Best Giant Doughnuts of Los Angeles

When World War IV — or V, or whatever we’re up to now — breaks out and only the pirates are left, how will they guide their ships into the ruined remains of Los Angeles? Giant doughnuts on the rooftops of sunken bakeries. Not that there’s a Port of La Puente surrounding that city's famed Donut Hole drive-through — at least not yet. Just give that global-warming thing you’ve been hearing so much about a chance.

L.A.'s kitsch architecture harkens back to times when dentists hung large teeth above their office doors so that passersby might better identify the service provided. On one recent balmy evening, I toured the giant doughnuts, otherwise known as L.A.’s network of nigh-unto-mythical dens of diabetes.

South on Western Avenue, beyond the Snooty Fox Hotel and a surplus of Belizean and soul-food joints, a yellow doughnut hung on the horizon. “Hot-Fresh” Donut King II is a drive-through open 24 hours. Two cake doughnuts and milk come to less than $2. Then it’s onward to Dale’s Donuts in Compton. The store’s name emblazoned in bold letters makes it seem like a much larger doughnut. But Dale's has closed early. It’s okay to cry.

Actually, Dale's doughnut is the same size as the other five I visit: 22 feet in diameter. All of them were designed by sculptor Robert Graham for Russell Wendell’s Big Donut Drive-In chain. One of Wendell's Big Donuts has seen its behemoth transmogrified into a bagel — although it looks more like a monster truck tire flecked with raisins. Still, Bellflower Bagel is a reminder of days when Bellflower represented the apogee of small-town America.

The original of the chain, 24-hour Kindle’s Giant Donut on South Normandie Avenue at West Century Boulevard, built in 1950, brings in its share of sketchy insomniacs. But Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood, the most familiar landmark of the six, has the best doughnuts at midnight. The jelly doughnuts contain denture-annihilating seeds, the glaze slays, and the devil’s food cake tastes like heaven instead of hell. It has pleasantly horrible coffee and mascot Randy, although one corner of the drive-through roof has fallen victim to too many tall-profile vehicles over the years.

The Donut Hole boasts “It’s The Quality” as one drives through the center of two 26-foot-diameter chocolate doughnuts; their presence in the middle of a grassy field is almost pastoral. Here, the intense smell of made-to-order powdered-sugar doughnuts wafted from a rooftop fan, handily overpowering the scent of the In-N-Out and the taco shack across the street. Finally: a war worth fighting.

Donut King II 15032 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 515-1319

Dale’s Donuts 15904 S. Atlantic Ave., Compton, (310) 635-0823

Bellflower Bagel 17025 Bellflower Blvd., Bellflower, (562) 866-8672

Kindle’s Giant Donut 10003 S. Normandie Ave., L.A., (323) 756-8548

Randy’s Donuts 805 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, (310) 645-4707

The Donut Hole 15300 E. Amar Rd., La Puente, (626) 968-2912

LA Weekly