We pit one old-school bakery and four new local doughnut shops in a battle for dough supremacy. The outcome? Each shop has its own sweet secret weapon.
Tasting panel: Kelly Clarke, Casey Jarman, Kat Merck, Andrea Manning, India Nicholas, Brian Panganiban, Ali Rothschild, Hank Stern and Ben Waterhouse.
TULIP PASTRY SHOP
8322 N Lombard St., 286-3444.
In business for 58 years, Tulip is still going strong—a sweet helping of small-town charm in St. Johns. The three-generation- spanning family biz is friendly and old-school. That means cash or check only, thank you very much.
Price: $10.95 a dozen.
1915 N Lombard St., 283-4141.
Just your average 24-hour doughnut shop next to a 7-Eleven on a busy corner in NoPo: plastic tables and chairs, utilitarian fluorescent lighting and lots of disciples looking for salvation in the form of cheap joe and dough.
Price: 14 for $7.99; Monday special, 12 for $5.99.
DONUT QUEEN & PIZZA
5842 E Burnside St., 235-0184.
White tile floors and walls give this dough hub a hospital vibe and the doughnut selection is limited, but the prices at this decade-old bakery are super cheap—and hey, if you want pizza afterward, you don't have to go far.
Price: $8.99 a dozen.
709 SW 17th Ave., 360-1456.
This pink-and-brown hideaway near PGE Park serves criminally weak coffee, but the constant buzz of the MAX and wafting scent of fresh dough combine to create an excellent place to spend a quiet morning mainlining sugar. Cash only.
Price: $9.50 a dozen.
2929 SE Powell Blvd., 233-6688.
Located near key doughnut-downing populations (strip-club patrons, high-schoolers, bowlers), Acme is clearly making a grab for Voodoo customers. Its fried dough is stoner-licious, the decor looks like the inside of a Crayola box. They should start marrying hipsters, too.
Price: $10 for a dozen.
Nice toasty color with a sweet, oddly metallic aftertaste. "You get more a sugar/grease sensation than a doughnut texture," griped stickler Brian.
Heavenly: With it's so-wrong-it's-right saccharine taste and crunchy glaze, the Heavenly tasted just like a Krispy Kreme—"It puffs right down in your mouth," explained India. "It's totally insubstantial, and that's a good thing."
Donut Queen: Queen's pallid, sugar-sprinkled raised doughnut garnered few defenders: "It tastes like a Safeway baguette that's been fried, with sugar on it," said Andrea. "I don't ever want to put that in my mouth again.""
Coco: It's got a county-fair thing going on," exclaimed Kat of this light, chewy doughnut. It was sugar-overload in a good way, but, strangely, looked just like a bagel.
Acme: Topped with tons of decorative white glaze, Acme's crunchy, cinnamony glazed raised was essentially an elephant ear masquerading as a doughnut. "That's cheating!" one taster cried. Who cares. It's freakin' good.
WINNER: Tie - Acme & Heavenly
This rough-textured, deep-brown bar topped with super-thick housemade frosting tasted just like maple-sugar Christmas candy. "It's like Vermont in my mouth!" Hank exclaimed.
Heavenly: Heavenly boasts a huge, manly bar with a satisfying crunch. Sadly, there was little hint of maple in the gloppy, sugary frosting.
Donut Queen: There's sweetness but not a lot of substance to this pedestrian bar, topped with a powdery, crumbly maple slick. "Well, it's better than the raised...." Kelly offered.
Coco: Kinda gummy, kinda chewy—tasters were divided on this bar. It tasted stale. "Like what a hangover doughnut should taste like," Brian noted, happily. But Casey disagreed: "It's kind of stinging my throat...is anybody else getting that?"
Acme: Shape fail. Maple bars should not be round. That said, there were some nice spice notes, although none of them were maple. And it also tasted like an elephant ear. "So…it's not maple and it's not a bar...."
No old-fashioned available.
Heavenly's entry? We
the doughnut, with its dense, crumbly innards and crunchy top layer—genuinely awesome. But we were weirded out by the icing: "What is that, horehound? There's some obscure candy flavor in there," noted Ben. "Something medicinal."
This plain old-fashioned looked like it was a week old—and we'd bought it two hours ago. Cakey and dense, it tasted saturated with fat. "Maybe they fry their doughnuts in pizza oil," one taster mused. "We should try the pizza."
Coco: Coco's crispy, crunchy doughnut tasted yellow-cake-mix-y inside. "You know how when you store your banana next to your sandwich, and then your sandwich kind of tastes like banana?" Kat said. We decide that's not a bad thing.
Acme: Acme doesn't have an old-fashioned, but it does boast a spongy cake doughnut. "It makes my mouth taste like a rubber glove afterwards," said Casey. "Or a condom...not that I would know."
Tulip's bismarck is a beautiful, snow-capped powdered-sugar mountain, filled with what seemed to us like a gallon of intensely vanilla-flavored custard. "You need a spoon for it," Ben marveled. "If you bit into it, it would spooge all over you."
Heavenly: Although it looked like a raspberry necropsy, this doughnut was really good—from the puckery, jammy flavor of the filling to its crisp, sugary crust. "It's a pure Jewish-deli doughnut, like they make at temple!" squealed Ali.
Donut Queen: "They don't put things in their doughnuts at Donut Queen," noted India.
Coco: Tastes like a bowl of raspberry Jell-O trapped in squishy cake," Kelly said.
Acme: In what appeared to be some sort of magic trick, Acme managed to stuff an entire marionberry pie inside a doughnut. Fresh, sharp and fruity, it was a gooey, brain-bending wonder. And yes, it tasted of cinnamon.
Tulip won our hearts with a cranberry fritter that puts the standard apple variety to shame—crisp and puckery, it was just plain doughnut awesomeness. On the other hand, the coconut buttercream twist was "a fucking train wreck."
Heavenly: An angelic chocolate doughnut with chocolate icing and sprinkles tasted "genuinely chocolatey and really, really good."
Donut Queen: Success! The Queen's bestseller, a cinnamon roll topped with maple, tasted exactly like it should: a sugar IV drip. "Ooofhgargle," said Kelly.
Coco: Coco's stylish raised doughnut with chocolate icing and bittersweet chocolate shards was funky-good, in a grown-up way. "I'm having trouble standing," Ben said.
Acme: We dubbed a green-mint-glazed cake "the Crest doughnut," and determined that Acme's gooey, apple-shellacked concoction looked like "something out of a sex shop." Still, the chocolate-covered-sunflower-seed-sprinkled doughnut garnered a crunchy, nutty thumbs up.
WINNER: Tie - Tulip &Heavenly