Bicycle highly recommended.
Portland is a city known for many things, including coffee, craft beer, and an alt-facing culture satorized by Portlandia. But it is also a donut town, and a stand-out one, too, on America's best coast for donuts: the West Coast. (Sorry, New Englanders, these are simply the facts.)
Any trip to Portland should include a half day, if not more, of scouting donuts; bike or walk to each stop to keep your appetite at a steady "medium full," so you can continue eating. (We've found that donuts can be tolerated by the body at any level between "Hungry" and "Medium Full," sometimes even "Uncomfortably Full.")
The city's donut offerings are wildly diverse (and often controversial), with some shops located in unassuming strip malls with minimal branding, to others with high-concept design, Instagram-bait specials, and crowds that circle around the block.
Here are a few stops that are worth your time, if not just for the experience.
Located inside of a strip of stores on the east side of the Burnside Bridge, the cherished family-run donut shop is decidedly non-hipster, meaning the prices are low, the lines are (relatively) fast, and there's space to sit. The blueberry donut here is crazy, deliriously good; it's essentially a deep-fried blueberry muffin, and it's perfect. You won't find any better classic, no-nonsense donuts—crullers, sprinkled, cake—in the city, nor will you find a better value. (Stop by on Monday for free donuts with any espresso beverage.) If you're feeling reckless, order one of the omelets they put chunks of hashbrowns and crispy cheddar in. Protein is important.
Delicious Donuts, 12 SE Grand Ave, Portland. (503) 233-1833.
Pip's Original Doughnuts and Chai
If you're looking for a lighter donut snack, and perhaps a place to linger, consider Pip's, a self-described "retro-hip" shop that's been making solid mini donuts in NE Portland for years. The mini format allows you to taste as many flavors as possible, like raw honey and sea salt, nutella and sea salt, and "The Dirty Wu:" a cinnamon sugar donut topped with raw honey, warm nutella, and a light dusting of sea salt. The chai selection is lovely, too; order a flight to try as many blends as possible.
Pip's Original Doughnuts and Chai, 4759 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR. (503) 206-8692.
Blue Star Donuts
As Food & Wine contributor Alexander Basek put it in a lively Portland donut roundtable with senior editor David Landsel, "Blue Star is totally Shake Shacking, now." The popular gourmet donut shop has exploded in recent years, opening new locations around the city with a Shake Shack-like frequency. (Landsel added, refusing to apologize, "To me, Blue Star had a moment—a wonderful moment—and then it became a larger, very commercial operation, and the quality and care just isn't matching the prices, which, by the way, have skyrocketed. It's $4.25 for a maple bacon donut now.") The brioche-based donuts, while more expensive than when the shopped opened in 2012, are still quite good, and the fritters, unbeatable. Blue Star's head pastry chef, Stephanie Thornton, is very talented.
Blue Star Donuts, multiple donuts.
While some locals might roll their eyes at the mention of Voodoo, which is now a never-not-mobbed tourist haunt, the quirky shop is undoubtedly a Portland institution, and one worth checking out if you can stand the lines and cash-only policy. You'll see people walking around the city with bright pink Voodoo takeout boxes, and the donuts inside are just as colorful, with wacky varietals like "Memphis Mafia," "Oh Captain, My Captain," and "Triple Chocolate Penetration." (Their famous NyQuil-glazed one is no longer on the menu, alas.) You can now find Voodoo at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, and we suspect the brand will only grow.
Voodoo Doughnuts, 22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland (and other locations). (503) 241-4704.
Tonalli's Donuts and Cream (Now Called "Angel's")
One of Portland's hidden gems, Tonalli's serves some of the most decadent, straightforward donuts in town, as well as ice cream, in case you needed more sweet. After a recent change in management, the shop is now called Angel's, but not much else has changed (though some OG Tonalli's fans have voiced complaints about service and donut freshness.)
Angel's, 2805 NE Alberta St, Portland. 503-284-4510.