Portland’s Voodoo Doughnut is not your mom and pop establishment. Irreverent and quirky, its doughnut art embodies the “keep Portland weird” motto and the joke that Portland is stuck in the 1990s – on steroids. Yet it also delivers on freshness, creativity, and flavor just as does Portland’s food scene. You just won’t see many locals there: Voodoo is Portland packaged for tourists.
Voodoo Doughnuts has become one of those brands so synonymous with its city that it is a necessary stop during a visit to Portland, Oregon – for outsiders. Everything about Voodoo is pop art, and its medium is the doughnut.
Voodoo’s primary location is perfectly situated in counter-counter culture heaven (the opposite of the opposite is…?) near the southwest Waterfront and the Burnside Bridge, which divides the city from north to south. Across the street from Voodoo is the iconic “Keep Portland Weird” mural.
After waiting patiently – or not, as some of my fellow Voodoo patrons did – through a long line outside the shop, walk inside into a kleptomaniac’s dream – if said klepto has a thing for the color pink, that is. I only wish I had more time to read the amusing posters, drawings, bumper stickers that plaster the walls. Some of them almost made me blush. And snicker like I would have in the 90s.
As it is, the extensive and sometimes challenging menu with its few descriptions leaves little time to fully take in your surroundings. Patient cashiers will explain each doughnut fully, but those behind you in line may not appreciate your inquisitive indecision. Voodoo has so many varieties of cake, raised, and filled doughnuts, as well as fritters and other pastry incarnations that it is impossible to make a completely informed choice of doughnut on a first visit.
I couldn’t resist the Rapper’s Delight – a trio of doughnuts that includes the ODB (Old Dirty Bastard), the Marshall Mathers, and a “cinnamon blunt” as well as a blueberry cake doughnut (surprisingly, no kitschy name). The ODB is a standard raised doughnut with chocolate and peanut butter frosting and crushed Oreos. The Marshall Mathers is a plain cake doughnut dipped in a thick vanilla icing and covered with what else but mini M&Ms candies. The cinnamon blunt is shaped as its name suggests, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and the “lit” end is dipped in a caramel icing. The blueberry cake doughnut was incredibly fresh, less dense than typical cake doughnuts, and if had the best blueberry flavor of any I’ve tried. Note that I did not eat all of these doughnuts and instead bought them to share.
But the best doughnut of all wasn’t even a doughnut. The Memphis Mafia is a giant cinnamon fritter the size of a human head, baked with banana and topped with chocolate, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. It is the most glorious, gluttonous pastry, definitely Elvis-worthy. It took a group of us three days to eat it (and somehow it wasn’t disgusting by then)!
The others in our large group raved equally about their own doughnuts. Each was a work of art, decorated with seemingly endless combinations of icings and toppings ranging from sprinkles to Coco Puffs cereal. Every Thursday and only on Thursdays, Voodoo sells a special doughnut filled with jelly made from a local producer; on this day, the special was blackberry and jalapeño jam.
Despite the crowds of tourists and the hype, Voodoo Doughnuts delivers a very edible pop art experience. It is a fun – if not gluttonous – introduction to the quirky 90s hipster culture of Portlandia. Your body just might not make it to a second visit, so follow it up with one of Portland’s wonderfully healthy and local restaurants or food trucks to balance it out!