Restaurant Review

With our meeting on National Donut Day, I can’t help but call out the finer donut establishments in Tacoma.  While I grew up Presbyterian, there was always a spiritual aspect to both pork product and donuts.  The Salvation Army wifi password used to be “Jesus saves”.  My father’s always has something to do with donuts.  Donuts took a bit of a popularity hit in the 90’s, but I’m glad to see they are back in ascendance.  When I was a teen, you could sate your donut desire 24x7.  Winchell’s and then later Dunkin Donuts were everywhere, open all day and all night - as it should be.  But the dark years were bleak - major players in the donut world shut down.  In the mid 90’s, one could walk a block in any direction in Downtown Seattle and get a pastry and a latte at 5 different spots, but nary a donut was to be seen.  But then something happened, and good people everywhere realized the value of deep fried dough topped with a sugary glaze – and donuts were back.  They are everywhere now, even fancy, high-end outlets.  But I’m a fan of the classics – apple fritter, glazed raised, maple bar (and donut holes – essentially calorie free, as I understand it).  And if you want the best of the classics, Pao’s (6919 6th AveTacoma, WA 98406) in Tacoma is the place to go.  Open from 5am-4pm (but don’t bother showing up before 7am if you want a maple bar – that is a later morning creation), they crank out just what you’d expect.  Family run (the kids used to wander around the dining room – they’ve grown though), they are a no-nonsense donut shop.  It’s cash only, but they do have a drive through, which I appreciate.  They haven’t bought in to the boutique donut craze (huge donuts, or donuts topped with bacon and cap’n crunch), just the 50 varieties on the themes you’d expect (cruller, old fashioned, cake, raised, fritter, etc).  The sprinkle colors change on the cake donuts seasonally, but that is about their only nod to trends.  They can do big donuts, as seems to be a craze – the first birthday photos of the kids on the dining room wall are next to a crazy huge donut.  But it isn’t on the menu – just normal donuts.  Sadly, they aren’t open all night.  For the longest time, Tacoma didn’t have a 24 hour donut shop.  I recall one night, a few years back, by friend Jason and I were driving the streets of Tacoma at 2am looking for a donut shop.  If you’ve never done a midnight donut run, you probably need to find a friend like Jason.  Anyway, there was nothing, so we had to make do with a rather hip Pho shop on South Tacoma Way that was open till 4am (The parking lot was filled with lowered Hondas, the dining room filled with 22 year olds– and Jason and me in a VW.  There was that feeling of not quite belonging, but the soup was amazing).  As much as I enjoy the dining options a city of immigrants has to offer (I do love this about Tacoma), midnight donuts are an unmet need.  For quite a while, Dockside Donuts (1112 Puyallup Ave, Tacoma WA) filled the 24 hours donut niche, but I’m not sure they are any more.  Dockside is another solid classis donut shop, with a bit more expansive menu than Pao’s (you can get you bacon topped donut here).  While the lure of watching the Crispy Crème conveyer belt does occasionally sucker me in (the mini conveyer at the pike place mini-donuts is cooler though), I’m no fan of the crispy crème donut – give me a Pao’s sprinkle cake donut any day.  Every day.  Life expectancy may take a hit, but I can’t always be in life for the long game.        

Restaurant Update – The drive-thru at Dockside Doughnuts (1112 Puyallup Ave, Tacoma, WA 98421) continues to be open 24 hours a day.  I’m as relieved as you are to hear the news. 

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