As soon as I booked a trip to Portland, Oregon, there was one place on the top of my must-visit list: Voodoo Doughnut. The place is iconic. They’ve crafted a cult following unlike any restaurant I’ve seen before, and the hundreds of people that wait outside daily are a testament to just how popular Voodoo is.
And their popularity is proven in their ability to polarize Portlanders. For every tourist that goes crazy over Voodoo, there’s a Portland resident that rolls their eyes and says, “Seriously, just go to Blue Star.” Do yourself a favor, go to both if you must – but don’t skip Voodoo. Especially if you like to have a little fun when you eat. In a restaurant world of minimalist decor, industrial wood accents, and sans-serif fonts, Voodoo is a breath of fresh, doughnut-scented air.
As a marketer, I fell in love with everything about the Voodoo brand, beyond the fried dough. They blare rock and roll. The stained glass windows in the downtown shop emulate a sort of doughnut church with phallic doughnuts as idols. Coffins, records, and chandeliers blend together with bubblegum pink accents for an ambiance that you won’t find anywhere else.
I was lucky to find a connection to one of the founders of Voodoo, so Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson gave me a behind the scenes tour of their doughnut making process. It’s incredible how many doughnuts they crank out of their tiny kitchen. Upwards of 10,000 A DAY. They cut, fry, and serve 24 hours a day, so you’ll always be getting something fresh.
As punk rock blared over the speakers, the faces behind Voodoo maneuvered around each other and throughout the kitchen like a well-oiled machine. Tattooed arms deftly hand-cut each yeast doughnut, setting them up for a shift in the raising area before a plunge in the deep fryer.
Then the real magic begins: the toppings. Their namesake doughnut is a voodoo doll with a pretzel rod pin stuck through the heart, full of raspberry blood, and you never know what will be iced on the doll each day.
And underneath their rough and tumble exterior, Voodoo has heart. Right next to a giant, cream filled “cock n’ balls” (their words not mine) is a charity doughnut of the month, where a portion of the proceeds are doughnated to a designated charity.
For tourists visiting the city, there’s something about Voodoo that so emulates Portland. Coming from Oklahoma, there was a dozen things I saw that made me think, “That wouldn’t fly in God’s country.” (Like the phallic doughnut I mentioned earlier.) And I think that’s the big draw to Voodoo. It’s edgy, it’s laid back, and it’s so damn fun. It’s everything people love about Portland.
So stop by their original downtown location and pick up a big pink box full of them when you visit Portland. Get a voodoo doll, an Old Dirty Bastard, and whatever they have on special. Then Instagram your box and chow down.
P.S. If you’re following me on social media, you may have seen my big announcement: I’m moving to Portland on November 1st! I fell in love with the city, the food, and the incredible kindness of everyone I met. Oklahoma friends: I’ll still be posting a few catch up posts on OKC. Portland people: Let’s meet up! I’m looking to break into the PDX food scene quickly. I can’t wait to explore more of this wonderful city!