Monday, May 19, 2008

Bob's Donuts, Los Angeles

Bob's is one of the quintessential destination donut shops: a tasty donut at an LA landmark, farmer's market. Bob's donuts is a staple of the Los Angeles donut community- serving up fresh varieties since before your mother was born and is wedged in between Patsy's pizza and Bennett's ice cream- the holy trinity of LA junk food. Bob's doesn't have an overwhelmingly large selection of donuts which is nice, but enough of a variety to make repeated visits. As we arrived on a cool sunday morning there was plenty of parking and no crowds which added to the enjoyment of the experience. Anyway, here's what we got: Dana- 1 original glazed, 1 "New Orleans style" beignet. Me-1 coconut cake donut, 1 chocolate old fashioned, and 1 chocolate raised. For some unknown reason, Bob likes cinnamon, and sprinkles it generously in all the dough for the raised fare giving a holiday flavor to the donuts. It's not bad if you like cinnamon, however it was overbearing and tasted as if Bob is insecure about the general flavor of his plain raised dough. That said, the original glazed and chocolate raised tasted a little off. On the topic of texture, the raised varietals were too gummy and slightly too yeasty. Remember the 3 F's?... Bob's raised are lacking fluff. The chocolate old fashioned was again burdened with cinnamon and had a chocolate shell that was a little too aggressive. The beignet was in fact not a true "New Orleans" style beignet, which the name suggested, but rather a soft, dough-filled mini cake with a layer guessed it- cinnamon, to boot. Last but not least was the coconut cake donut. This was an amazing revelation to the cake donut species. Usually, these donuts are harder to perfect as the most common problem is a donut that sinks like a bag of bricks, but Bob really did something right by perfecting a light, fluffy, eloquent cake donut with fresh coconut shavings on a blanket of frosting. So, all was redeemed by this variety.
Cup Holder Change--or--Bust out the Wallet: Cup holder change, considering it's fame and location, Bob's is a good deal.
Destination Donut--or--Keep it local: Destination Donut. Here's why: Although the overall scope of donuts is average, or slightly above, the whole package deal makes Bob's the perfect destination. Anyone who's been to farmer's market can speak of the simple pleasures there, so what's not to like about killing some time over a donut and coffee in the relaxing confines of this step back in time? The location also makes Bob's less of a breakfast food and more of an addition to any meal, and due to the high foot traffic, donuts are always fresh.
The Verdict: Don't go to Bob's expecting a life changing experience, instead, go there for a decent donut (cake recommended) an honest cup of coffee, and a moment to enjoy a Los Angeles institution.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Spudnuts, Los Angeles

While walking to the LA coliseum recently, I noticed an oddly named donut establishment in a crammed, laundermat-liquor store complex on Figueroa. Normally, these places get a lukewarm shoulder and are avoided- however, I did a little research and discovered that Spudnuts makes donuts entirely of potato flour. I became very excited about this prospect and days later Dana and I drove down to sample the delicacies. The Spudnuts franchise started back in 1946 with the promise of delivering a superior product. Spudnuts' began popping up nationwide by the 1960's, but due to unknown reasons the Spudnuts train ran out of steam. Currently there are about 35 locations nationwide- a few scattered around LA. As previously stated, Dana and I try to avoid places that rate below "A", serve alternate foods, or are using donuts as a front. Spudnuts got a "B" and also serves ice cream, but it seemed to be clean enough so we preceded. Here's what we got: Dana- a dozen donut holes, or tater-tots if you will. Me- 1 glazed twist, 1 chocolate raised.
The verdict: Spudnuts simply doesn't deliver on its promise. The donuts weren't light, fluffy, or even tasty for that matter. On the outside the donuts appear like any other- however, once one bites into the slightly crusty glaze shell, the textural difference becomes apparent. Normal donut dough has a distinct texture and solubility when in the mouth ranging from fluffy to chewy. A spudnut becomes granular and resembles hash browns when in the mouth. We both agreed this was not a desirable quality. The chocolate coating was decent, but again was overridden by the odd texture. About 10 minutes after we left, it was feeling more like we'd just had a waffle house breakfast instead of a couple donuts.
Cup Holder Change--or--Bust out the Wallet: Cup Holder Change
Destination Donut--or--Keep it Local: Keep it Local, however- I do think it's worth it as an educational experience, and offers another perspective on America's breakfast staple.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Daily Donuts, Los Feliz

Daily Donuts falls into the overwhelmingly large category of average donuts. These shops are generously sprinkled around every urban area in America, and are in many cases are the only style of donut most people consume on a regular basis. I read a brief review of this establishment- a giddy writer claiming greatness, nonetheless Dana and I decided to try it out. Daily Donut is located in a pleasant area of Los Feliz with high traffic, so freshness of donuts and cleanliness of shop both came standard. So here's what we got: Dana: 1 original glazed, 1 glazed twist. Me: 1 chocolate raised, 1 plain unglazed old-fashioned, and 1 crumb cake. The verdict: all the donuts in the shop are pale, generally meaning a lack of flavor- they're not undercooked per se, just missing zest and character. Donuts should be bold, sometimes bright, and never blase. That said, all donuts were ok, not great, not terrible, just ok. There was no post-donut stomachache, which in itself is a good thing. The chocolate coating was pretty standard yet slightly too sugary and missing a nice velvety flavor. The original glazed and twist checked out ok as well. I usually never get them, and thought I'd eventually have to try one out- which is why I got an unglazed old fashioned. This particular variety is closer relative of the scone family, and for me, didn't provide any joy. It was dry, slightly crunchy, and bland. The crumb cake is a standard for many folk, but I would avoid this one- too spongy, not moist enough, it's only boast being the crumbs.
Cup Holder Change or Bust out the Wallet: Cup Holder Change
Destination Donut. or Keep it Local: Keep it Local
I'm not putting up a map for this reason- you can find these shops just about anywhere, and I have a hunch they're all varying degrees of the same thing. We will continue to sample and review any establishment for there is always the possibility of greatness lurking around every corner.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stan's Donuts, Westwood

Behold! The Holy Grail of Donuts!... Stan's Donuts has been a Los Angeles staple for the past 44 years and has, in my opinion, perfected the craft of the donut-arts. Tucked away in Westwood Village, old Stan still comes to work every morning and works his magic- granted, he's a little cocky, but he's got the dough to back it up. On our outing this particular sunday, our good friends Matt and Amber came along as guest reviewers to help us taste, critique, and enjoy the splendor. So here's what we got- Dana: 2 original glazed. Me: a chocolate-covered cinnamon twist, a "Simpson's" donut, and half a maple bar. Amber: 1 glazed old-fashioned. Matt: 1 chocolate cake w/peanuts, 1 blueberry cheese donut, and half a maple bar.
The Verdict: I personally can't name a better donut, and have found my shangri-la. Others were slightly less enthusiastic. That said, the original glazed donut scored perfect marks- fluffiness, flavor, fried quality were all outstanding giving the backbone to any donut establishment. The chocolate covered cinnamon twist was a delicious and tantalizing flavor medley, surprisingly light, yet robust in flavor. I tip my hat to Stan for his unique flavor combinations. The great thing about this particular donut is it's ability to be a breakfast donut and a dessert. The Simpson's donut is modeled after Homer's famous choice: an original glazed with pink frosting and sprinkles. What sets this one apart is the actual bits of strawberry mingled in with the frosting and sprinkles, lending notes of berry to the overall taste. Amber's glazed old-fashioned got tepid reviews as the batter has apparently been infused with banana by mistake. The donut came across as ordinary, lacking pizzaz. Amber tried to sample Matt's blueberry cheese donut which was too good to share, thus the frustration. According to Matt, this blueberry cheese donut was better than any donut he'd previously tried and was bursting with flavor, but not overdone. The cake donut also got a strong review. Matt and I split a maple bar, which I usually avoid. To my surprise, this donut possessed all the great qualities of the raised donuts and had a thin maple veneer which was subtle making it a superior choice.
Cup Holder Change--or--Bust out the Wallet: Bust out the Wallet. Stan's cheapest donut is 95 cents, while his most extravagant selections touch the 3 dollar mark. This is a hot point of contention for donut lovers however, I think these are worth any price.
Destination Donut--or--Keep it Local: Destination Donut. Go to Westwood Village and try them, you'll be glad you did.
Here are some other crumbs of information you might find useful: We all agreed that the coffee was great- they also give free refills. Stan only accepts cash so be warned. The workers are mean and rude. It's really a shame that such a great place is polluted with crabby workers...why? Stan's donuts also shares it's building with a diner, so occasionally it gets a bit crowded. Anyway, I think you should get yourself over to Stan's and treat yourself, your friends, your family, and the bums that sleep in front of his shop.

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It should be noted that the above review of Stan's Donuts is my sole opinion and does not reflect the opinion of those that were with me on this outing. - andy

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Donut Prince, Burbank.

Donut Prince is simply worth avoiding. The only circumstance where Donut Prince is the winner is in a contest versus Yum Yum Donuts, and even then the victory is narrow. Dana and I had heard form Burbank locals that this was the best donut at 3am. Perhaps this is true, but for the remaining 23 hours in the day this place serves fried rings of trash. So, here's what we got- Dana: one cinnamon donut roll and one original glazed. Me: one chocolate old-fashioned, and one sugar donut.
The verdict: The cinnamon donut roll tasted like a funnel cake from the fair and was about as easy on the stomach as one. The original glazed donut had a mysterious yellowish glaze that had notes of butterscotch-it was dense, sugary, and lacking basic raised donut flavor. The chocolate old-fashioned was nearly translucent due to the amount of over-frying that was happening, and strangely tasted like lemon. The sugar donut was the best of the bunch, but stripped down to the basic donut essence it still was void of fluffiness, flavor, and freshness. All the donuts hit the stomach like a bag of bricks.
Cup Holder Change or Bust out the Wallet: Cup Holder Change
Destination Donut or Keep it Local: Keep it Local.
Maybe the Donut Prince has seen better days, maybe he will change his ways... but for now, the Donut Prince is stuck in a quagmire of failure.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Donut Man, Glendora

The Donut Man is prized for its fresh fruit donuts. Dana and I prized the fact we wouldn't be at Ronnie's (see below). The 40 mile round trip to Glendora was made on a cold sunday morning yet we had been misinformed in regards to the warm donuts that were promised. Nonetheless, we stood in line and picked our plunder. Our selection had to be broad including the obviously popular fresh strawberry donut. So here's what we got- Dana: one original glazed, one chocolate covered raised. Me: one chocolate cake donut w/chocolate frosting and coconut, one chocolate bar, and one fresh strawberry donut. The verdict: given the hype, we were pretty disappointed with Donut Man's failure to take care of the basics. In the case of the chocolate bar, chocolate raised, and original glazed- all were decent in flavor, yet extremely hard-shelled, dense, and heavy in the stomach. They weren't horrible, yet they lacked the three F's: freshness, fluffiness, level of fryness. The chocolate cake donut was too spongy and tasted like a circular cupcake. All in all it was pretty lackluster. However, the saving grace of this establishment are its seasonal offerings. The giant donut-clam filled with fresh strawberries was a little intimidating, yet I proceeded. While I consider this a dessert as opposed to a breakfast item, it is delicious in every way. This dessert item resembles a strawberry shortcake minus the shortcake, add the donut clam, and tastes far superior. The large plump strawberries are a perfect compliment to a flaky raised donut. Somehow, the donut man focussed all his energy and talent on these treats and gets away with it.

Cup Holder Change or Bust out the Wallet: at $2.60 for the strawberry donut, bust out the wallet.
Destination Donut or keep it local: Destination Donut, unless you don't like strawberries
Being that Glendora is out of the way for many in LA, Donut Man probably won't be your local- however, it's worth it to try the fresh strawberry and fresh peach donut (summer) at least once. Also, there isn't anything to do in that particular neighborhood so the nice to-go boxes come in handy to take your dessert elsewhere.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ronnie's Donuts, Hollywood

The food inspection board gives this place a B. Dana and I give it an F. I don't know what Ronnie is selling here but it certainly isn't donuts. This shop has always caught our eye with it's prominent location and kitschy signage, and I assumed a donut shop adjoined to the Pantages theatre would certainly be somewhat decent or even exciting. However, this journey only ended in disgust and disappointment. Dana and I entered but were bombarded with a seedy vibe, and while I scanned the available assortment of crusty over-fried nuggets, Dana searched for a milk that wasn't already expired. It immediately became apparent that this was the end. We both left angry, annoyed, and longing for something to fill the void that only donuts on a sunday morning can fill. Rather than committing to the review of this establishment, we can only offer a stern warning to those considering a trip to Ronnie's.
It should be simple: Excellent location, easy menu, and high foot traffic should all add up to success- yet, something got lost along the way. Ronnie apparently decided to sell hotdogs, sandwiches, soup, and soda to offset his measly selection of donuts all the while getting a B health rating. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't like the aroma of hotdogs mingling with that of a donut.
After Dana and I left, we walked down to a cafe and got 2 muffins and 2 coffees totaling 10 bucks... the bitter sting of defeat. I'm glad we were able to weed this one out, and hopefully our next outing will produce better results.