Joe’s will catch your eye as you drive through Sandy, Oregon. The checkerboard brick exterior hasn’t been changed since opening in 1974. The interior hasn’t seen much updating either, nor have the prices.
The donut case has seen some changes. All the donut fads and innovations from the last few decades are on display. Traditionalists can still get old-fashioned donuts. One can return to the Portland 1990s (although Portland is notoriously still very much in the 90s) by ordering a maple bacon bar, or update themselves with a cronut. The croissant-donut hybrid might be a step beyond Joe’s pastry chops. Still, we appreciate the effort.
All the donuts have a homespun touch. Shapes and frosting coverage are handmade, and thus irregular.
Joe’s “pershings,” are recognizable as cinnamon roll donuts. The peanut pershing is lathered with a sweet peanut icing and topped with crumbled peanuts. It’s bracingly rich. Blueberry fritters, crunchy but not saturated with oil, are tastefully sweet, not candy-like. Most of Joe’s glazes and fillings necessitate black coffee to absorb the sugar.
Our favorite donuts are those that reflect Oregon flavors, including marionberry jelly, and ginger-spiced applesauce. The maple-bacon bar, made famous at Voodoo Donut in Portland, might be the most Oregonian of all. It’s a good balance of sweet and salty and is built to prevent any lost bacon.
The overall style leans towards large, slightly oily donuts meant to satisfy hikers and skiers. If Joe’s aren’t the best donuts we’ve ever had, it’s mostly because they fry so many different kinds, meaning some varieties are not kettle-fresh. Regulars tell us to beat the sunrise for donuts that are really fresh. That might be easy enough for energetic outdoorsy types, but we’re probably never going to taste a hot one.
When we come back and order a more manageable load of donuts, we’ll start with one of our old favorites, the excellent rendition of the cinnamon twist. This bar is perfectly sweet and large enough to fill us by itself. Even if though we don’t ski, Joe’s is worth another drive by Mt. Hood, for mountain views and a taste of its more unusual donut creations.