but packs a punch in their awesome donuts and unique flavor combinations. I think that Blue Star’s donuts are higher quality, and if I could only eat one of them again, I would choose Blue Star hands down. But if you’re in Portland, I definitely think both are worth a visit!