Coffee and Doughnuts on the West Coast

August 14th, 2012

With the dry heat on the West Coast, it’s the perfect time to head south of the border on a road trip and we’ve tested and tasted some spots offering sustenance and caffeine to refuel en route. Coffee and doughnuts are a natural pairing and here are some places that thoughtfully prepare both and won’t disappoint when you need your fix:

Top Pot Doughnuts

Top Pot Doughnuts: 2124 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121 (downtown Seattle location)

Doughnuts are having a moment of incredible popularity, but Top Pot has been making their “hand-forged” treats for a decade already and has expanded to open several cafés to supplement their large downtown Seattle location. We’ve been discouraged by sometimes overwhelming queues, but in the end their more than 40 varieties, including all the classics like Old Fashioned, Sprinkles and Apple Fritter, are worth waiting for – even President Obama made a stop when he visited Seattle in 2010. Their two-story 5th Avenue spot has an impressive floor to ceiling bookcase and lots of seating to encourage enjoyable lingering.

Mighty-O Donuts

Mighty-O Donuts: 2110 North 55th Street, Seattle, WA 98103

Mighty-O fashions doughnuts that are about as healthy as dough fried in fat can be: they are certified organic, preservative-free, devoid of trans-fats and cholesterol, and vegan. Naturally, we were highly suspicious since they sound too healthy to taste any good, but were very pleasantly surprised by the moist but light texture of their creations. With new-fangled flavours like French Toast, Lemon Poppy Seed, and Pumpkin Spice that immediately sounds like old favourites, there were so many tempting options – but their orange blossom cake doughnut, with the brightness of the citrus zest, was particularly noteworthy. Their location is outside of central Seattle, in Wallingford, is small but armed with very friendly staff.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Stumptown Coffee Roasters: 128 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204 (original location)

Stumptown began in Portland in 1999 with a flagship location where it still roasts its beans but has since expanded to several locations including those in Seattle and even joined forces with the meccas of hipster cool, with outposts in the Ace Hotel in Portland and New York. Renowned for its determined pursuit of the best quality beans, Stumptown is widely credited with having revolutionized the industry and inspired the hipster coffee shops that seem to be popping up all over. The recipe is simple – it pairs the quintessential urban hangout with incredibly flavourful grinds, prepared with the utmost care to coax out their fullest flavour. We are huge fans of their Hairbender blend and buy beans by the bag for home brewing.

Heart Roasters

Heart Roasters: 2211 E. Burnside, Portland, OR 97214

Heart is serious about its green beans which they roast themselves to “the lightest degree possible” while still maximizing flavour. Although we may sound like we’re describing wine, their coffee has been noticed for its notes of berry and The New York Times described their brew as “advanced coffee, with a juice-like flavor”. Their space outside of the downtown Portland core is outfitted with sparse seating and an old-fashioned coffee roasting machine that makes for very cool but functional décor. Their pretzels, created locally by a specialty maker and accompanied with spicy mustard, and their hearty slices of grain-filled European-style bread, served with butter and jam, are hearty and delicious options to supplement your hit of caffeine.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee: Ferry Building Marketplace, Shop #7, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, 94111

When we hit the Ferry Building on a recent trip to San Francisco, we were astonished by the sizeable queue of patient coffee-drinkers who were waiting fifteen minutes each to place their order, and then willing to mill around again to receive their drink. Using a timed pour over method, Blue Bottle prepares each cup of coffee to order, dousing the grinds in a slow, steady stream of water just slightly cooled from boiling, with exceptionally flavourful results. The care they take comes from the ground up – Blue Bottle’s owner states: “I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my customers, so they may enjoy coffee at its peak of flavor. I will only use the finest organic, and pesticide-free, shade-grown beans.” This commitment has grown Blue Bottle to include a variety of cafés including a location on the top floor of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – grab a cup of their tasty brew and enjoy it on SFMoMA’s rooftop terrace.

Four Barrel Coffee

Four Barrel Coffee: 375 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Four Barrel has a deep commitment to chasing down the best beans possible for its customers, while maintaining the highest respect for the people who grow them, sourcing based on the strength of their relationships. They take the same care in their artisanal roasting process, treating each batch of beans individually, and the results are palpable: the cup of coffee we savoured was incredibly complex but clean, without any hint of the bitter aftertaste that plagues so many lesser brands. Four Barrel’s spacious café includes communal tables for those with friends or just a book to linger but it’s purposefully devoid of wi-fi and plugs for laptops, encouraging a convivial atmosphere in which people might actually converse rather than glare into their glowing screens.

Dynamo Donuts

Dynamo Donuts: 2760 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Deep in the heart of the eclectic Mission district, amongst tiny taquerias and non-descript bars, is Dynamo Donuts where you can hit a storefront window for a cup of Four Barrel Coffee and one of their expertly crafted doughnuts. In keeping with the culinary atmosphere of much of San Francisco, Dynamo uses organic, sustainable, and local ingredients whenever possible to fashion a rotating selection of 7-10 options daily including innovative flavours like Chocolate Rose, Molasses Guiness Pear, and Lemon Thyme. Their Maple Glazed Apple Bacon was as guiltily satisfying as it sounds.

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