Posted by: Korry | September 29, 2011

Keeping Portland Weird

The descent into Portland, Oregon’s airport is truly breathtaking. The east-to-west flight path generally follows the Columbia River and its famous gorge that weaves through the spectacular Cascade Mountains of Oregon. The main highlight is passing just barely to the north of Mount Hood, an incredible 11,240 feet tall volcano. As someone who loves to hike and explore (albeit with a cabin and hot shower waiting for me at day’s end), the views afforded me from the air of the lush greens and rugged hilltops are unbelievably enticing. For my money, no region of our great country is more scenic than the Pacific Northwest (roughly San Francisco north to the Canadian border).

So when the opportunity came to overnight in downtown Portland, I was extremely excited to see what the city was all about. I figured that since I love wandering around the hills of downtown San Francisco and exploring the waterfront regions of Seattle then there’d be no way Portland could disappoint.

But nothing could have prepared me for what I found that day in Portland!

As with most of my overnights, I don’t have enough time to see everything in a particular city that I’d like to see. Instead, I get to explore a city bit by bit. I try to find new places, especially ones frequented by the locals, to learn about a city’s culture and to imagine what life is really like for its people. (This is a big reason that I need your help in getting your suggestions on places to check out during my upcoming flights). When I asked one of the flight attendants where I should go to experience Portland, she gave me just one suggestion: Voodoo Doughnut.

After arriving at the hotel and quickly changing out of my uniform, I headed out onto the town. I passed by coffee shops, trendy storefronts and kept walking, wandering aimlessly in the general direction of the mystical doughnuts. The concierge had told me that I couldn’t miss it and he was right. There was Voodoo Doughnut, pink sign and all, and much to my surprise, at 2pm on a Sunday there was a line stretching far outside the door!

Seriously?? A line?? For doughnuts??

Believe it or not, I waited 45 minutes in that line…for doughnuts. Which gave me lots of time to admire my surroundings…like the “Keep Portland Weird” sign…

They Succeeded!

 …and the countless people who, I’m guessing, do a pretty amazing job at helping to do just that!

The people helping to keep Portland weird

I wonder if Jen, my wife, would ever like to do her hair like the redhead on the left? (Jen…if you’re reading…don’t even think about it!) I can only imagine what the line may have looked like at 2am instead of 2pm! To be fair to Portland, I later ran into two ladies who looked quite a bit more “normal” while waiting in line for a street vendor. When I asked them why they weren’t decked out in such creative attire as I’d seen earlier, one of the ladies responded “Keep Portland classy…not weird.”

But this isn’t a story about the people of Portland…it’s about doughnuts…where apparently, the magic is in the hole. (Oh lord…what did I get myself into??)

The magic is in the hole!

After 45 minutes, I finally found myself looking into the tiny doughnut shop. Like the sign, it was painted in pinks with yellow chandeliers, various voodoo dolls and other…ummm…interesting decorations. This place didn’t become famous for its decor; it became famous for unique, bordering-on-ridiculous doughnuts! Like the ones topped with Fruit Loops, Captain Crunch and loads of other sugary goodness.

Doughnut Display

So when it finally came to be my time to order, I chose their most popular doughnut that comes topped with gobs of chocolate, peanut butter sauce and Oreos, or what is known simply as the “Fat Bastard.” (Hopefully the name refers to the doughnut, not the people who buy it.)

The Fat Bastard

And after standing in line for 45 minutes to get a freaking doughnut, there was no way I was getting just one! So I upped the ante and decided to also try their famous “Bacon Maple” doughnut…which has a maple frosting and–you guessed it–is topped with bacon!

The Bacon Maple

So how were the doughnuts? I’d say better than you might expect! The best part wasn’t the toppings but the warm, gooey dough. It was truly delicious! The toppings, however, were so rich and sugary that I also got to enjoy a nice tummy ache for the rest of the day (not to mention the tens of thousands of calories I probably ingested, too).

The truth is, the whole place is a gimmic…which as an MBA I think is brilliant. I mean, I’ve never seen people wait 45 minutes to get a Boston cream doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts (although I’d be tempted some days). But apparently that line is like that all the time, especially at night (they’re open 24 hours). And, the doughnuts were good enough to get Man vs. Food to come visit so that says something.

Bottom line, if you’re in Portland and have some free time, you have to check it out. It’s an experience that you can talk about for years to come. But if you’re just looking for a good doughnut, well, there are probably easier finds.

Have you been to Voodoo Doughnut? What did you think?
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Responses

  1. The Captain my Captain was my fave! You must have been there after the remodel..because I was there in April and the line ran the opposite direction…and the big neon sign wasn’t there. Love Portland! Hope to go back again!

    • It’s also possible that you went to a different one than I did. I think I remember the hotel guy saying there were two of them downtown. Who knows. I’m sure it’s the same craziness either way! As for Portland, I just look forward to being able to get out into the countryside the next time. It just looks spectacular.

      • And seriously, hit up Powell’s Used Books….holy book mecca! They have a rare room that has a signed copy of “Carrie” by Stephen King….it’s awesome to see even if you aren’t a fan.

        Nice blog btw! I’m digging it!

  2. I’m only 4 hours from Portland (driving distance) and haven’t made a stop in that city yet….maybe the doughnut craving will take me there soon 🙂

    I see you have been to Seattle before, did you do the approach from the south? If yes,how would you compare flying close to Mt. Hood vs. flying next to Mt. Rainer during the approach to Seatac? That’s usually my favorite part coming back to Seattle………by the way, next time you’re coming around here let me know and hopefully we can try to catch up.

    • Well, I can’t really say I’ve done the approach from the south…but I have taken off to the south. One morning in particular comes to mind. It was a low overcast sky and when we popped above the layer, there was Mt. Rainier in all its glory with the morning sun streaming down onto it. I’d definitely have to say that is more spectacular than Mt. Hood…but seeing Mt. Hood at night, lit only by the moon, well that’s pretty amazing, too!

  3. […] to put a few stickers on the side to show a little personality! (The captain who went with me to Voodoo Doughnuts bought a sticker and put it on his bag!) Pilots complain about the need to meticulously revise the […]

  4. […] overlooking the deep blue Pacific ocean. I ate breakfast at Mimi’s in San Francisco and tried Voodoo Donuts in Portland, Oregon. I rolled dice in Las Vegas, caught up with a great friend in Orange County, […]


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