Eighty 8 Donut Cafe
225 Federal St., Portland
As I scouted locations in preparation for this month’s Breakfast Serial, I found myself changing plans. Repeatedly. I was thwarted by COVID-related closures multiple times. That new restaurant I’d been meaning to try for months? Permanently closed before I ever got the chance. The seasonal pop-up operating out of one of my favorite barbecue joints? Closed on two consecutive weekends due to staffing shortages.
All this is to say that a) these are difficult times, b) shit happens, and c) it’s more important than ever to support the local businesses that are open.
With my deadline fast approaching, I headed into downtown Portland, where I finally spotted my elusive quarry: an illuminated OPEN sign.
Eighty 8 Donut Cafe opened last July on Federal Street, in the spot formerly occupied by Federal Spice and, more recently, Po’ Boys & Pickles. It’s across the street from a massive construction site, the future home of Maine’s tallest building. As a result, parking was a challenge, but one that was totally worth it.
When it launched in 2013, Urban Sugar (as this business was originally called) was among the first food trucks to hit the streets of Portland. One rebranding and one ownership change later, there’s still a line most summer weekends outside their converted mail truck on the Eastern Prom. A second brick-and-mortar location fuels hungry skiers at Sugarloaf.
Their basic doughnut recipe has remained essentially the same for nearly nine years. That’s a good thing. The bite-sized doughnuts are fluffy, light, and downright amazing. And because they are made to order, they’re always served fresh and warm.
You can buy a six-pack of a single flavor for $6 to $8, but I wanted more options, so I chose the 25-piece Sugar Rush: five each of any five flavors for $30.
I knew from past experience that the traditional cinnamon-sugar-dusted and maple-dipped doughnuts were delicious, and my family was not disappointed. The filled varieties, it turned out, were even better.
I love Boston Cream, but typically struggle to finish a full-sized one. Eighty 8’s tiny version, topped with chocolate icing and Bavarian cream, was a perfect two-bite treat. My wife’s favorite was the Lemon Zinger, with its lemon glaze and raspberry filling. Most decadent of all was the 007, topped with maple icing, bourbon cream, and peppery candied bacon.
Even after giving half the box to my neighbors, I still managed to gorge myself on an embarrassing number of these little gems. My wife and daughter exercised more restraint, so there were still a few left over the next day.
With the tourists gone and Federal Street often closed to traffic during the day, Eighty 8 Donut Cafe relies on locals and foot traffic to stay afloat. I trust you will all do your part to ensure this café is open for years to come.
Eighty 8 Donut Cafe is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.