Despite its cliched obsession with healthy foods, Los Angeles has an abundance of donut shops — and it’s no wonder. The trusty pastry is portable, comes in a variety of flavors, and a dozen will make you the office VIP for the day. However you slice it, the donut is a win throughout Los Angeles, so we’re suggesting the following shops to get you started snacking sweet.
The big brown donut situated on top of Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood is a true LA landmark—and it beckons you to sample its classic confections. At Randy’s, the shop is counter-only and no-frills, but that doesn’t mean the donuts are missable. The Glazed ($1) is raised, fluffy, and perfectly sweet, and definitely rivals the fancier shops in town. Adventurous eaters might try the “Texas Glazed” — twice the size of the original. Open since 1953, Randy’s is a staple for Angelenos, and one they can now find in the Westfield Century City Shopping Center as well as the southwest side of the city.
Open 24 hours a day, California Donuts in Koreatown caters to early-risers and night owls alike. But you really come here for the well-staged Instagram shot. A plethora of cereal-topped confections (the Blueberry Toast Crunch and Fruity Pebbles Long John are among the most ordered) are custom-made for nostalgia-fueled photo feeds. But hands down the best seller (and most Instagrammed) is the Panda ($3), a raised donut topped with white chocolate glaze and bits of Oreo cookie to resemble —- you guessed it —- a panda bear face. The family owned and operated shop serves its donuts over a small counter, where patrons can stand and enjoy or head out to the parking lot to eat.
Head downtown to truly treat yourself at Birdies, a coffee, fried chicken, and donut shop that serves a secret 24K Gold Donut that sells for a $100. This confection, made fresh for you, includes a yeast-raised base, cream cheese and champagne glaze, and full gold leaf topping. While this showstopper will set you back a Benjamin, Birdies will sell you a dozen at a deal —a cool thousand bucks. If the 24K Gold breaks the bank a bit too much, sample a few of the other, more moderately priced flavors; the Lemon Thyme Pistachio ($3.25) does not disappoint.
Nestled in LA’s Original Farmer’s Market at Fairfax and 3rd Street, Bob’s Coffee and Donuts serves high-quality classics through its historic counter-style shop. While you can’t go wrong with the the Apple Fritter at Bob’s, we’d recommend the Buttermilk Cake ($1.50) donut as it’s one of the best in town. The buttermilk adds a distinctly pancake-y flavor to the perfectly textured cake, and the simplicity of the donut makes it a perfect pair for a cup of coffee. Grab a table at the al-fresco market, or take a sack to go - these classics travel well and are always a welcome treat.
Dk’s Donuts in Santa Monica is not afraid to take risks with its bakery menu, and it combines some highly unexpected flavors and ingredients to great acclaim — a line often snakes out the door. Dk’s slings just about every hybrid donut under the sun, including an o-nut (croissant-donut) and a wow-nut (waffle-donut). The ube donuts ($2.25) incorporate Filipino purple yam into traditional cake donut batter, then are topped with glaze, bacon, coconut, or crumb or filled with cream and fruit.
Consider a quarterly trip out to Glendora to visit the Donut Man, Jim Nakano, for his seasonal confections. For 45 years, Nakano has been doling out drool-worthy donuts, perfecting his recipes throughout the decades. One thing the Donut Man does perfectly: its seasonal selections. Using fresh California strawberries, the Springtime Strawberry Donut ($4) is a whole yeast-raised, glazed donut sliced open and filled with ripe, syrupy berries. Donut Man’s other seasonal treats stand out as well — think Peach for Summer and Pumpkin Cream for Fall — but its Strawberry is by far the most famous and requested.
What could be more LA than patronizing a restaurant owned by, and named after, an actor? Cue Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts, located in (of course) Hollywood. The ostentatious pink cinder block building, complete with a painting of Danny Trejo (Heat, From Dusk Till Dawn) on its windows, offers the man’s own coffee brand and a rotating variety of donuts. Stop in for Trejo’s version of the elusive savory donut, the Nacho ($3), a raised dough base topped with jalapeños, shredded cheddar, chives, and hot sauce. Don’t worry, that hot sauce is also Trejo’s own and is available for seven bucks online.
At Fōnuts, the donuts are always steamed or baked, and never fried — this is LA, after all. Not only does this diversion from the traditional process appeal to the health-conscious, but it also leads to an airier, lighter, confection. The Fōnuts shop in La Brea provides a vintage-inspired backdrop for its baked goods, and they offer a whopping 10 gluten-free donut options, each made with almond flour. The Chocolate Hazelnut ($3.50), a chocolate cake donut topped with chocolate glaze and chopped hazelnuts, is a real crowd pleaser.
Best Late-Night: SK Donuts
Over at SK Donuts, located in an unassuming strip mall at La Brea and 3rd Street, you’ll find one of the best midnight snacks in all of Los Angeles. The SK Donuts’ version of the cronut (croissant-donut hybrid made popular by New York City’s Dominique Ansel bakery), the Skronut, comes in flavors like peaches and cream, strawberry custard, and cookies and cream, and should definitely not be missed. It’s a good thing SK stays open all day— there’s usually a line and the small shop’s seating fills fast.
All the baked goods at Donut Friend in Highland Park are made without dairy or eggs, so the entire donut menu is vegan-friendly. Omnivores won’t be disappointed either. Donut Friend offers some seriously interesting flavors, and will even let you build your own donut by customizing your cream or glaze frosting, adding fresh fruit, injecting with jam, or topping it with candy, nuts, sauces, or spices. Try the Strawberrylab ($4), a raised donut done strawberry-shortcake-style, with fresh non-dairy whipped cream, strawberries, and chocolate glaze. Enjoy your donuts in the cute Donut Friend shop, on its intimate patio, or at weekly Smorgasburg showings.