by Sara Dickerman

Top Pot Fifth Avenue
2124 Fifth Ave, 728-1966
Mon-Fri 6 am-7 pm, Sat-Sun 7 am-7 pm.

With its two-story façade of cantilevered glass, Top Pot's new building is kind of like Canlis for the rest of us--no jackets required, and you can gain entrance for a mere 89 cents. Beyond the mesmerizing doughnut counter, a picture window offers a peek into the gleaming doughnut plant. By day it lies dormant, making you forget the cauldrons of oil that seethe throughout the night, but if you go out late in Belltown, you can't miss the smell of frying dough.

I'm not a habitual doughnut eater, and I have little allegiance to any one kind of doughnut. I decided to go to Top Pot every day for a week and see if I could find a doughnut soulmate.


The sunlight glints off the glass wall and makes the whole room seem beautifully overexposed. My powdered doughnut is packed with a snowy coat of confectioners' sugar, as pure and white as a fresh pack of Kleenex. The sugar melts on my tongue with near effervescence, but this late-afternoon doughnut is one tough motherfucker. A third of the way through I stop biting and simply lick the rest of the sugar off.


I see a woman point to a maple bar and hear her ask, "These are baked too, aren't they?" The counterperson politely suppresses her sarcasm and tells her no, in fact, all the doughnuts are fried. I get a Double Trouble, a chocolate doughnut with chocolate glaze. The thick smear of glaze is right on--not just brown and waxy, but truly chocolaty. The doughnut is seriously greasy, though, and I keep on running into runny pockets of oil. Please blot, Top Pot, please!


Even though I have not found a doughnut I could be faithful to, I look forward to my visits to the shop; the space is full of quiet nooks to read in, and the drip coffee is stellar. Today I go for the Valley Girl Lemon, a filled doughnut, but the gummy highlighter-yellow filling is someone else's nostalgia trip, not mine.


I bring a passel of doughnuts to work for scrutiny. In my quest, I've been leaning toward the plain glazed and the cruller, which are lighter than the old-fashioned and the cake, but still pretty chewy. My chef bites into a cruller, and I ask what he thinks. He says the doughnuts "need lower-protein flour and less of [he swirls his finger in the air, mimicking the rotation of a Hobart mixer]." Despite our finicky analysis, all the doughnuts are gobbled up by the time we open for dinner.


I'm drawn to the Quasimodo bumpiness of an apple fritter that contrasts with the ringed perfection of all those other doughnuts. The chewiness is less distracting in this form: It's a gut bomb, but pleasant enough.


"I want to make love to it," says my friend, who claims that the Pink Feather Boa, a pink frosted number with fluffy tufts of coconut, is "one sexy doughnut." If Top Pot has done one thing right, it is to embrace the frivolous beauty of doughnuts and, specifically, the appeal of pink toppings. There is the dark pink of the raspberry glaze and the bubblegum hue of the Boa; its cousin, the Pink Rainbow, wears a coat of many-colored jimmies.


It's the final day of my experiment, and I'm looking forward to oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow. I hunker down for one last doughnut and get a classic bismarck, filled with custard and crowned with chocolate glaze. It's a lot of doughnut to handle, but the custard is cool and soothing.

Over the course of the week, Top Pot's doughnuts have proved to be greasy and/or tough, but less cloying than Krispy Kreme's signature froth. What Top Pot has mastered is the doughnut experience: the anticipation, the agonizing choice between doughnuts, the sprinkles, the glazes, and the sugars. Sure, you'll feel a little sick after eating one, but "heavy," for what it's worth, is only three letters away from "heavenly."