You know you've hit the big leagues when your donut shop has its own bouncer. That's exactly what's happened at California Donuts, where the pastries are so popular the Mom and Pop shop hires round-the-clock security outside. There's almost always a line at the walk-up window, especially after the shop's unexpected donut flavors and designs went viral.
In fact, even if you've never been to the Golden State, you've probably seen their work. Just searching the shop's name pulls up a whopping 38,000-plus posts on Instagram. And while California Donuts is technically the name of a few shops in the area (it was a franchise decades ago, but it's since become independently owned), almost all of the posts refer to California Donuts #21, at 3540 W. 3rd St. in Los Angeles.
They've gotten a reputation for their maple bacon donut, Snickers-stuffed variety and custom letter ones, which let you spell out anything you want, be it a proposal, apology, or the name of your favorite food site ever. But the most popular donut is as simple as it gets - and so cute it's a sheer test of willpower not to 'gram it.
We're talking about the panda donut. The store sells up to 450 a day, and they all started on a whim. "I owned another business that had a lot to do with pandas, so when I started working here, it was meant to be that at some point I'd create a panda donut," says Stephanie Kuoch. Her parents opened the shop after immigrating from Cambodia, so she grew up in the kitchen, but it wasn't until she and her sister were adults that they started putting their own spin on the shop's classic recipes.
The panda started as a custom order - a pillow-y classic donut topped with vanilla frosting and creatively chopped Oreos for the ears, eyes, and nose - that became so popular it earned a spot on the regular menu. Now the family bakes them all throughout the day and night, and has expanded its storefront to the space next door, just to keep up with demand. This summer, they expect their largest crowds of the year, as the shop's become a must-visit for tourists.
"One mom told me they traveled from out of state and asked her daughter where she wanted to go while in LA - Disneyland, Santa Monica - and the kid said, 'I want to go to California Donuts!'" Kuoch says. "We beat Disneyland?! That was pretty awesome."
It looks like the House of Mouse has got some sweet competition.
Follow Delish on Instagram.
You Might Also Like