Cartems Donuterie (Doughnuts) (Pop-up Shop)

Restaurant: Cartems Donuterie
Cuisine: Doughnuts/Dessert
Last visited: July 27, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC
Address: 408 Carrall Street (Pop-up Shop)
Address: 485 Commercial Drive (Kitchen – Woodlands Smokehouse & Commissary)
Transit: To pop-up shop: EB E Hastings St FS Carrall St
Transit: To Kitchen: NB Commercial Dr FS E Pender St
Price Range: $10 or less

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 3.5-4 (Based on flavours I tried)
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Artisan/gourmet doughnuts
  • 2 locations (1 is pop-up)
  • Made fresh daily
  • Local ingredients
  • Good quality
  • Creative flavours
  • Hand made
  • Can sell out of flavours quick
  • Baked options
  • Gluten free options
  • Vegan options
  • Free delivery (within “delivery zone”)
  • Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm
  • Saturday 11am – 6pm
  • Sunday 11am – 5pm

**Recommendations: n/a

I caved. It’s been months after its opening and I finally tried the highly raved about Cartems Donuterie. I wasn’t necessarily avoiding them, but I was waiting until the hype and line up died down. When it first opened people were waiting 10-20 minutes for them and they were selling out before lunch hour at their pop-up shop location in Gastown. It had a cult-like following and I just didn’t get it. I’m more patient with line ups when I’m travelling, but as a local in Vancouver I didn’t feel any incentive. I mean it was just a doughnut… or was it?

I ended up trying Cartems Donuterie at their kitchen which is located inside Woodlands Smokehouse & Commissary. Originally I came here to try Earnest Ice Creams, but both operate out of the Woodlands Smokehouse communal kitchen so it was killing two birds with one stone.

I have to state my biases. I have nothing against doughnuts, but I’m not Homer Simpson. I’m not obsessed with them. I’ll eat them and enjoy them, but in the general category of ice cream, gelato, pastries, pies, cakes, cookies and doughnuts, I would choose doughnuts last. It’s just not something I would order unless it was made fresh on the spot or really creatively in a sit down restaurant, or world famous like the Round Rock Texas-Sized Donut, Voodoo Doughnuts, or beignets at Café Du Monde. Basically there has to be something special about them.

I don’t really have an issue with them, but it’s just deep fried dough. However I could say that about anything, so to be fair I have to take it for what it is. It is deep fried dough, but at Cartems they are made with high quality and local ingredients. It is also why it tends to be a pricier doughnut at $3 for one. I can value quality, but it’s still a pricey doughnut for a take out doughnut shop. They offer creative flavours and it actually wasn’t another doughnut gimmick.

At first I thought people were just going crazy for this “gourmet doughnut” trend which I also listed in my Vancouver Dessert Trends 2012. People kept talking about this “”Bacon Doughnut”, and that flavour plus the whole doughnut trend in general just seems five years ago (see Voodoo Doughnuts), so I didn’t see what the big deal was. I hadn’t even tried it yet, but it just wasn’t really of interest to me. I know. It sounds pretty unfair, so I had to set all my assumptions aside when I tried these. I had to appreciate them for what they were and in the context of now.

Vancouver already has a long time local favourite Lee’s Doughnuts on Granville Island. There is also Honey Doughnuts & Goodies in North Vancouver and Outpost Mini Donut Co. in Steveston Village in Richmond, so “gourmet doughnuts” are not really anything new. As I mentioned I like doughnuts, but I don’t go seeking for them, so I haven’t even tried 2 of those places mentioned. It’s just not a priority on my dessert list, although I’m more eager to try them now for comparisons sake.

Although those are the city’s most popular artisan doughnuts, Cartems is more stylized and modern with their flavours and style. It really is the epitome of what a “doughnut trend” in Vancouver is like. It’s local, organic where possible, somewhat fancy, caters to all allergies (fake or not), and takes a rather artistic approach to doughnut making. Some might call it “fussy” and I can see that, but I have to admit I liked them more than I thought I would. I didn’t even get to order the flavours I wanted (Earl Grey, Carrot Cake, Mexican Mole, and yes… Bacon Doughnut to see what the hype was about) and I still liked the flavours available, so that’s saying quite a bit. If I was craving a doughnut I wouldn’t mind getting one from here.

On the table:

The Classic4/6 (Very good)

  • Nothing here but the straight goods. Our vanilla donut glazed with organic vanilla bean. Enough said. $3/each, $15 for 6, $27 for 12.
  • It’s the best flavour to judge many desserts by, it’s the classic.
  • I tried it fresh from the fryer and it wasn’t a greasy doughnut.
  • It was a thin and rather small doughnut and the size and quality of ingredients didn’t make you feel sick after eating a whole one.
  • Although I tried it fresh from the fryer, it doesn’t have a melt in your mouth quality like a Krispy Kreme one. It’s not nearly as sweet which I was happy about.
  • It wasn’t chewy, doughy or crumbly, but soft and tender with a crispiness on the outside.

  • It was a very moist and cakey doughnut perhaps made with cake flour and it was a very good cake batter.
  • It wasn’t fluffy like a cupcake, but less dense than the cake doughnuts from say Top Pot Doughnut or Tim Hoton’s for reference sake.
  • I definitely could have used more vanilla bean because there weren’t many seeds in the icing or batter so it lacked that intense and floral vanilla bean flavour.
  • The batter did have flavour though and I could taste a hint of nutmeg and good vanilla extract to make up for the lack of bean.
  • I actually didn’t know it was vanilla flavoured and I thought it was an old-fashioned doughnut.

Salted Caramel3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • A chocolate donut topped with sweet buttery goodness and course sea salt. Sweet and salty deliciousness. $3/each, $15 for 6, $27 for 12.
  • I tried it fresh from the fryer and it wasn’t a greasy doughnut.
  • It was a thin and rather small doughnut and the size and quality of ingredients didn’t make you feel sick after eating a whole one.
  • This was good, but I wouldn’t call it “Salted Caramel” because it was more like a salted glaze and I was expecting salted caramel sauce.
  • The glaze was almost clear so the butter wasn’t browned or caramelized yet. Basically it wasn’t a caramel yet.
  • It was obviously salty though with a sharp salty flavour.
  • I found the glaze a bit oily since it was melted butter more than caramel and it was also a bit gritty from either table salt/sugar which hadn’t dissolved yet.

  • The doughnut was moist with a crispy outside and I think they use an unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder in the batter and it’s not a fudgy cake.
  • It was a cakey doughnut and the flavour reminded me of a bittersweet chocolate muffin or brownie, but it wasn’t fluffy or too sweet.
  • The chocolate doughnut didn’t have any additional chocolate chips or chunks and the batter was quite well salted too.
  • There were some extra crispy bites with sea salt on top which were slowly melting into the glaze.

Triple Chocolate Threat – 3/6 (Good)

  • This is a dangerous donut. Chocolate cake, topped with chocolate ganache, and finished with crispy callebaut chocolate pearls. Leave the kids at home. $3/each, $15 for 6, $27 for 12.
  • I tried it fresh from the fryer and it wasn’t a greasy doughnut.
  • It was a thin and rather small doughnut and the size and quality of ingredients didn’t make you feel sick after eating a whole one.
  • I expected this one to be very rich, indulgent and chocolaty, but it actually wasn’t really.
  • The chocolate doughnut itself tasted like the chocolate doughnut from the salted caramel doughnut, and I think it’s the same base.
  • The chocolate glaze wasn’t that sweet either and it was a hardened crispy glaze rather than a smooth creamy chocolate ganache.
  • I could have used way more crispy chocolate pearls because it gave the doughnut texture and it was one of the highlights to the doughnut too.
  • It was likely made with unsweetened cocoa powder, so it was more bitter than sweet and without the glaze it was not that sweet at all. The classic vanilla tasted sweeter.
  • It was nice and moist, again with a crispy exterior, but not one I would really remember even though it was a good chocolate doughnut.
  • I love those crispy chocolate pearls and they serve them with the Peanut Butter Crunch Bar at Cactus Club too.

Citrus Dustn/a

  • We incorporate citrus fruits right into the glaze and give it a fine dusting to finish this one off. Get your vitamin C!
  • I didn’t try this one.

Cinnamon Sugarn/a

  • This is a go-to vanilla donut. We do this one with organic cinnamon and sugar to make it extra special for you.
  • I didn’t try this one.

Cartems Donuterie (Pop-up Shop) on Urbanspoon


  • Andrew says:

    I haven’t bought into the Cartems hype myself. While I am definitely a guy who likes doughnuts, I was offput by their opening, the constant breathless twitter updates “look at this line! We are taking the doughnuts out of the vehicle now” *minutes later* “we are sold out but another batch coming soon” meh! It got too hipster for me very quickly. I wouldn’t wait in line for doughnuts unless they were an amazing godsend and these don’t sound like it. In fact, your description sounds like the doughnuts I’ve had from Luckys and I thought they were overpriced too. Doughnuts should be fun and flavourful and these are just a bit too fussy without great flavours. I look to a place like VooDoo, or Jelly Modern in Calgary of all places. Both of them are doughnut perfection.

  • Dilara says:

    I agree with you that they are overpriced but I will spend $3 for one of the earl grey donuts any day. Those are their best ones IMO.

  • I like the guys at Cartems, super awesome dudes, and I love that they’re doing the local thing – but for my money, the best donuts I’ve had anywhere in the world are at Honey’s in Deep Cove. Nothing compares.

  • KimHo says:

    Cartems, along with Lucky (and there is one the name escapes me right now), i.e., those who sell $3 donuts is the food equivalent of the gentrification of Vancouver. My thoughts were: REALLY?! SRLY?!?!?!?!

    I wholeheartly agree with Andrew on this one. Despite of the fancy ingredients and what not, it is still a “boring” donut. On the other hand, Voodo, for the most part, uses basic ingredients. However, if we go only by naming convention, it is “fun”!

    I partially agree with you about the bacon bandwagon. I certainly have had my share for bacon and, like most people, it will be enjoyed. However, I find it silly that, years after it has been out, it is now a “discovery” for some food bloggers. For god’s sake, it has been out for ages now! Were you living under a rock?!

  • KimHo says:

    Forgot to include this detail: On average, Voodoo’s donuts are under $2, with the highest priced one being their infamous *cough*cock-and-balls*cough*, which gos for just over $5. I would rather have the later than the former (I know, that sounds wrong…)

  • Mijune says:

    Thanks for all your comments everyone!

    @KimHo – Doughnuts are as good as your ingredients and Cartems is using better quality ingredients than Voodoo… hence the increase… I still think it’s pricey, but just stating the fact.

    @Andrew – I feel you, except these are not like Lucky’s. They are in the sense that they are gourmet and good ingredients, but Lucky’s are all yeasty and not cakey. These are cakey. 🙂

    @Daniel – Damn. I need to try.

    @Dilara – I wanted to try that one!!!!! Lucky girl. “The best” is always so relative, but have you tried Honey’s, Lucky’s or Lee’s on Granville Island? Apparently in Vancouver those are the “competitors”.

  • LotusRapper says:

    I’ve had the cinnamon sugar and the bourbon bacon twice (both, for scientific consistency), and I can attest they are both very, very good. *However* I find the bacon bits too sweet, almost caramelized, marring its salty smokiness. On that account, I like Rocket Donut (Bellingham) Maple Bacon Bar better, where its bacon bits are bigger and salty/smoky just as if you were having it with eggs and toast.

    Either way, Cartems FTW 😀

  • sandi says:

    OK – I’ll be brave and just say it – I don’t like them, and I really like donuts! I found them overwhelmingly greasy and over-priced. Just to be fair I tried them twice – not a fan. I think I just have a preference for simpler yeast donuts, a la Lee’s. I’d be willing to pay a lot of money for a really good honey dip!

  • Mimihui-Pak says:

    Cartems Donuterie (Doughnuts) (Pop-up Shop)…such…a good Doughnuts…thanks.

  • LotusRapper says:

    @Sandi – can’t argue with Lee’s ….. good ol’ fashioned yeast donuts for < $1 each 😀

  • Dilara says:

    I didn’t mean that the Earl Grey donuts are the BEST, just that they’re the best ones from Catems. I’ve tried Lucky’s donuts recently and they’re good too (just different from Cartems).

    I have yet to try Honey’s – I’m hardly ever in the North Shore. Lee’s donuts are fantastic!

  • Wow. Reading this just made me extremely hungry. These pictures are fantastic, cant wait to try the place.

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