During my aggressively Pacific Northwest childhood, my brother and I were only allowed to eat sugary cereal twice a year: on our birthdays. We’d agonize over what kind to get, and ration out our sweet contraband over several days. Once our supply was gone, we would await our next opportunity with an anticipation more appropriately suited to a runner, mid-marathon, praying for a water station.
Lynnwood’s Donut Factory, which celebrated the grand opening of a new Seattle outpost in the University District (in the former Ly’s Donuts space) over Father’s Day weekend, is designed to accommodate such lowbrow cravings. Its shocking array of Instagram-beautiful doughnuts — priced at $2 (single), $3 (fancy) and $4 (extra fancy) — range in flavor from ube to s’mores. If you were a child deprived of sugar and consider things like eating ice cream for dinner and keeping candy in your purse major pluses of adulthood, you’re going to love it.
Case in point: The Fruity Pebbles doughnut, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a gimmick food, but a gimmick food made well, pairing a salty-sweet cereal crunch with vanilla icing.
Voodoo Doughnut in Portland has become famous for a similar brand of novelty-inspired baked goods, but tends to go way too heavy on gluey frosting and excessive portions of (sometimes stale) novelty toppings. Not so at Donut Factory, where the sprinkling of crunchy Fruity Pebbles is light and the icing level is almost polite. It’s one of those ideas that shouldn’t work, but does.
Speaking of ideas that shouldn’t work: The first thing I noticed when I walked into the shop was on the wall — photos of Donut Factory’s doughnut ice cream sandwiches from three different angles. Sliced doughnuts stuffed with alarmingly turquoise ice cream AND cookies, they look like sentient cookie monsters, and I really wanted one, but I was thwarted: They’re weren’t in yet when I stopped by, but I was assured that they’ll be available later this summer.
Here’s what I can tell you: Donut Factory’s iced coffee — supplied by Pegasus, $1.75 to $4.75; espresso is also available — is strong and summer-ready and pairs well with the doughnuts (available to-go, or dine-in style at a small seating area). Ice cream is on offer.
What really sets Donut Factory apart is that it inhabits the sweet spot between the more interesting flavors of highfalutin’ gourmet doughnuts and the simple joys of their straight-ahead corner-shop brethren. If you’re not enthused by the idea of a glazed red velvet or a bacon maple bar, the menu also includes classics like apple fritters, old-fashioneds, French crullers and plain cake doughnuts.
If you like cider doughnuts, you’ll appreciate the cinnamon cake doughnut. It’s pleasantly chewy, with the much-desired, rarely executed correct ratio of sugar to cinnamon — kind of spicy, not too sweet. It tastes like something you’d find at a farmstand in New England in October; think of it as the “Gilmore Girls” of doughnuts.
The blueberry cake with vanilla cream is like a blueberry pancake in doughnut form; and the cookies ‘n’ cream doughnut (a chocolate cake doughnut covered in crushed Oreos) is a tiny blast of Hydrox chocolate cookie flavor balanced with mild, creamy frosting. And should you think doughnuts are only for unrepentant omnivores, I have good news: The vegan cake doughnut could easily deceive dairy eaters with its moist texture and a flavor profile that seems buttermilk-infused, but isn’t. It was good enough to rival Mighty-O.
As for ambience, if you’re used to Seattle’s chrome/subway tiles/succulents formula for a new coffee shop, you won’t find it in Donut Factory’s humble strip-mall storefront. Instead, you’ll find a cheerful if unremarkable aesthetic (a pleasant deviation, if you ask me). The jaunty décor includes a University of Washington “W” stylized as a purple doughnut with gold sprinkles on heather-gray cotton, and signs declaring things like “Just donut” and “Think inside the box!”
But if you go, be warned. While the doughnuts are like something out of a Lisa Frank-designed Candyland, the logistics of accessing Donut Factory in its bottleneck location at Roosevelt Way Northeast and Northeast 45th Street are decidedly less dreamy. Between the small parking lot and the small interior space, there’s not much room to dillydally. But you don’t really go to a doughnut shop to hang out. You go there to pick up your baker’s dozen and your caffeine allotment, and — for some of us — the satisfaction of indulging a childhood vice. Permission granted.
Donut Factory, 5 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, 4336 Roosevelt Way N.E. (University District), Seattle; 206-547-1633, donutfactoryinc.com