Homer Simpson’s got it right when it comes to doughnuts. The circular confections can make us practically drool with anticipation when done right. There’s just something about a really well-made doughnut.
They’re also extremely versatile and can be topped with both sweet (sprinkles) and savory (bacon) ingredients. Doughnuts are simply awesome. That’s why they even have their own holiday — the first Friday in June is National Doughnut Day. In fact, many doughnut shops hand out one free doughnut per customer to commemorate the holiday.
Fortunately for us, Tacoma is home to several mom-and-pop doughnut shops as well as a few shops known for getting creative and serving up trendy tidbits. We took on the ‘arduous’ task of visiting Tacoma’s doughnut shops and sampling their wares so that we could put together a list of the best doughnuts T-Town has to offer. Your favorite may already be on this list or you may discover a new spot to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Original House of Doughnuts
The original location for this “vintage” doughnut shop opened in the summer of 1959. Today, along with an older location in Lakewood, OHOD boasts a newer, second spot in the heart of Downtown Tacoma, right on the corner of St. Helens Avenue. Original House of Doughnuts lovers get a kick out of the gleaming chrome, bright lights, and retro look to the place. Manager Jana Drew says the most popular items at this location are the maple bar and the cinnamon twist. We personally go gaga over the red velvet cake doughnut. If you plan on testing our taste buds, get there early — the red velvet tends to sell out by afternoon.
Many a Tacoma resident will tell you that Pao’s on 6th Avenue serves the most delectable doughnuts in town. We’ve lamented the fact that they close somewhat early many a time. Monday through Saturday, you’ve got to get there by 4:00 p.m. and Sundays they close at 2:00 p.m., so make sure to keep that in mind. You’ll usually find several cars lined up at the drive-through — a testament to the yummy goodness waiting for you inside. Local artist DL Reynolds says he visits Pao’s often because “The doughnuts are fantastic. I think they’re the best in town. And I love what they do with the doughnuts they don’t sell.” Owner Pao Morokat donates the day’s leftover doughnuts to a church down the street. The unassuming bakery is run by Pao, and his wife Lo can usually be found behind the counter of this unassuming, yet spectacular bakery.
Dockside Donuts is on the east side of town, in fact, it’s just a few blocks away from the bridge to Fife. There are a couple of things that we really love about Dockside. One, the croissants. They are amazing — light, buttery, and oh so good. Our favorite is the ham and cheese; it makes a perfect one-handed snack. Another reason that Dockside made our list is the fact that they are usually open ’round the clock. Kayliegh Yam, the 15-year-old daughter of owner Sik Chena Oeng, says that whether they choose to stay open 24 hours on a given day, “Depends on business. The doughnuts we have left. How my parents feel.” It’s more likely than not that they will be open if you have a late night hankering, but keep this in mind.
This Hilltop doughnut shop has several things going for it. First off, Le Donut serves bubble tea. Second, it also serves huge croissants, and we mean enormous, the size of which we had never before seen. Third, the maple-bacon bar comes with a full strip of bacon instead of crumbles. And lastly, you can pick up grocery staples such as bananas or a gallon of milk while you’re there. Word to the wise — cake doughnuts at Le Donut are fluffy, not dense.
Helen’s Donuts & Ice Cream
This nondescript spot had to make the list because, well, ice cream. Doughnuts and ice cream go so well together that Helen’s owner Steve Pothan decided that his business would open at 5:00 a.m. and stay open until 10:00 p.m. every single day.
You’ll find the staff, mostly Steve’s family, busy behind the counter and all wearing Seahawks gear — both in and out of season — serving up customer favorite, the maple bacon bar. Helen’s also has a thriving social media presence due to the owner’s pride in his product — he constantly posts photos of fresh doughnuts and behind-the-scenes videos, so if you’re curious about how doughnuts get made (or you just like looking at photos of doughnuts), check out Helen’s Facebook page.
Locals go nuts over Connie’s apple fritters, crullers and coffee, but there is a broad selection of doughnuts to choose from, including anything from strawberry-glazed to lemon custard-filled. Customer service is always on point as well; you’ll always be greeted promptly and with a smile. Locals also highly recommend Connie’s buttermilk doughnuts. “They are to die for,” says Kandi Schumer. “Thank God I live only a block away.”
This hip doughnut shop is located right on bustling 6th Avenue and attracts those who like creativity as an ingredient. Legendary offers your standard doughnuts, but also lists original fare such as the giant, multi-layered doughnut cake that looks like a cheeseburger; the polar panini — a panini stuffed with ice cream and your choice of raspberry, blackberry, apple pie, or peanut butter and jelly filling; and probably the most famous of Legendary’s concoctions, the doughsant, a cross between a doughnut and a croissant.
Employee Nicole Seth has been working at Legendary for four years and says that along with creative items such as the polar panini, Legendary’s maple and bacon doughnut, the “Oprah,” is the most popular item.
Bonus: Top Pot Doughnuts
Seattle’s hip and trendy doughnut shop is coming to T-Town. There have been a few delays, but we were told that a location will be opening up this summer in Proctor, with another opening up in University Place, next to the Whole Foods. Foodies, take note: Top Pot has been featured on the Travel Channel show Donut Paradise and has made several “best of” lists.