Blue Star Donuts, Portland, OR

Posted on
Mar 5, 2014

My apologies for the quality of images in this post. Many of them were taken with my cell phone, because I was too busy eating to be bothered with my SLR. 

 

I have been told on more than one occasion that I am not unlike a hobbit. I’ve always figured this was less to do with the size and furriness of my feet (they are rather small, and for the most part hairless, save for something that is happening on each of my big toes. Let us not speak of that.), and more to do with my inclination to eat at least one breakfast, and often to have two, and then perhaps Elevensies, all of which really help to tide a gal over to lunch.

If I don’t eat at regular intervals, I become unpleasant and reminiscent of another Lord of The Rings character … what’s his name? The one with the creepy voice that nobody likes? Sauron. Yes. I become a bit Sauron-like, and Rand soon learned the importance of snacking to the preservation of our marriage.

In this respect, things have always been a bit dicey when we visit Portland. The entire city is thoroughly enamored with breakfast, and brunch, and all permutations thereof, so getting in to any restaurant without incurring a huge wait (and thus my wrath) is a bit of a challenge.

Over the years, Rand has come up with a fairly good work around: doughnuts. They serve as first breakfast, they calm the rage within my stomach, and I am suddenly pleasant and patient as I wait for the next meal.

Our favorite spot for first breakfast is Blue Star Donuts.

 

Rather unjustly, when the issue of doughnuts in Portland comes up, Blue Star is often overlooked. For years, the biggest name in fried rings in the Rose City has always been Voodoo Doughnuts. Anthony Bourdain visited there a few years back, and ever since, Voodoo has had a line out the door and around the corner. Their premise isn’t terrible – a kind of trashy, stoner’s delight, they anoint their doughnuts with all manner of toppings – cereals, Oreo cookies, and, at one time, even NyQuil (the last foray got them in trouble with the FDA, and garnered them a ton of press). They were at the forefront of the bacon-on-maple-bars trend, proving once again that if it’s popular, Portland did it first.

Our first visit to Voodoo was close to a decade ago. We left rather disappointed – neither of our doughnuts were particularly fresh. Mine was topped with stale Cap’n Crunch. Rand had opted for a peanut butter-chocolate-Oreo extravaganza, which proved too rich to eat. In Voodoo’s defense, they upped their game in recent years, but we also started visiting there while slightly drunk (they are wisely open 24 hours a day). This has improved our impression of the place substantially. Voodoo now makes a decent, if slightly rib-sticking doughnut.

But they don’t really hold a candle to Blue Star. Some would argue that the debate simply falls down the lines of preference between cake and yeast doughnuts,  but I don’t think that’s the case. Indeed, Blue Star only serves the latter, and Voodoo serves both, but I’ve always preferred cake doughnuts, and I still think the Star is superior.

The process is simple – they mostly make one kind of doughnut – an airy loop that emerges from the fryer golden and uniform. It’s perfectly executed, and alarmingly fresh, sure, but the real magic lies in the glazes – in flavors both high brow (passion fruit cocoa nibs) and familiar (cinnamon and vanilla sugar). Satiny smooth and shiny, they barely have a chance to set before they are served.

There are a few filled doughnuts to choose from as well – there’s one that’s akin to a Boston Cream pie, filled with a rich custard, glazed with chocolate frosting, and topped with tiny spheres of chocolate-covered-crisped-rice, or their take on the PB & J – a gooey, not-too-sweet jam on the inside, a dusting of peanuts on the outside.

There aren’t that many to choose from, and so I’ve tried many of them, and I can tell you, even among the chocolate and the creams, the decadence and the fillings, my favorite is the blueberry bourbon basil.

 

It tastes like summer in Oregon. It reminds me of the seemingly endless sunlit days that surrounded my wedding. It makes me think I’ll never fall out of love.

We went to Blue Star twice in the two days we were in Portland last week. The first time, I went with my tried and true favorite. The second time around, I tried the lemon poppy seed.

Here it is:

 

And here it is again, approximately 30 seconds later:

I nearly ate the paper.

 

To say it was inhaled would not be much of an exaggeration, and even so, it wasn’t quite as good as the one that had preceded it the day before. The lemon glaze was lovely and tart, but almost overwhelmed the delicate doughnut. But this me splitting hairs, or perhaps splitting poppy seeds: if you try it, it will still be one of the better doughnuts of your life.

For a long time, Rand and I held Blue Star close to the heart, a secret we divulged to friends and loved ones, but, selfishly, never something we wrote about, for fear it would become overrun. This was a futile exercise. Word has gotten out. This was the scene at Blue Star last Saturday morning:

 

And so now that Portland knows, it seems only fair to tell the rest of you: skip the pink box palace of Voodoo, and go to Blue Star.

 

And if you happen to find yourself in line ahead of me, be a dear, and don’t take the last blueberry bourbon basil.

Leave a Comment

  • Colleen R

    Whoa, no promises on not taking the last blueberry bourbon basil. It’s tempting to book a flight just to find out what a donut like that tastes like! But I’d let you lick the paper. 😉

  • Janet T

    “It tastes like summer in Oregon. It reminds me of the seemingly endless sunlit days that surrounded my wedding. It makes me think I’ll never fall out of love.”

    You don’t need doughnuts for this- we know you will never fall out of love, you are in too deep- and it is a good thing, I don’t know what I’d do without kissy face pictures

  • $2.75 For. One. Doughnut. Oh my. On the other hand, if they changed the name to something like, “Blueberry Bourbon Basil” ring cake, I wouldn’t bat an eye.

    • Jenny

      $2.75 is not a lot of money…less than a frappuccino at starbucks and probably twice the care and quality. I’m sorry, but someone spent hours testing ideas and recipes and flavor combinations, then mixed this batter, made the glaze and toppings, cooked it, decorated it, and then still has to pay the bills and staff. As a cook and as an artist, nothing is more frustrating than when people undervalue your craft by expecting the things you’ve worked so hard on to sell for $1.

  • I KNEW that was a lemon poppy-seed doughnut before you even mentioned it! I’m obsessed with lemon poppy seed ANYTHING *drool*

  • Jen

    Man I was kind of hungry before I read this, but now I’m starving and there are no doughnuts in sight. *sigh*

  • Teresa

    I just stumbled on the perfect app for you and this entry! Meet Doughbot: the app for finding doughnuts near you!

    http://www.meetdoughbot.com/

  • the blueberry bourbon basil sounds amazing!

  • My mouth started watering as soon as I heard the word blueberry, never mind bourbon and basil. I was never a big doughnut person, but living in a country where they couldn’t make a good doughnut if their lives depended on it, I find that I often get the craving.

  • I still haven’t been to Blue Star, although it’s always being written up in the publications for amazing doughnuts. I tend to prefer cake doughnuts as well and more simple flavors. Now, of course, I’m nowhere near home and would really like a proper doughnut.

    If you ever want a good cake doughnut, you might try Delicious Donuts. It’s on SE Grand in what looks like a Plaid Pantry (in fact, I think there’s one next door…) and isn’t exactly the most charming location, but the doughnuts are…well, delicious. I like the blueberry one – lots of fresh blueberries and a good crunchy exterior.

  • Voodoo Donut just opened their Denver location and I’ve yet to try it due to random closures and lines down the block. Blue Star actually sounds much more to my liking – perhaps they will follow the Portland to Denver pipeline!

  • Omg, I love me some donuts. I think the best I’ve tried were J.Co in SE Asia, but it looks like you guys have some sort of gourmet donut thing going on over there in the States! One day, one day…

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