The notorious doughnut shop was founded by Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon to fill a void in Portland’s late night dining scene. Apparently there was a spiritual void as well as the two gentlemen also preside over Voodoo’s numerous weddings. That’s right: while the doughnuts are the main attraction, committing to eternal love is also an option thanks to several legally-binding wedding and commitment ceremony packages, replete with in-house refreshments.
The tiny storefront in Old Town is decorated with velvet paintings and newspaper clippings of minor stars and public figures’, lit by the one and only Cruller Chandelier of Life. In a city brimming with oddities, it’s the doughnuts that really distinguish Voodoo from the rest of the field. Popular flavors include Cap’n Crunch (raised doughnut, vanilla icing, and Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries), Ol’ Dirty Bastard (chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate icing, Oreo cookie crumbles, and peanut butter drizzled on top), the Bacon Maple Bar (take a traditional maple bar and, yes, add bacon), and the eponymous doughnut consisting of a gingerbread-man shaped doughnut covered in chocolate icing and punctured by pretzels, from whose wounds ooze raspberry filling.
The Voodoo ran into some trouble when they were confronted by the Food and Drug Administration after selling Nyquil glazed donut and the Vanilla Pepto Crushed Tums donuts to wrecked party-goers.
“With the Pepto doughnut, I honestly thought if you had that shot of tequila you shouldn’t have at 2:00 a.m., and then you got sugar, bread, Pepto, and Tums, you’d either feel better or puke your a** off and then feel better because you got it out of your system. So it was a win-win either way,” reasoned Pogson.
In addition to doubling as a wedding chapel, secular events are regularly held at the shops to enhance the communal doughnut loving. Back in the day, the store offered free Swahili lessons to visitors before the evening rush. These days, at midnight on the first Friday of every month, Voodoo holds a doughnut eating contest.
One of these very contest provided the basis for the oft-attempted “Tex-Ass Challenge” in which a participant attempts to eat the Tex-Ass doughnut (an enormous glazed doughnut equal to six of the regular doughnuts) in under 90 seconds amidst an alternately cheering or heckling crowd; rarely do folks succeed, but winnings include the price of the Tex-Ass and some hefty bragging rights. Just say the word and a (somewhat) friendly doughnut staff-member will set festivities in motion.
In 2008, Voodoo expanded to a second location on the east side of the Willamette River (which bisects Portland’s city center). Unlike the original, Voodoo Too has ample parking, seating space, and a bubble hockey game to divert patrons 21 hours of every day. The original location is open 24/7, though the shop’s interior may be closed during low-traffic hours, whence customers belly-up to the adjacent ‘doughnut window’ on the building’s exterior to be served drive-thru style.
There’s a third location at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles, which serves many of the same doughnuts sans the velvet paintings .
Should the Voodoo experience have made a lasting impression, visitors are encouraged to purchase the various memorabilia for sale in the shops. After all, who doesn’t need a pair of pink briefs with “Good things come in pink boxes” scrawled over one’s rear?
Know Before You Go
To reach the original location, walk two blocks west from the Skidmore Fountain stop of the Red or Blue line Max station. Ample bus service are located on Southwest 5th and 6th Avenues; take the stop nearest to Burnside and walk either one or two blocks East to find the shop between the Paris Theater and Berbati's Pan. Voodoo Too is located at:1501 NE Davis St. Portland, ORAnother tip: there is usually a line, but it goes quickly. Give yourself time for the visit.