Explore Seattle

The Man Behind the Doughnuts: Mark Klebeck

Top Pot's co-founder dishes on his favorite spots in Seattle

Co-founder of Top Pot Doughnuts, Mark Klebeck loves his city. From food to parks, he’s excited to share his take on what makes this city special. With 17 cafes—the latest recently opened in Dallas, Texas—a cookbook, a band and a family, he’s a busy guy. He took time out of his schedule to sit down with Where and chat about Top Pot, traveling and why he holds Seattle so dear.

Mark Klebeck with doughnut
Mark Klebeck (©John Keatley)

Where did the idea for Top Pot come from?

In 1999 I bought into Zeitgeist [café, owned by brother Michael Klebeck]. On a particular Monday at Zeitgeist Café, Michael couldn’t get any pastries delivered because two of the vendors were closed. He stopped into a chain doughnut shop in Wallingford to pick up doughnuts, and they were the first things to sell out. It sparked an idea—why couldn’t we build another café, but do it around doughnuts?

What about the name?

We like to collect old neon signs, and we found this one from an old Chinese restaurant; it was probably from the 1940s. When we went to have the sign refurbished, we lost the S on the freeway. We decided to call it Top Pot coffee and put a percolator in the center where the S had been. 

Why the new café in Dallas?

We have friends and family there. We used to supply Starbucks with doughnuts, and when that stopped, with the Dallas market, we received a lot of emails from people missing the doughnuts. We were hit left and right with inquiries. It planted the seed.

When you aren’t taste-testing doughnuts, where do you like to enjoy a meal?

Machiavelli’s. It’s family-owned. I’ve been going there since they opened. There are lots of great memories there. They have the best filet mignon anywhere. They make the best gnocchi I’ve ever had. If I have a chance to go out, that’s where I’ll go.

What are the best places for nightlife in Seattle?

I like to go to Sun Liquor [owned by brother Michael]. Oliver’s Twist, that’s a big favorite. I love their truffle popcorn. Billy Beach Sushi in Ballard is the best sushi I’ve ever had.

Do you have any favorite tours of the city?

I would say the Underground Tour is really cool. Even Ride the Ducks is pretty amazing. You pass all these really neat landmarks.

Seattle's Kerry Park
The view from Kerry Park (©Mark Klebeck)

What must visitors absolutely do while they’re visiting Seattle?

They definitely need to go up to Kerry Park. If you’re going to get one picture of the city, go there and snap one with your iPhone. It’s just gorgeous. Everyone has to go up the Space Needle once, too. The EMP is cool if you’re into music.

Where do you like to spend time during a Seattle summer?

Because of the rain and cloudy days, and because I have a 6- and 7-year-old, it's important to get outside when it's sunny. I love to take the kids down to the International Fountain at Seattle Center. My wife and I sit on the ledge while they're playing. It's very relaxing to me.

What makes Seattle special?

I think what makes Seattle special are the people. It’s a city that embraces diversity, and gets behind people who are independent. People are doing really neat things—we have a population and a city that supports that. It’s really cool.

What is your favorite day trip outside of the city?

My favorite day trip would be to go to Whidbey Island: Get on a ferryboat and get out and explore.

Where do you like to go on vacation?

I like to go to Michigan, where my wife is from. To me, it's a lot like the Northwest. In the Western part, where she's from, they have beautiful lakes and shores. Michigan is getting more breweries and more independent establishments. It feels like home to me.

What is a must-pack for any trip?

My running shoes. It's fun to put on running shoes and, no matter where you go, you're exploring. You're seeing something on foot, rather than in a taxi or a rental car.

What is the No. 1 destination on your travel wish list?

I want to go see the northern lights someday. So Alaska, maybe Iceland. Anywhere far north.


Tray of doughnuts
Top Pot's hand-forged doughnuts (©Mark Klebeck)

My Perfect Day

7 am: An Early Start

It is a Saturday morning during the spring, and it’s sunny. I go out for an hour long run by myself. There is little to no traffic, so I can run anywhere. I run the trails around Green Lake and Ravenna. I get home, I change and head out for breakfast to Skillet Diner in Ballard with my wife and sons. We all sit at the counter versus a table. My kids love it.

10 am: Explore Some Sights

Drive out to Snoqualmie with my wife and sons on a sunny morning. Enjoy their company along the way and sip coffee. Arrive, and see the sights.

Noon: Lunch at a Favorite

Lunch at Din Tai Fung. We love the dumplings.

2 pm: A Stop Before Dinner

Ballard Farmers Market. We love walking through and seeing what all the vendors have brought in. Then, we go home and take a nap.

5 pm: Dinner with Friends

Enjoy a Manhattan with my wife and friends at home. We walk down the hill to Brimmer and Heeltap for an appetizer, but end up at Billy Beach Sushi in Ballard for dinner.

9 pm: Relaxing Before Bed

Sit next to my wife on the couch, drinking red wine and binge watching a mini series such as “Fargo.”