USA, Travel, Michael Mackie, Local Favorite, Eat, Drink, Seattle

Seattle's Top Pot Doughnuts and Coffee: Homegrown, homemade and downright homey

Top Pot Doughnuts & Coffee

By Michael Mackie

Flagship Store: 2124 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA + 14 other locations

Image: Michael Mackie.

Image: Michael Mackie.

Coffee fanatics know that Seattle is like the mother ship calling them home. The city practically gave birth to America’s burgeoning coffee scene. So it’s no wonder that two Seattle siblings, Michael & Mark Klebeck, tried to harness the power of a caffeinated nation. The duo decided to up the ante and open Top Pot Doughnuts and Coffee in 2002. Now this kid-friendly, cop-friendly local doughnut emporium has become a Seattle mainstay with locations sprinkled throughout the city.

“We saw an opportunity to introduce doughnuts into the coffee scene in Seattle – which did not exist at the time,” said owner Mark Klebeck. Not only is Klebeck proud of his perfected pastries, he’s also pretty secretive about the recipe of their gourmet “hand-forged doughnuts”. The recipewhich dates back to the 1920’s – is just as vintage as the aesthetic inside their shops. Stumble in to most any location and you’ll see their blend of kitschy meets retro. The motif has been a staple since the beginning.

The legendary neon sign. All that's missing is the "S".  Image: Mark Klebeck Photography.

The legendary neon sign. All that's missing is the "S".  Image: Mark Klebeck Photography.

“The name ‘Top Pot’ was taken from an old, dilapidated neon sign that we salvaged from a defunct Chinese restaurant in Seattle that was called ‘Topspot’,” said Klebeck. “We went to have the sign restored through a local neon sign company. In transit, the ‘S’ -- which was in the center of the sign -- was loose and fell off along the freeway. Our ‘Topspot’ vintage sign became ‘Top Pot’.”

Most locations open up bright and early at 6am during the week. By 7am, however, lines can be out the door. Fortunately, the staff knows a thing or two about inducing an effective, efficient, sugar-laced buzz. “People’s love of pastries will never die,” said stalwart employee Meghan #1. (When asked if there was a Meghan #2 … Meghan #1 - as she’s known in the barista biz - simply mentioned that indeed there was but “number one is the best”.) She continued, “I’m proud of our product -- especially our coffee. I want people to come relax and just enjoy a cup of coffee.” Little known fact? Top Pot has proudly roasted their own coffee since the very beginning. It was a fairly ambitious undertaking given that Starbuck’s headquarters is practically their next door neighbor.

Meghan #1 gets donuts ready for the day. So many sprinkles, so little time. Image: Michael Mackie.

Meghan #1 gets donuts ready for the day. So many sprinkles, so little time. Image: Michael Mackie.

While there are ample doughnut shops in Seattle, the folks at Top Pot know their competition doesn’t come close to duplicating the Topper’s ravenous fan base. That’s likely an ode to how immersed Top Pot has become in the community. Charitable events and support of local philanthropic organizations has become a mainstay. “My favorite thing that I absolutely love to hear about Top Pot is that we are a company that gives back to our community,” said Klebeck. “When we first started the company, our focus was on trying to stay in business. However, as we grew, it became apparent that giving back was just as important.”  

Doughnut purists will find plenty of "old-fashioned" staples to keep them happy, but seasonal pastries are all the rage. The Pumpkin Old Fashioned doughnut is “hard to keep in stock”, mentioned Klebek. What else is flying out from behind the glass counter? “The most popular doughnut depends on the store,” said Megan #1. “At our store it’s the apple fritter … or maybe the Bavarian Crème.”

Top Pot's seasonal and newly famous Pumpkin Old Fashioned doughnut -- made with real pumpkin filling and spices.  Image: Mark Klebeck Photography.

Top Pot's seasonal and newly famous Pumpkin Old Fashioned doughnut -- made with real pumpkin filling and spices.  Image: Mark Klebeck Photography.

“Let’s face it – doughnuts are a guilty pleasure,” said customer Maggie Brower. “But if I’m going to indulge – it’s gotta be Top Pot. Everything – the employees, the décor – makes you feel at home. It’s cozy – and it doesn’t hurt that their old-fashioned doughnuts are to die for. To. Die. For.

Meghan #1 helps customer Maggie Brower decide which doughnut to get for her kids. Image: Michael Mackie.

Meghan #1 helps customer Maggie Brower decide which doughnut to get for her kids. Image: Michael Mackie.

Customer Maggie Brower checks out Top Pot's merch. Image: Michael Mackie.

Customer Maggie Brower checks out Top Pot's merch. Image: Michael Mackie.

Finally … do the employees ever (gasp!) get sick of eating doughnuts? “I personally LOVE our doughnuts,” laughed Klebek. “Call me biased, but I take part in what I call necessary ‘quality control tasting’. Meghan #1 agreed, “I can stop, but it comes in waves. I never know when I’m going to start eating them again.”

With over 15 different locations (and more on the way), Top Pot has become Seattle’s doughnut darling. Now if only they delivered …

Top Pot's Flagship Store & Cafe: 2124 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA + 14 other locations