Donut Hole. La Puente may not be on the way to anything in particular, but it is home to the renowned Donut Hole, a drive-thru doughnut shop anchored by a giant hemi-doughnut at either end, a 1947 architectural triumph. From a couple of blocks away, the place looks like the chocolate-brown coils of a sea serpent wriggling its way toward Hacienda Heights; in the belly of the beast, it is more of a doughnut diorama, a living doughnut museum that includes Tiger Tail Twists and baroquely frosted French crullers. 15300 Amar Road, La Puente, (626) 968-2912. Open seven days, 5 a.m.–12 a.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Cash only. 10 cents– 90 cents. Donuts. JG ¢ *
Langer’s. The best drive-thru food in Los Angeles? If you remember to call a couple of minutes in advance, somebody at Langer’s Delicatessen will be standing outside for you with the finest pastrami sandwich in the nation, steaming hot, hand-carved to order if you specify it that way, and odiferous enough to fog up your windows in a flash. Why settle for a hamburger when you can have Langer’s pastrami? 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles, (213) 483-8050. Lunch and dinner, Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Wine and beer. Lot parking. MC, V. Pastrami, $9. Deli. JG ¢ * ‹
Lucy’s Drive-In. As you power down toward the Santa Monica Freeway from Hollywood, the Mexican-American drive-thru institution Lucy’s is a logical place to go; carnitas tacos, wet chile verde burritos, enchilada platters and really crisp French fries that have picked up an intriguing, toasty sweetness from being fried in the same oil as the tortilla chips. Lucy’s may not have the best Mexican food in Los Angeles, but it may be as well as you can do without actually getting out of the car. 1373 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 938-4337. Open daily, 24 hours. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. $6-$6.35. Mexican-American. JG ¢ *
Orean The Health Express. Anchoring a strip of drive-through restaurants more extensive than even the fabled business district of Baker, Orean is a bastion of veganism in the midst of rainforest despoilers, battling the corporate fast-food hordes with its vast agglomerations of textured vegetable protein, sprouted clover and soy cheese that concede nothing to a double chili-cheeseburger in sheer, trashy, sloppy bulk — the so-called African burrito is as big as a tahini-dripping Sunday Times. And if you don’t want to be seen eating anything so vulgar as a vegan pastrami dip in public, you can wash it down with a ginseng slush or a no-dairy root beer float without leaving the safety and comfort of your Hummer. 817 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena; (626) 794-0861. Open seven days, 9:30 a.m.– 9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. $7-$9. Vegan. JG ¢ * ¶
Pepe’s No. 2 (as far as we know, there is no Pepe’s No. 1) is as renowned for the lousiness of its burritos as it is for its spectacular taquitos, fat, meaty things, overstuffed even, with frizzled, blackened strings of beef hanging out at the ends, and a cool, chunky guacamole spiked with diced onions and tomato. 9020 Telegraph Road, Downey, (562) 869-7045. Lunch and dinner, Mon.– Sun., 7:30 a.m.– 9 p.m.; Fridays, 7:30 a.m.– 10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. $1.70-$7. Mexican. JG ¢ *
Spike’s Teriyaki Bowl. Hawaiian food, as we all know, is a triumph of street-level multiculturalism, a three-ring wango tango of American abundance, Asian technique and the genius of Polynesian flavors. But sometimes, just sometimes, Hawaiian cooking, the drive-thru kind at least, also means things like drippy teriyaki bowls, grilled pork on sticks and chicken sauced with stuff sweet enough to slop over pancakes. Gentlemen, start your engines. 1530 San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel. Open seven days, 10 a.m.– 12 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. ATM cards and cash only. $6.50-$10. Hawaiian. JG ¢ *
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Tasty Q. Around Thanksgiving time, this barbecue emporium may be best known as the home of the deep-fried turkey, a crunchy-skinned Louisiana delicacy that you can order here with a couple days’ notice even when it doesn’t happen to be November. Believe us: Turkey is not something you want to deep-fry at home, even if your cousin Lambert happens to think it’s a good idea. The rest of the year, Tasty Q functions as a genuine drive-thru barbecue stand — but trust us on this one too — Armor All is of absolutely no use against the sauce. 2959 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 735-8325. Open seven days, 10:30 a.m.– 10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. $9.25-$15.50. Barbecue. JG ¢ *
Tommy’s. There’s no way around it: Eating a Tommyburger is an aggressive act. You can’t stop at Tommy’s and expect to go back to the office; you can’t inhale a Tommyburger at 1 in the morning and expect your spouse to kiss you when you finally stagger home. A Tommyburger is an uncouth thing, a sloppy, stinking mess, oozing chili and raw onion, that takes over your system for the better part of a day. Tommyburgers can’t really be considered car food, unless you’re okay with orange grease spots on the upholstery and an aroma that lasts longer than most warranties, but the Hollywood branch, a drive-thru exquisitely positioned right off the Hollywood Boulevard exit of the 101, makes it possible to coast in off the freeway, load up on chili burgers and cruise back toward downtown in a scant minute. 5873 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 467-3792. Open daily, 24 hours. No alcohol. Lot parking. ATM cards, cash. $4.20-$5.50. American. JG ¢ *
Top’s. The drive-thru hamburger is generally a sorry proposition, a junkyard of unhappy Happy Meals, of unstellar Famous Stars, of charnel-house malteds and grisly lumps of gristle, of TV-slick cheesy things and other restaurants so terrifyingly off-brand that you fear for your intestinal fauna. And then there is Top’s, where the bacon-avocado cheeseburgers are grand, goopy things; the onion rings are pleasingly crunchy; and the shakes are as dense and sweet as a life well lived. 1792 E. Walnut St., Pasadena, (626) 584-0244. Lunch and dinner, Sun.– Thurs., 7 a.m.–11 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 7 a.m. –12 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. ATM cards and cash only. $6.35-$10.79. American. JG ¢ *
Starbucks. What could be better than an iced double-tall decaf caramel soy macchiato with double foam? Plenty of things, actually. But even a few minutes in Westside traffic can lead to all kinds of inappropriate yearnings, and a caffeinated visit to the drive-thru window, the only one of its type in the 310, can suddenly seem like the most rational thing in the universe. WiFi access, too, although we’re not sure how well it works when you’ve locked yourself into your Scion. 3020 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 392-0134. Weekdays, 5:30 a.m.–9 p.m.; weekends, 5 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. $2 and up. Coffee. JG ¢ * ‹