As a doughnut devotee, I love Portland’s obsession with finding the city’s best purveyors of delectable fried sweets. Nothing makes me happier than weighing in on the respective merits of Voodoo or Blue Star or comparing the flavor notes of honey and sea salt vs. lavender. Imagine my joy, then, when a visit to downtown Lake Oswego revealed a whole new category of doughnut to drool over.
NOLA Doughnuts serves up the New Orleans specialty known as beignets — tender, rectangular puffs of golden pastry, served hot from the fryer and smothered in drifts of powdered sugar. They’re even more irresistible when accompanied by a cafe au lait laced with chicory coffee (just like the classic repast offered at the Big Easy’s Cafe du Monde). Blissful customers with sugar mustaches enjoy them at cozy tables, backed by an authentic jazz soundtrack.
Co-owner Rob Herkes, a native of New Orleans, bet that beignets could be a winning entry in the local doughnut wars but decided to start small. He perfected his recipes in his kitchen, then began selling a variety of doughnuts at regional shops and farmers’ markets. The lines started forming. Soon, he was delivering to UU Yogurt, Well & Good Coffee House, Zupan’s Markets and other locations. With brother Stephan and sister Connie, he opened the Lake Oswego shop in October 2015.
NOLA’s blue-tiled sign and fleur-de-lis emphasize its roots: sho’ nuf, this is extra-fine New Orleans pastry, carefully crafted over a three-day process of rolling, resting and cutting. Try the beignets — no matter how far you travel, they’re worth the trip. Herkes says the mammoth apple fritters have a devoted following too. And the maple, lemon poppyseed or Madagascar vanilla doughnuts make great take-home purchases for tomorrow’s breakfast.
Like so many entries to the fabulous Oregon food scene, NOLA Doughnuts takes its inspiration from far away and delivers it with passion and flair. Beignets by the Willamette? Sweet.