Seattle’s food scene has long been known for its seafood. Salmon, in particular, is so woven into the city’s culinary identity tourists routinely converge on the corner of Pike and Pike to duck the flying king of fish. And while local chefs have embraced the farm-to-table movement with such gusto the city celebrated 23 James Beard Nominations in 2019 — a few chefs have turned their eye toward an often-overlooked fried delight.
Doughnuts (also spelled donuts, depending on your preference).
These amazing men and women knead, rise, bake, and fry with such attention to detail their shops sometimes close early due to lack of inventory. The fact that Seattle has embraced so many of these delightful little morning destinations isn’t something that should come as a major surprise. The Emerald City has a long history of loving sugar-loaded morning fare. It was the Belgian waffle that first earned Seattle a culinary reputation. Introduced during the 1962 World’s Fair the strawberry-topped, airy waffle quickly became the event’s major attraction.
But when stacked against bowls of steaming ramen and duck-fat fried oxtails, the doughnut is often overshadowed. Plus, it’s a unique soul who willingly braves the dawn — even if doughnuts are on the menu.
As luck would have it, many a Seattle-resident is unique enough to answer the early-morning-bell. Though lines at top doughnut shops are sometimes long, the AM crowds have proven to be relatively jovial. Laughter often ripples from friend to stranger like a seamless wave. And doughnut hawkers are filled with equally good spirits, making these neighborhood hubs the kind of pick-me-up watering hole that brings you back time and time again.
Making Waves with Hand-Forged Doughnuts
Arriving before the crowd, Top Pot Doughnuts opened in 2002. It made waves with its hand-forged cake-like delights. Since then the regional empire has grown to more than 20 locations, including three outposts in Texas and a regular spot in the bakery of local grocery store chain QFC.
One year later, Mighty-O Donuts joined Top Pot. Having expanded from its street fair and wholesale origins, the vegan chain opened its first brick-and-mortar location in 2003. Another cake-doughnut delight, the glazed and sprinkled chemical-free menu is so tasty even those without dietary restrictions frequent its doughnut counters.
Bringing Brioche-Style Goodness to the Seattle Doughnut Scene
But it would be more than 20 years until Seattle’s doughnut crusade was truly shaken up again. Spearheaded by Seattle restauranteur Renee Erickson, the arrival of General Porpoise in 2015 was met with well-deserved praise. The yeasted doughnuts come stuffed with all manner of jams, jellies, custards, and curds. Though her mainstays like Chocolate Marshmallow and Lemon Curd are tried-and-true favorites, seasonal specialties like Peaches and Cream and Plum Jam are equally as delightful.
Creative Twists on Doughnut Classics
Joining the sweet brigade in 2018, pastry chef Mi Kim opened Raised Doughnuts with a flair for elevated flavors. Her varieties range from classics like maple bars and apple fritters to “raised” varieties like raspberry holes and sugar-covered mochi.
Newest, though definitely not least, to the city’s ‘coveted doughnut destinations’ is Half and Half Doughnut Co., which opened in the former Sun Liquor Distillery on Capitol Hill. Offerings include pineapple fritters and Mexican hot chocolate old fashioneds.
And then there’s the underground donut train. Comprised of shops tucked in strip malls and scattered throughout Seattle’s suburbs, these joints have developed such cult-like followings that city dwellers regularly drive 20-plus minutes for the fried goods. Chuck’s Donuts is the leader of the pack. Its handcrafted maple bars feature a whipped frosting so creamy an excited patron once drove through the front door just to get one. Crown Donut in Maple Valley has a French Curler with a rippled exterior that gives way to a delightfully soft bite. And in Monroe, Fresh & Fancy Doughnuts makes a mean blueberry fritter.
So while the humble doughnut is unlikely to earn Seattle its 24th James Beard Nomination in 2020, it’s certainly giving us all more than one sweet reason to wake up early.
More Fun Things to do in Seattle
Lunch. That magical mid-day reprieve when you can mentally check out for a moment and re-fortify your body — especially when enjoyed in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood where chefs have taken their lunch game to the next level.
The Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop features 6+ miles of stunning views, eclectic neighborhoods, and fabulous dog-friendly stops to grab a bite.
Immerse yourself in the wonder of flight. Explore how mankind took to the sky and the stars at one of Seattle's top attractions — the Museum of Flight.