Have you ever been to a place that you’ve seen in a movie or on TV just so you can say that you went there? Plenty of people have been to places like the Griffith Park Observatory, made even more famous for having had key scenes from the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” filmed there. Maybe you’ve been to the Los Angeles City Hall, because that building was a stand-in for the Daily Planet headquarters on the Superman TV series and was also featured on Dragnet and Adam 12. I’ve been to each of those places, and I freely admit that I’ve also been to several restaurants in the Los Angeles area for the exact same reason.
One of those restaurants, or rather, bakeries, is Randy’s Donuts, in Inglewood. Randy’s Donuts has been featured in several movies and TV shows. For example, there is a scene from the movie “Ironman” in which the main character, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., is shown enjoying a donut whilst perched inside the hole of the giant donut that sits on top of the shop. My brother had invited me to take a day trip with him to Los Angeles a few weeks back and he told me to pick out some places that I would like to eat. Before I could even blurt out a list, he presented me with his own list of attractions or, rather, historic sites, as he put it, that he especially wanted to visit. Luckily, Randy’s Donuts filled the bill for both of our requirements. I wanted to eat and he wanted to look at giant kitschy things.
Neither of us had ever been to Randy’s Donuts before. My brother was interested in tracking down and photographing some specific examples of “mimetic” or “programmatic” architecture. These are buildings and structures crafted to resemble objects and figures. The structures often, but not always, look like the products being hawked inside, such as the big donut on top of Randy’s, or the giant hot dog that used to serve as a stand for the Tale O’ the Pup (which is currently in storage as we later found out). The Brown Derby, the long defunct restaurant from old Hollywood, is another example of “programmatic” architecture, as are the giant men that are sometimes seen holding tires and mufflers in front of auto repair shops. Since we arrived in Los Angeles County at breakfast time, it seemed only natural to visit Randy’s Donuts first.
Randy’s Donuts is located at 805 West Manchester Avenue, just off the 405 freeway, next to the Los Angeles International Airport. Randy’s is very easy to find, but if you somehow manage to pass the exit, you will see the giant donut on the roof, beckoning you to double back. Unfortunately, Randy’s Donuts is not situated in the nicest neighborhood in town, but it is also not in the worst neighborhood either. If you visit during daylight hours, you should not have any problems, but note that Randy’s Donuts is open 24 hours a day for your culinary convenience.
Even before we made our way across the ample parking lot and up to the counter, I could smell the wonderful aromas of yeasty warm dough and cinnamon. Randy’s serves up all of the good old-fashioned regular kinds of donuts that you might expect, nothing fancy, and that is exactly what we wanted. My absolute favorite donuts are the simple, plain glazed variety. The one’s I remember from my youth came from two places, Winchell’s and Heavenly Donuts (which used to be on Midway Drive in San Diego, near the Sports Arena). I have to say that I am not a big fan of Krispy Kreme’s glazed donuts; they are much too sweet and they collapse when you bite into them. Randy’s, on the other hand, makes their glazed donuts precisely how I like them, light and fluffy, with a substantiality that Krispy Kreme’s donuts lack. I ordered a regular glazed, a glazed twist and a cinnamon roll. Alas, there are no photos of the first two donuts, because I scarfed them down immediately before I remembered that I was going to photograph them. We had considered buying a dozen donuts, but then thought better of it, because we were still planning to lunch at the Tale O’ the Pup, before we found out that the Tale has closed indefinitely. Now I wish that we had ordered a dozen to take home. I would like to have tried a raised chocolate frosted, a cake donut with pink frosting, a lemon jelly-filled, and an old-fashioned. I was very intrigued about two other menu items, a coconut-raised donut and another, described as a coconut jelly-filled. The apple fritters and bear claws looked scrumptious, and I am still kicking myself for not buying more donuts. It is not as if I get up to Randy’s Donuts on a regular basis, but now I have an incentive to return.
My brother consumed two cinnamon rolls and a cup of good, regular coffee, none of that fancy Starbucks stuff. I also ate a cinnamon roll and drank a container of ice-cold milk, breakfast of the gods in my opinion. The cinnamon rolls at Randy’s are slightly smaller than the ones that I recall from Winchell’s, but the cinnamon-spicy flavor and the fluffy layered texture and crispy bite on the outside were just right. With Randy’s Donuts, you know exactly what you are getting, and what you get is exactly what you want. If you ever find yourself in the Los Angeles area or if you need to drive to LAX, stop by Randy’s and pick yourself up a tasty, nostalgic treat, but don’t forget to bring back a dozen or so, or else you’ll regret that decision later. While you are there, don’t forget to have your picture taken in front of the giant donut, to prove to your friends and family that you were actually there.