Above: Clockwise, A latte made with Top Pot’s house-roasted espresso (clockwise, from top left), a raised raspberry ring and its signature maple old-fashioned.
Above: Clockwise, A latte made with Top Pot’s house-roasted espresso (clockwise, from top left), a raised raspberry ring and its signature maple old-fashioned.
In a region known for its rather sunless climate, coffee love and a host of folks whose jobs are electronically mobile, it’s not surprising to find an ubiquitous love for the warm, portable, frittered and circular. Indeed, doughnuts are a mainstay of Seattle’s pastry scene, a steady current among the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fervor of cupcakes, cake pops and the like. And they continue to truck along as down-home cop breakfast, grocery-store snack standby and naturally, kid favorite.

Granted, we’ve come a long way. Gone (nearly) is the heyday of Winchell’s, Doughnut House and Dunkin’ Donuts (at least in the Puget Sound area). They are now the stuff of outlying ‘burbs, ghetto stretches of Highway 99 and, oddly, western Europe. Pacific Northwesterners don’t just want fried rings of yeasted dough; they want hand-forged and organic, even vegan. Ridiculous? Maybe. It’s kind of like the sugary equivalent of a highbrow corn dog. Yet, in the Emerald City, it works.

Little-sister-city Portland has Voodoo Doughnut, of a certain maple-bacon fame, and it is nearly unrivaled in its domain. Seattle, however, competes with not one but two stellar distributors: Top Pot, of the classic-turned-gourmet American variety, and Mighty-O Donuts, grassroots-y vegan and organic, that boasts more than a dozen flavors of its take on the baking-soda, leavened cake ‘nut. In addition to its home-base cafes, the latter’s doughnuts can be found in coffee shops and grocery stores across the city; some, such as Whole Foods, carry both brands.

But which does Seattle love more? There are as many answers to this question as sprinkles on a doughnut. Seattleite Bill Skiffington chooses the hip, Green Lake Mighty-O as his go-to.

“It’s interesting. It’s eclectic. They have richer, heartier doughnuts. Plus, the people that work there are really cool, and they have better coffee [than Top Pot],” Skiffington said.
Renee Califf of La Conner, Wash., enjoys Mighty-O when she visits family in Seattle. Her loyalty goes beyond just taste: “They are the only doughnuts that don’t make you feel sick after you eat one,” Califf said.

The healthier feel and eclectic vibe of the “Mighty” doughnut shop comes from its commitment to earth-friendly practices and stringent ingredient sourcing. According to its website, the frittered rings are certified organic, as well as vegan, and free of unnatural products (even down to the sprinkles, which are colored with vegetable juices). The virtue isn’t enough to win everyone over, however.

Kyle Igarashi, of Seattle, notes how the two stack up at his workplace.
“The few times Mighty-O has been brought into the office, some of the dozen have to be thrown away because they’ve been sitting out for several days; a dozen Top Pot doughnuts barely make it past lunch.”

Top Pot’s emphasis is less on organic virtue and more on culinary prowess. Boasting more than 40 types of doughnuts on a rotating seasonal basis, the 2002 Capitol Hill startup-turned-mini-chain claims its goods are made the “old-fashioned way” and cultivate the vintage doughnut-shop aesthetic with retro design and plenty of drip coffee. The rings and bars are primarily of the raised variety, highly flavored and generously sized — and recently, made more accessible to the masses through their partnership with grocer chain QFC.

Anna Veldt, a loyal Top Pot patron, describes what she feels is the perfect doughnut.
 “They’re the perfect balance: sugary and crunchy on the outside, with soft, sweet middles. Their doughnuts are all that a doughnut should be,” Veldt said.

Rivalry or not, the ubiquitous fritter is commonplace no more, thanks to the happy contrast of these Seattle-sprouted cafes. Native Thuc Nhi Nguyen sums up well the city’s sentiment: “I just love doughnuts in general,” Nguyen said.

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