3039 NE Alberta St., 971-202-7135, thesugarcubepdx.com. Morning and afternoon Wednesday-Sunday.
On the blackboard behind the glass counter at her bakery on Northeast Alberta Street, Kir Jensen has chalked “No guilt, just pleasure.” You’re going to need to buy into that philosophy, at least until your order is safely logged on the shop’s iPad. Walk into the Sugar Cube like Corey Booker walks into a vegan strip club, and walk out with contact info for the decadent chocolate blackout ($6), three layers of soft, spongy cake and cocoa icing roofed by a thin layer of roasty caramel.
While the recipes are lavish, the Sugar Cube’s space is minimalist: a half-dozen wood tables and a small high-top counter outfitted with kombucha by the jug and copies of Real Simple.
It’s a nice place at breakfast, when you’ll find toast topped by Portland-made, neighborhood-specific Bee Local honey, and strata, an egg-and-bread casserole baked below a blanket of sharp cheddar. The strata ($6.50) will best any quiche in town with its flaky crust, juicy hunks of mushroom and bright pops of tomato.
But Jensen has always been best known for her desserts, which include the infamous “ultimate” brownie ($3.50), with rich ganache and olive oil, and the fluffy “crack” coffeecake muffins ($3.75), with marionberry and pecan-inflected streusel. I left the Sugar Cube with $26 worth of treats, and the best criticism any WW staffer could level at anything was a complaint about the lack of contrast between the citrus almond cake’s hyper-lemony curd center and extremely lemony zest-heavy cake. But you couldn’t buy two boxes of baked goods from any other place in town and have so many direct hits. Remember this as you order: no guilt, just pleasure. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Blue Star Donuts
1237 SW Washington St., 265-8410, bluestardonuts.com. Morning-early afternoon daily.
Blue Star Donuts was poised to become the Salt & Straw of doughnut shops, a much-hyped specialty fryer of eccentric $3 brioche—blood orange and ginger, or chocolate ganache that’d stagger Papa Haydn’s fans—with lines extending out the door even at off-hours. It has instead, thankfully perhaps, become merely part of the West End landscape. Avoid those over-frosted lavenders or blueberry bourbons, however, in favor of the doughnuts that add savory to the sweet, such as its excellent hard-cider fritters, and meat concoctions like the fried-chicken wing ring. What you wanted from a maple-bacon bar at the crammed Voodoo Donuts is in fact here, with bacon bits crumbled delicately across the surface of a subtle maple top. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1105 NW Johnson St., 224-2021, coolmoonicecream.com. Noon-late daily.
In a town where ice cream shops make their name on the number of incongruous ingredients they can pack into a scoop (vegemite, gouda and durian, anyone?), Cool Moon stands out for its restraint. That’s not to say its offerings are uncreative—take the kulfi, flavored with cardamom, pistachio and rosewater, or the cayenne-inflected spicy Thai peanut—but they’re balanced. The salty caramel won’t give you an alkaline assault, and the chocolate sorbet is decadent without tipping into excess. You’ll be glad for that maturity of flavor when braving this parlor on a warm day, when it teems with waterlogged children from nearby Jamison Park. REBECCA JACOBSON.
12 SE Grand Ave., 233-1833, deliciousdonutspdx.com. Early morning-afternoon daily.
Delicious Donuts is like an American version of Penny Lane, where the fireman rushes in, and the policemen swap shaggy dogs across varnished tabletops, over coffee or smoothies and some of the best doughnuts in the city. Boun Saribout’s welcoming smile and perfect doughnuts brighten up a truly dingy street corner often home to a few guys trying to put together enough change for a tallboy at the Plaid Pantry. Tuesdays at Delicious, $1 will net you a “Bad Boy” doughnut that normally costs 50 cents more: a glazed fritter big as a preemie, or the shop’s masterpiece of a cinnamon swirl. Just take care: They’re all likely gone before 9 am. Portland police shift change is 5 am, and they’re early on the spot. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1717 NE Broadway St., 287-1251, helenbernhardbakery.com. Early morning-evening Monday-Saturday, morning-afternoon Sunday.
I like to the think of the danishes and turnovers and sticky buns at Helen Bernhard as pounder pastries. Bucking the trend of delicate macarons or faux-virtuous whole-grain scones, this Irvington bakery is staunchly old-school. The place opened in 1924—at the time, the Bernhard family lived in a house next door—and I doubt the menu has changed much in the last 90 years. The no-frills shop has wood-paneled walls, plastic folding chairs, an entire wall of bread and display cases with yeasty cinnamon rolls the size of your face (opt for glazed over frosted), obscenely overstuffed strudel and bear claws bigger than the paws of Canada’s biggest grizzly at about $2 apiece. REBECCA JACOBSON.
3402 SE Division St., 235-3119, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; Southwest 6th Avenue and Pine Street (inside Cafe Velo), 224-9236, breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday; laurettajean.com.
Lauretta Jean’s has a very specific vision of comfort. Spice Girls, Sister Hazel and ‘N Sync play through on the Monday morning stereo. But when Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” (R.I.P. Jani) comes on in this Division Street pie shop, the man behind the counter puts down his knife to click past it to Sixpence None The Richer. Equal attention is paid to the quiche, with perfect little hunks of ham and a buttery crust you’ll actually be glad to get to. And the buttered biscuit, a tower of light golden dough. And the Ceasar salad, which employs dark, bubbly blackish green kale that looks like lizard skin which stand up to the umami piled upon it. Oh, and the apple brandy blackberry pie—tastes so good, it’ll make a grown man cry. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Nuvrei Patisserie & Cafe
404 NW 10th Ave., 972-1700, nuvrei.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
While Nuvrei has an impressive cafe menu of sandwiches and other eats—the croque monsieur ($6.50 breakfast, $10.25 lunch) is on point—the real attraction is in the basement. Originally a subterranean bakery, Nuvrei’s downstairs space now also serves as a venue to showcase its famed French macarons ($2.50 each). The adjoining flower shop makes for a pleasant backdrop in which to sip on espresso and delight in the macarons or any one of the fresh pastry selections. Prices range from $2.50 to $5, but the ambiance and decadent aromas are free. GRACE STAINBACK.
NEW! Pip’s Original Donuts
4759 NE Fremont St., 206-8692, pipsoriginal.com. Morning-afternoon daily.
Places that call themselves original are rarely original—merely old. But oh-so-twee Pip’s actually has its own unique style of doughnut. They are, indeed, pips; rings so tight you could wear them on your pinky, with a light, caky rise and a satisfyingly crisp exterior. The menu’s equally a pip: Your only options are cinnamon, Nutella, and sea salt and honey, aside from inspired specials such as a Meyer lemon & Madagascar pear doughnut tartlette. In this little blue-skied shop with calico wood on its counter, those salt-honey doughnuts will make the salt and caramel at Blue Star seem uncouth, food for sticky-fingered barbarians. Eat a half-dozen all by yourself, and you’ll walk out lighter than when you came in. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Ruby Jewel Scoops
3713 N Mississippi Ave., 505-9314; 428 SW 12th Ave., 971-271-8895; rubyjewel.com. Afternoon-late night daily.
The muted colors adorning Ruby Jewel’s original scoop shop
embrace overcast skies as neatly as their Honey Lavender fits a lemon
cookie sandwich. While newer entrants in an ever-more-crowded local
dessert trade distinguish themselves through weaponized sugar and
showily bizarre amalgams of flavors, this enlightened grande dame of
creameries saves its constants of scoop ($3.50), waffle cone ($4.50), or
pint ($7) for an array more redolent of dairyland domesticity than
tourist trapping. Even the rotating flavors veer homespun. Keep a close
eye out for the measured bite of Gingerbread, say, or Brown Sugar Sour
Cream’s complicated pleasures. Each batch comes and goes, and yesterday
don’t matter when it’s gone. JAY HORTON.