Eating in Portland: Where a Doughnut Is More than Just a Doughnut

by Nancy Bestor

We took a weekend trip to Portland last month to see Billy Elliott, a belated Christmas present to our teenage daughters, and found time to visit a couple of hugely popular Portland eateries. We began with an early morning stop at Voodoo Doughnut. Even though the line ran out the door, the fairly ratty Pepto Bismol-pink building, and the old couches strewn about outside that can best be described as the kind you see on residential streets with signs marked “free” on them, made me a bit leery. Opened in 2003, Voodoo Doughnut now boasts two Portland locations as well as a shop in Eugene, and has a huge, dedicated following as evidenced by the large group of Japanese tourists who eagerly hopped off their tour bus and got in line right behind us. FOR DOUGHNUTS! The interior decoration of the shop is pretty much a shrine to country music crooner Kenny Rogers, who we hear is the spiritual leader of Voodoo Doughnut.

Bob had the “Old Dirty Bastard”, a raised doughnut covered with chocolate frosting, crushed Oreo cookies, and drizzled with peanut butter. I had the “Triple chocolate penetration”, a chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate frosting and coco-puffs on top. The signature doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut is, you guessed it, the Voodoo Doll doughnut. It’s voodoo doll shaped, filled with raspberry jelly and comes with a pretzel stick stake. Recently two popular offerings were removed from the Voodoo menu. Thanks to the health department, you can no longer get a Nyquil Glazed Doughnut, or Vanilla Pepto Crushed Tums Doughnut at 4am, after you’ve been drinking all evening. Too bad. Voodoo is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and while they are certainly not the best doughnuts I’ve ever tasted, it is worth a visit for their unique offerings and kooky experience. Oh, and one more thing, Voodoo offers legal wedding services, complete with doughnuts and coffee.

Another great stop on our Portland eating extravaganza was the ever delicious and ever popular Pok-Pok. Opened in 2006, Pok-Pok describes their cuisine as Thai street food. I describe it as delicious. On two separate visits to Portland we have dined at Pok-Pok and thoroughly enjoyed every dish we have been served. Is my favorite dish the spicy Vietnamese fish sauce chicken wings? Or perhaps it’s Yam Makheua Yao, a charcoal grilled eggplant salad. But then there’s the Neua Nam Tok, a spicy steak salad. It’s impossible to choose as they are all quite scrumptious. Pok-Pok won the Oregonian’s restaurant of the year in 2007. We suggest arriving early for lunch or late in the afternoon for an early dinner to avoid the sometimes very long wait for a table. The food is delicious.