Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, OR, United States

Traveling and experiencing the local restaurants in search of fantastic local food is a must for any traveler.  Especially when those restaurants are so unique that anything else like it would be plagiarized imitation.  Voodoo Doughnut epitomizes that place.  Voodoo Doughnut is characteristic Portland, Oregon.  Visited by Adam Richman and Anthony Bourdain from The Travel Channel, it’s a popular spot to say the least.  And the long lines at all times of the day (they are open 24 hours) is a testament to that.  There are three locations, but the newly remodeled original is located at 22 SW 3rd Avenue Portland, Oregon.  Right across from an unofficial Portland slogan, “Keep Portland Weird.”  So let’s look at their atmosphere, service and food shall we?

Open 24 hours

The original Voodoo Doughnut entrance.

"Keep Portland Weird" across from Voodoo Doughnut which Portland is living up to.

Voodoo Doughnut has one of the most original atmospheres.  They love pink, and not that sissy Mary Kay pink, full up Dennis Rodman loud in your face pink.  Their restaurants are pink inside.  The to-go boxes that you carry these sugar coated fat pills in is even pink.  Did I feel manly eating my doughnut’s from a pink box, no.  But let me tell you how much attention that pink box draws, holy crap.  It’s like a bug zapper to flies.  Walking through the Portland Saturday Market behind Voodoo Doughnut, I can’t tell you how many times I had to answer “Where did you get those doughnuts?”  Don’t even think about taking that pink love box through the airport, which I did to bring them home to my friends and family during one trip.  Of course there are the envious travelers making comments as I passed, but that was nothing to how the TSA treated me.  I swear the TSA was going to probe me just to confiscate them.  Knowing the 3oz liquid rule, they even threatened me with the whole “you don’t have jelly filled doughnuts in there do you?”  🙂  To their credit, the TSA were friendly and professional, but holy crap I wasn’t prepared for the reactions from people.  Back to the atmosphere.  The restaurants are all populated with their doughnuts, paraphernalia and various other goth and Halloween-ish decorations, such as the coffin that you can buy filled with doughnuts.  The staff is also major part of the atmosphere because they are all very friendly and colorful with most of them having unique tattoos, piercings and singing skills as you could here them singing in the back room making doughnuts.  Heck, I probably would be to if I was making these lovely morsels of goodness.  Oh and of course lots of pink.  The restaurants are truly full of a ton of eye entertainment as they are really fun restaurants to take in the sights as you wait in line for your joy buns.

Inside the original Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut To-Go Box - "Good Things Come In Pink Boxes"

While waiting in line outside, there's a glimpse of the magic that happens in the back.

Portland is notorious for homeless teenagers, which is really a shame because it is a cool city. This kid was sitting right next to Voodoo Doughnut where the long line of people were waiting outside.

So let’s discuss their service.  The wait is long, but worth it.  The place is cash only, which sucks when you want to buy a box of doughnuts and maybe a shirt or pair of panties.  Yup they sell them.  After all, their slogan is “The Magic is in the Hole”.  Quite fitting I thought.  🙂  The cashiers/servers are quick and I thought patient as it does take a little time to circumnavigate the menu.  I recommend trying to borrow the laminated menu so you are prepared for when you’re next in the queue.

Now the food.  Okay, a doughnut is still a doughnut.  It’s tough to rival Krispy Kreme’s “Hot Doughnuts Now” in the melt in your mouth doughnut texture and taste, but these are some tasty doughnuts.  However the creativity and convolution of textures and flavors of their doughnuts really sets the bar to the upper echelon of doughnut greatness.  Here are a few examples of their clever and outlandish varieties.  You have the Tex-Ass that has the diameter of a human head, the Voodoo Doll filled with raspberry jelly and a stake in the heart, the famous Maple Bacon Bar (which the sweet and salty truly is fabulous!), doughnuts covered in fruit loops, coco-puffs and captain krunch, Gay Bar with rainbow fruit loops on top, Cock-N-Balls (you get the picture on that one), the Maple Blazer Blunt that looks like a blunt, Marshal Matters covered in…M&M’s (surprised?), Dirty Snowballs, etc.  The list goes on and on with those creative nuggets.  The prices are around $1-2 for ‘normal’ sized and $4-5 for ‘special’ ones like the fritters and Tex-Ass, etc.  But make sure you bring cash!  Definitely check out their website though or just click on the pics below for more details.   http://voodoodoughnut.com

Voodoo Doughnut - "Voodoo Doll" doughnut raspberry filled and pretzel stabbed

Voodoo Doughnut - "Maple Bacon Bar" doughnut (awesome..)

Voodoo Doughnut - "Diablos Rex" doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut - "Butterfingering" doughnut covered in Butterfingers

Voodoo Doughnut - "Arnold Palmer" doughnut covered in powdered ice tea and lemonade

Voodoo Doughnut - "Memphis Mafia" fritter fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon sugar covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top.

Voodoo Doughnut - Old Dirty Bastard (O.D.B.) doughnut covered in chocolate frosting, crumbled Oreo’s and peanut butter drizzle.

Voodoo Doughnut - "Dirt Doughnut" covered in crumbled Oreo's and vanilla frosting.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = A    (local, full of character)
  • Service =  A    (patient, everything ready and fresh.  Cash only though)
  • Food = A    (fantastic, outlandish doughnuts)

Now just a minor segue since Voodoo Doughnut is so close to it, if you hit up the downtown store on Saturday, you definitely need to meander behind it and visit the famous Portland Saturday Market.  It’s a really fun outdoor activity, full of local food, local music, local arts and crafts and some strange people.  Oh and they sell beer.  So definitely check it out.

The entrance to Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market and some locals

Portland Saturday Market - Another guy helping to keep Portland weird. We saw this guy all around downtown Portland, but here he is on the river walk at the Portland Saturday Market. Yes, your eyes don't deceive you, that's a stereo bungee tied to his handlebars. Oh wait, are those fake flowers and pink scarves tied to his hat? Why yes it is! What I want to know is, who is he talking to?!?! Now what is not captured in this captivating picture of Portland's finest, was the 'I'm high as a kite and I want to dance like I'm participating in a drum circle' gyrations that was was doing prior to this important phone call. Seriously, no joke.

Portland Saturday Market - Rogue Beer Karma

Portland Saturday Market - A Rogue Toast

Acosta Taco – Lennox, CA, United States

As anyone knows who travels a lot for work, eating at the chain restaurants gets old after awhile.  Thus when I travel, I first check to see if Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations and Adam Richman, host of Man v. Food on the Travel Channel feasted on any local delicacies from the town that I’ll be visiting.  Plugging Los Angeles into the Travel Channel’s website from my Droid, (yes I still have an original Droid) I searched for the closest place to El Segundo, California that Adam or Tony consumed some local cuisine.  So what gem did I find?…  Acosta Tacos located at 4539 W Imperial Hwy, Lennox, CA 90304.

This little staple of the local community was exhibited in the No Reservations episode where Tony ate carne asada tacos with some of the local LA gang unit police officers.  I didn’t have the entourage that Tony had, but instead a colleague where we decided to get a late lunch before attending another local meeting.  As with all restaurants I focus on three things, appearance, service and quality of the food.  So let’s begin..

Cruising down Imperial Highway searching for this local establishment, we drove right past it.  Pulling a u-turn we pulled into the empty parking lot in the rear of the shack…I mean restaurant.  I would have sworn it was closed since no one was around, but the wide open windows and doors and the ‘Yes, we’re open’ sign convinced us otherwise.  So the place wasn’t full of eye candy, but that means either the food is really good or really poor.  Since it was on T.V., the odds are in favor of the former.  It did have character though being a small, older local place characteristic of that area.

Walking up to the window in the front we studied the diverse menu full of various beef (beef tongue anyone?), pork, chicken and fish options while we waited for someone to show up from the back.  The gentleman was friendly and politely said “Don’t have any” to the first two things I tried to order, the barboboas and fish tacos.  Call me crazy, but if it’s on the menu I expected it to be available?  Maybe he just didn’t want to make any since we were after the lunch crowd, but not the best start.  So my colleague just ordered 12 tacos (at $1.28 each), 4 carne asada, 4 carnitas and 4 al pastor for the two of us.  The kind gentleman got right on our feast of these little munchkins and 5 minutes later or so, we got our little foil wrapped delights.  It’s important to note, and I do mean important, that this place is CASH ONLY.  Thankfully between the two of us, we just had enough.

Partaking of these morsals ontop of our red Chevrolet Traverse hood was a great change of pace from the subpar airport food we have been eating as of late.  The tacos were small, ~5″, with the standard double layer corn tortillas containing the taco goodness.   The tortillas were really good though, soft and newly steamed for sure.  All of the meats were well marinated and full of flavor.  In addition, all of the tacos were topped off with a mild tasty fresh tomato, cilantro, onion salsa.  I felt that the carnitas were my favorite with the carne asada being a bit chewy from possibly being cooked too long.  My colleague was the complete opposite as he liked the carne asada the best.  Everyone is different, so I’ll let you decide.  You can’t go wrong with any though from our experience.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B    (local, old building, nice change of pace)
  • Service =  C    (food was prepared good, but cash only and not having menu items was a downer)
  • Food = A    (good tasty food with soft tortillas and flavorful meat)