The storefront banner went up last May and the buzz followed: Buck Naked Donuts was on its way to the Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Facebook lit up with the news. Local food bloggers pondered the pending opening. Restaurant watchers theorized that it was a gritty Tacoma version of Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts. I never did hear back from the owners to verify anything about the bakery.
We waited. And waited. The agent for the space recently put the space back up for lease, leaving us shouting a big, fat “D’oh!”The buzz around town got me thinking: If the mere announcement of a non-existent doughnut shop could generate that much hype, clearly diners are hankering for morning pastries. I went hunting. Featured here are three bakeries I found with fascinating stories – and five doughnut shops worth a visit.
Legendary DoughnutsWhere: 1410 Lake Tapps Parkway E., Auburn (now a location in Tacoma at 2602 Sixth Ave.)Contact: 253-736-0036, legendarydoughnuts.comHours: 4 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Wednesday, 4 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
This quirky find is tucked into a shopping mall near Lake Tapps. The bakery looks like a soccer mom’s translation of Portland’s gritty Voodoo Doughnuts, a shop that first landed on the national food map because of its bacon-topped maple bars and penchant for freakishly odd flavors.
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With its cute decor, approachable staff and doughnuts with a light sense of kitsch, Legendary Doughnuts landed on my culinary radar last spring when the bakery used a cookie icon – Girl Scout Thin Mints – as doughnut inspiration. The doughnut was a minty masterpiece topped with a cloud of cream and minty chocolate cookies. I returned for an Oprah, an Einstein, a Cosby and a Pigpen.
It was one of owner Shannon Patten’s sons who came up with the gimmick of naming doughnuts after famous people (or cookies). “We came up with the name (of the shop), then my son thought we should name them after legendary people, so we came up with doughnuts to match people. The Albert Einstein has coconut for his gray hair. ... A riff on Pigpen has the cookie crumbs and gummy worms because he was always surrounded by dirt and worms.” The Cosbypudding doughnut is a nod to his Jell-O pitch job. The Elvis is topped with peanut butter and banana chips. The Scarlet O’Hara red velvet cake comes with a chocolate cigarette on top.
Patten and her husband, Ken –longtime Lake Tapps area residents – opened the bakery in May 2010 with their two sons, ages 19 and 11. The oldest is a sometimes bakery employee, the youngest is the chief doughnut taster. Patten has worked in the food industry her entire career and is employed as a cheese company representative.
The idea for a bakery came during a moment of family bonding over doughnuts during a rained-out hiking trip. It wasn’t until they were well into planning the bakery that a friend pointed out the comical connection between Ken’s profession and doughnuts – he’s a police officer. You know what they say about cops and their affinity for doughnuts.
Must-try doughnuts: The Oprah (bacon maple bar), the Einstein and bananas Foster.
I call it the Doughnut Chalet, the triangular building that is home to House of Donuts in Lakewood. The building and neon “Donuts” sign is so iconic, buses full of tourists drop by to snap photos in front of the tiny building that has operated as a doughnut Mecca since 1959.
Owner Dan McCarthy, who operates the business with a lease agreement from Marilyn Cheatham (who started the business with her husband, Bob Chetham, and who still owns the land), said it’s been a tough run financially, but he’s not planning to close anytime soon.
It’s a business with a yeasty history, from the iconic building to how the bakery makes its cake doughnuts. Taking a bite of a House of Donut cake doughnut is consuming a nibble of Northwest history: In the back of the bakery is the original doughnut machine that made cake doughnuts at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. The “cake maker” is fully functional and used daily, McCarthy said. If a piece of the machine breaks, McCarthy must hire a machine shop to replicate the part because replacement pieces haven’t been made for the chain belt-driven machine for decades.
We’ve got a vendor down in Seattle who would love that machine in their museum. I’ve declined each time they’ve called me. It puts out a good-quality cake doughnut. I don’t want to disturb any of the history. I want to preserve what Bob and Marilyn started,” McCarthy said.
Must-try doughnuts: Blueberry glazed doughnuts come studded with fruit mixed into the glaze and crullers are some of the sweetest and eggiest in the region.
Pioneer BakeryWhere: 120 S. Meridian St., PuyallupUPDATE 2013: THIS BAKERY IS NOW CLOSED
When Patti Bostwick was about 6, she remembers two things about downtown Puyallup: J.C. Penney and Pioneer Bakery.“We’d go shopping across the street and it was a treat to go there after,” recalls Bostwick, who bought the bakery in 2005 and now operates it with her daughter, Alyssa Bostwick. From her husband, Jake, to their other four children, every member of the family contributes something to the bakery.
The history of the Pioneer Bakery stretches decades before Patti Bostwick shopped for dresses with her mother across the street. The bakery has been in operation since 1926, said Bostwick, who has lived in Sumner or Puyallup her entire life. The bakery, she said, had at least three previous owners. She bought it from the Wiese family.
If the bakery is known for anything, it’s the size of its doughnuts. The fritters measure more than 7 inches by 7 inches, and a few inches high. They come in flavors of blueberry or apple. The Bismarcks weigh three-quarters of a pound. It’s no wonder the bakery goes through 400 pounds of sugar and 500 pounds of flour every week. And speaking of flour and sugar, Bostwick said her ingredient prices have soared in the last year – increases of 80 percent for some items – yet she keeps her doughnut prices flat.
Must-try doughnut: Aside from the enormous fritters or oversized Bismarcks, make sure to sample the bakery’s newest addition, the red velvet cake doughnut. The moist, cakey doughnut is a replica of the bakery’s famous red velvet cake (they make party and wedding cakes, and breads, too) and comes topped with a tangy sweet frosting that tastes like the love child of cream cheese and buttercream frostings.
Le DonutWhere: 1317 S. 11th St., Tacoma, 253-627-5877The shop: The building’s exterior is such a garish shade of yellow, there’s no missing this Hilltop establishment. The slightly grungy doughnut hut doubles as a convenience store and deli. It’s probably the only bakery in town that offers an egg roll to go along with a doughnut purchase.Must-try doughnut: Bacon maple bar. If you like big, chewy pieces of bacon, this is the place for a bacon maple bar (but it’s spendy at $3). The crullers are eggy and come with a shiny sugar glaze.
Dockside DonutsWhere: 1112 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253-572-9638The shop: Tacoma’s newest doughnut bakery, Dockside opened just a few months ago in a renovated Dairy Queen near the Tacoma Dome neighborhood. The dining room is spacious, clean and bright. The bakery serves espresso and has a drive-thru for convenience. Is the police endorsement decal on the door a joke or for real? I laughed.Must-try doughnuts: Coconut bar doughnut filled with cream. Also, the bacon maple bar is thoughtfully composed with chopped bacon, which is easier to chew than those with strips. The doughnuts here are shinier and prettier and displayed more attractively than at most other Tacoma bakeries. They’re still the new kid on the block with something to prove.
Pao’s DonutsWhere: 6919 Sixth Ave. S. Tacoma, 253-565-4692The shop: This bare-bones hangout in the Narrows neighborhood is my favorite stop when I’m heading to Titlow Beach – and it is perpetually filled with locals. The espresso here is strong and the bakery has a drive-thru for speedy service. Note: The bakery is cash only.Must-try doughnut: Make it the apple fritter. It’s yeasty, soft and comes punctuated with a hefty scent of cinnamon, and the doughnut is pretty with a shiny glaze.
Frank’s Donuts & MuffinsWhere: 14117 Pacific Ave. S., Parkland, 253-535-4699The shop: For years, this basic doughnut hut with a few tables has been contributing to the Freshman 15 for Pacific Lutheran University students. This bargain-focused bakery has a daily dozen deal for $3.Must-try doughnuts: The cake doughnut is a classic, dense and moist with a crunchy exterior. Fans of raspberry-filled doughnuts will appreciate the generous jammy ratio of raspberry to pastry.
Orting BakeryWhere: 212 Washington Ave. S., Orting, 360-893-2288The shop: This bakery appears more like a coffee house and soccer mom hangout than your average walk-in doughnut hut. It’s a pretty, earth-toned space with polished concrete floors – and it smells wonderfully of espresso. The pastry case also holds a selection of Parisian pastries and cookies, in addition to a basic assortment of doughnuts.Must-try doughnut: Make it the apple fritter coated with caramel frosting.
DOUGHNUT TRIALS So many doughnut lovers judge a bakery based on whatever it is that's their favorite morning pastry. So I taste-tested popular styles of doughnuts. And lived another day to write about it (it's a tough gig I've got here, right?). Here's the verdict for each:
Maple barBiggest: If you judge a maple bar by its size, then Pao’s wins with an oversized soft bar (7-1⁄2 inches by 2-3⁄4 inches, if you’re keeping notes).Best tasting: Frank’s Donuts has the yeastiest, softest and most moist maple bar.
Apple fritterBiggest: The Pioneer Bakery makes fritters in blueberry and apple, both measuring in at about 7 inches by 7 inches and nearly two inches high. On one visit, a fritter was overcooked. I appreciated the thicker sliced fruit.Best tasting: Pao’s fritter was moist and yeasty, with a pretty glaze. Apples were uniformly distributed. Cinnamon was pronounced.
Raspberry filledBest filling ratio/best tasting: Dockside Donuts offered the highest ratio of raspberry filling to doughnut. The jam filling was tart and had a slight crunch from raspberry seeds.Skip: House of Donuts only had a teaspoon of filling, at best.No seeds: Pao’s raspberry filling was seedless, unlike every other one sampled. The filling had an odd soapy aftertaste.
Raised and glazedBiggest: House of Donuts wins with a nearly 5-inch raised doughnut.Tastiest: Le Donut had a yeasty, soft doughnut with a slightly salty undertone and a shiny, sweet glaze.
CrullersEggiest: Dockside Donut made an eggy cruller with an airy lift. The glaze tasted as if it had been flavored with vanilla.Moistest: House of Donut won for its soft, luscious texture.Note: Pioneer Bakery and Orting Bakery did not offer crullers on the day visited.
Our pledge to readers. Sue Kidd dines anonymously and all meals are paid for by The News Tribune. Reach her at: 253-597-8270, firstname.lastname@example.org.