Inglewood, Los Angeles, Compton, and La Puente, California
There aren't many big doughnuts still standing -- in fact, maybe just these ones in California, unsurprisingly revered by googie-eyed shutterbugs and pop culture pundits. What's nice about the attractions is that they continue to operate exclusively as doughnut bakeries, where you can still grab a bag of honey-glazed, jelly-filled happiness.
The big doughnut at Randy's Donuts, Inglewood, CA, is a few miles north of LAX Airport off the 405. Trees and brush obscure the freeway view more than they must have in 1953, when the Big Donut Drive-in chain opened. Once up the exit ramp and on the cross-street, the 22-foot diameter snack appears poised to roll off an otherwise uninspired drive-thru store.
Randy's is a destination with Hollywood star status. It appears over and over as movie backdrop, in obliquely angled atmospheric LA montages or as CGI damage in the latest disaster or alien cataclysm. The big doughnut needs a regular smog and soot scrub -- a black grime is caked across the top and settled around the texture nubbins. The neighborhood itself is a little grimy.
But.... the doughnuts baked at Randy's are fresh and tasty -- honey-glazed, chocolate drenched, and fat bearclaws acquired at the drive-thru window from friendly staff. Randy's sells souvenir hats, and a T-shirt featuring an illustration of the building.
About ten miles southeast of Randy's, west of the 110, stands Donut King II, which sports an identical though lesser known structure. It's been painted bright yellow with rough red lettering that reads "Donut King II."
Another vestige of the Big Donut chain is called Kindle's Donuts, on South Normandie Avenue and West Century Boulevard in LA.
Head east to La Puente to admire our final California doughnut landmark.
The Donut Hole
The Donut Hole in La Puente is more immersive for the car-bound than Randy's, since you can actually drive through its brown double-dunker portal. Its also a darling of film location scouts, since it sits conveniently within the "Zone."
The Donut Hole was built in 1968, the two hollow ends fashioned from fiberglass and spanning 26 feet. One of a chain of five doughnut shops, this is the one that has survived. Plunked down in a typical store-jammed suburbia, the Hole's digestive system is taxed as a stop-and-go stream of cars are gulped down and unceremoniously pooted out. The fresh-baked choices are arrayed within, trayed along interior windows. We recommend buying an assortment bag of orange topped, plain and glazed.
You can bolt them down on your way to a Muffler Man within easy striking distance in El Monte.