Monday, September 21, 2015

A Visit to Vortex Doughnuts in Asheville, NC

Asheville has always been the Appalachian brother of Portland, OR, so it was no surprise to see a doughnut shop open there. Vortex Doughnuts opened in October 2014 and is going strong, with freshly made doughnuts, including vegan doughnut and drink options, locally sourced ingredients, and business choices such as paying employees a living wage. Oh Asheville, you complete me.

On Labor Day, with the day to myself and seeing in Instagram that they'd still be open, I decided to journey up there to see what they had going on. I joined the Ashevillians in line for doughnuts and ordered a box of four plus one of the interesting drinks. I ended up with three cake and one yeast raised doughnut - one apple cider, one Black Mountain Chocolate ganache, one blood orange (and chocolate drizzle), and the yeast doughnut was topped with a raspberry and matcha glaze. I chose a Thai Eye Opener for a drink - two shots of espresso, lemongrass syrup, and coconut milk (so a vegan option by default.)

It seemed like the flavor options were available as either cake or yeast, and I saw something on the board about chocolate cake, but during the minutes I was ordering, there wasn't a chocolate cake doughnut in sight. I know their flavors change frequently, and following them on Instagram can be quite alluring.  

The yeast doughnut was fine, but these are not my favorite kinds of doughnuts. I always judge a doughnut place on its cake doughnut and I have to say that their cake doughnuts were impressive. The one topped with Black Mountain ganache may have been the most perfect cake doughnut of all cake doughnuts. It had a slight chew instead of being stale or crumbly. It had been freshly topped, unlike a certain unnamed local donutier who makes her doughnuts the night before she sells them, which is doughnut blasphemy.  They are creative with flavor but start with a good base. It isn't just cleverness; it's backed up with quality. I feel I have to clarify after a disappointing trip to Portland's Voodoo Doughnuts, which long ago traded quality for kitsch. 

I try not to eat a lot of sugar but I would probably return to Vortex just to try another creative drink. They have a few details that they would benefit from sorting out - the one public bathroom had a line the entire time I was there, and most of the people there had parked illegally since there aren't enough spaces in the immediate vicinity.  These are practicalities that I hope the business will attend to as they grow their customer base.

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