| January 26, 2017 |
Being that Portland was a mere 2 hours from Olympia, WA, I knew I had to journey there eventually. Once I got to talking to more people about the amazing donuts, book stores, and weird vibes, I made it a priority. I phoned a friend living in Oregon and we adventured in and out of the city in early September.
Just as expected, plenty of time was spent eating donuts, getting lost in the U.S.’s largest independently owned book store, and soaking in some not-as-weird-as-expected vibes. You’re probably just as curious as I was about this ‘donut’ deal. I don’t really think too much about donuts, nor do I crave them, but when people rave about a food, I’m always in to try it.
Feast yourselves for the Portland Donut Battle hosted by yours truly…
Setting The Scene
If you don’t already know, everyone talks about Portland’s Voodoo Donuts. There’s 6.7K reviews on Yelp, and the pink boxes dot the city sidewalks as donut fanatics carry the delectable treats home to their lovers and families. Obviously, this meant I had to see what Voodoo was all about. What would be beneath the cover of those pink boxes? What kind of flavorful explosion would I experience?
My friend living in Portland informed me, however, that there was a runner-up for Portland’s best donut shoppe. With only 2.2K reviews on Yelp, Blue Star Donuts isn’t quite as popular as Voodoo. Yet, my friend told me they were better and more flavorful. I wasn’t sure what to think, but I figured the only way to really know the difference would be to try them both, right?
So there you have it: PORTLAND DONUT BATTLE ESTABLISHED. Let’s meet the contestants…
Known for: “The Magic is in the Hole”; pink boxes; tribute donuts to those who pass, such as pop stars & musicians (usually posted on their Instagram).
Locations: the original is at 22 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR, USA, but there are other locations listed on their website here.
Important to note: CASH ONLY (there’s an ATM inside). I had $5 when I went. Oops. I know, Mom, I need to carry more cash with me. Luckily, the donuts aren’t too pricey. Unluckily, I have expensive taste.
On-scene assessment: Besides the fact that I didn’t have too much cash, the whole experience of this Voodoo location was a little stressful. There was a long line in the hot sun to get into the shoppe and, once inside, the crammed space already made me feel rushed. Though the appearance and decorations were impressive and entertaining, they were almost too stimulating. When I got up to the counter, I didn’t feel like the cashier wanted to help me, and again I felt rushed. I asked for his recommendation on the most popular donut. Though he helped direct my sale slightly, he seemed a little irritated I didn’t already know what I wanted. Sorry, bro.
Blue Star Donuts
Known for: “Donuts for Grownups” philosophy; dough that takes 18 hours to bake; use of daily, fresh ingredients.
Locations: throughout Portland, Los Angeles, and… Japan. See them here.
Important to note: There’s no guarantee on what donuts will be available! They vary seasonally, and also are based on daily availability. By the time I got to Blue Star on Saturday afternoon, they were all out of the PB&J donut I was dying to try.
On-scene assessment: No line. No wait. I walked right into Blue Star donuts with no fuss, after walking across all of Portland with my little pink box from Voodoo Donuts. This was one strike for Kristen upon arrival at Blue Star donuts. The cashiers took one look of me with the pink box and asked what I was doing in their shop with their competitor’s merchandise! I quickly explained how my friend had claimed Blue Star was superior to Voodoo, and I was out to prove it. They smiled, and explained the variety of donuts they had available for the day. Since PB&J was sold out, I opted instead for a classic cinnamon donut and the piña colada one. I chit-chatted away while they packaged my donuts into a box and paid for my two treats. When they handed me a gigantic box for the two donuts I ordered, I gave them a puzzled face. They said, “Look inside.”
I opened the box to nine donuts. Yes, NINE DONUTS. No, they didn’t get my order wrong. They simply wanted me to try every donut they had fresh at the time to compare to Voodoo Donuts. Two points for Blue Star, if you ask me!
Putting the personal experiences at these two locations aside, it was time for taste buds to do the real pickin.’ My friend and I teamed up to decipher the true difference between Voodoo Donuts and Blue Star Donuts. On first appearance of the donuts themselves, Voodoo is quite impressive. They’re well decorated, carry a certain theme, and look like they’d be BURSTING in flavor. The contestants from each team were as follows.
From Team Voodoo
“Old Dirty Bastard” with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s™ and peanut butter!
“Voodoo Doll©” with raspberry filling, chocolate frosting, and a pretzel stake.
From Team Blue Star
Blueberry Bourbon Basil
Buttermilk Old Fashioned
Apple Cider Donut
Chocolate Salted Almond
Chocolate, peanut butter, and Oreo’s? Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? And looking at the donut, I was just waiting for a flavor explosion! I figured I’d want to hoard at least half of this donut and when I bit into it, I… I… I was disappointed? No way, it can’t be. I took another bite and found it to be true. The dough was flat, the chocolate lacking any richness, and the peanut butter was underwhelming. Weird.
Then I looked into Blue Star’s box and wasn’t sure where to start. I picked up the purpley one, cut a quarter out of it, and took a bite. I was immediately BLASTED with flavors of basil and blueberries without a doubt, but there was something underlying it… bourbon. Oh my, it was an experience. I then proceeded to the piña colada one and felt the same rush of flavor, and the crumbled pistachios on top were like icing on the… donut. The best part? Blue Star’s glazes are comprised of fresh fruit and sugar. No corn syrup, no processed junk. It literally tasted like I was taking bites into fruit. And the dough? Oh, the dough! It was fluffy and light; not overbearing in contrast to its toppings.
With every further Blue Star donut I tasted, the same emotions rose. I was impressed by the flavor combinations and simple presentation. They didn’t try too hard. While Voodoo is truly an experience and visually pleasing, it just didn’t offer the same culinary experience. I love looking at my food, but I want to eat it and feel my taste buds doing the wave.
The Final Review
Have you been to either? What was your experience?
Disclaimer: I enjoyed both of these donut shoppes! Also, I am a biased opinion because of my taste buds and personal preferences. This is purely an opinion-based post. Please try both of these donut locations’ delectable treats!