Donut Friend has cut its own path in the gourmet donut world alongside Portland transplants like Blue Star Donuts and Voodoo Doughnut.
Founded in Highland Park in 2013 by drummer turned record producer Mark Trombino, part of the fun is recognizing rock bands immortalized in donut form. Examples include Chocolate from the Crypt (San Diego rock band Rocket from the Crypt), The Starting Lime (Philly pop-punkers The Starting Line) and Bacon 182 (pop-punk stalwarts Blink 182). My personal favorite is GG Almond, probably because it turned scatological punk legend GG Allin into a downright delicious-looking vegan cream cheese and vanilla-glazed donut with toasted almonds on top.
More improbable combos: Green Teagan and Sara offers a matcha tea glaze with black sesame seeds and freeze-dried raspberry dust. Jets to Basil combines vegan cream cheese, strawberry jam and fresh basil with a balsamic reduction on top.
Full disclosure: I visited Donut Friend once before, about a year ago. I tried two of their signature donuts – the Bacon 182 and Srirachosin. Both were solid. Bacon 182 had a maple glaze and “bacon” seasoned coconut. Srirachosin successfully mixed dabs of Sriracha on top of a donut sandwich of peanut butter, strawberry jam and that coconut bacon.
This time I opted to experiment with two of the “limited edition” donuts – made in smaller batches with limited availability.
The MC5 Spice is cleverly named for the protopunk band Motor City Five (MC5) and five-spice blend commonly used as a spice rub in Chinese cuisine. Here we have a regular cake donut glazed in vanilla, drizzled with white chocolate, topped with macadamia nuts and given a light dusting of the stuff. Maybe a little too light for me.
While the blend isn’t supposed to be “spicy” in the heat department, five-spice usually consists of pungent flavors like star anise, Sichuan pepper, fennel seed, Chinese cinnamon and cloves. Star anise and fennel taste like licorice while Sichuan tastes like oh god, my tongue is numb and I can’t taste anything anymore. Here I could only taste subtle notes of cinnamon and cloves.
While it’s possible that these two flavors can overwhelm the others, what we’re left with is a nice base of vanilla, white chocolate and macadamia but nothing that rises above. An interesting idea and a pleasant donut, if a little bland.
The next offering made up for that in a big way.
Named for quintessential English singer/possible outdoorsman Morrissey, the S’Morrissey is literally a donut S’mores sandwich.
It’s a chocolate cake donut glazed and drizzled in dark chocolate, stuffed with toasted marshmallows and topped with a single marshmallow and graham cracker dust. The cake donut was soft on the inside and wonderfully crispy on the outside. It had just the right amount of marshmallow. The toasting balanced out the cloying sweetness and its crisp edges kept it from getting too chewy.
It’s smoky, even woodsy, reminiscent of a campfire. It somehow accomplishes this without tasting burnt. If you’re eating multiple donuts, make this one the finale. The smokiness and rich dark chocolate make for a palate wrecker.
Like its outspoken namesake, this donut and all the others displayed are vegan. It is not gluten-free for the most part.
If you’re not satisfied with what’s on display, you can create your own combinations with their custom “DIY Donuts.” You pick the type of donut, fillings like fresh fruit and all kinds of jams and creams as well as toppings like candies, nuts and even spices like cayenne pepper. As summer approaches, you’ll be happy to know that you can order ice cream donut sandwiches too.
Like its Pacific Northwest brethren, Donut Friend offers premium donuts with higher prices and longer waiting times than your local mom and pop shop. The wait and hit to your wallet is worth it.
Donut Friend: http://donutfriend.com
For a complete map of all locations featured in this blog, please follow this link: The Grand Appétit Map