Sean Tao, center, owner of D.K.'s donuts on Santa Monica Boulevard, with his dedicated employees.

It was not too long ago that my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee bit the dust. As everything under the hood seemed to go up in smoke, so was the notion that I was going to be able to function sans motor vehicle in Los Angeles. To the contrary, getting rid of a 3,000 pound hunk of metal, glass, rubber, and plastic was the most liberating thing I have ever done.

Commuting via bicycle and public transportation in Los Angeles is a daunting to downright terrifying notion for most people. I would be lying if I said biking this city does not have its pitfalls, or that there are no crazy, smelly people on the bus, but with some street sense and knowledge of the Metro and Big Blue Bus routes, it is a very doable endeavor. Sometimes forcing yourself out of your comfort zone is the only way to try something that regularly would be out of the question. Converting from a recreational biker to one of necessity gives you an entirely new perspective on the city, its streets, neighborhoods, people, and food.

I am more inclined to check out a restaurant on a bike than in a car. Parking is not an issue, it does not take much to work up an appetite, and, last time I checked, the 405 Freeway does not have any eateries on the shoulder. Biking and eating in Los Angeles is nothing less than an adventure. I am not trying to spearhead L.A.’s anti-car culture, or lead some sort of green movement. I just want to have my pastrami sandwich, and eat it too.

With that in mind, I’ve created Tour de Feast, a column focused on food that I eat while riding around town. I hope you enjoy it and will be inspired to hop on your bike the next time you’re thinking of dining out.

Go nuts for donuts

The donut is certainly one of life’s sweet treats. This well rounded, deep fried confection is definitely in the hearts, minds and stomach’s of Santa Monicans as well. Simply do a web search for donuts and you will find hundreds of listings peppered across the SoCal landscape.

However, the mega franchises have little to no representation in the L.A. donut scene. Dunkin’ Donuts has zero locations in the Los Angeles area, and Krispy Kreme has a meager three shops. Which literally and figuratively says, “you can take your corporate donut back to New York City!” In L.A. the ma-and-pop donut stand is alive and well. In Santa Monica no place embodies the independent donut shop like D.K.’s

D.K.’s, which stands for Dave and Karen’s, was ironically the name of a big donut chain which fizzled out around the same time Cong Tao purchased the shop on 16th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard some 30-plus years ago. Today D.K.’s is still at the same location, but just a couple years back Mr. Tao hung up the old donut roller, retired in his home country of Thailand, and handed the reins to his son, Sean. Being younger than the shop itself, yet still being around it most of his life, Sean Tao gives his own take on small business, service, and, of course, donuts.

“L.A. is a hip place, clubs open and close, shops open and close, we want to broaden our horizons. If there is something that our customers want we’re going to put it on the menu,” he told me last week.

While recognizing what customers want — which are the apple fritters, French crullers, eclairs, buttermilk bars, and glazed donuts — Sean understands the importance of keeping things fresh in the donut shop, too. What better way to broaden your horizons than with a bacon maple log? You will find the bacon maple log, or simply the BML, on the top shelf along with D.K.’s other avant-garde creations.

One week there will be churros and the next week it may be crumb cake, or bread pudding, or something else. D.K.’s is like that box of chocolates. The one where you never know what you’re gonna get. That is the fun of walking into D.K.s. You may see something new and exciting but you can still always fall back on that familiar old fashion.

“Our customers come back. They know what old fashion donuts are like. These are handmade. They’re not made by a machine,” Sean said.

“D.K.’s is a staple of Santa Monica. We’re pro-Santa Monica, we’re pro-small business. We don’t like the corporate model. We keep it real. If you don’t see it on our shelves, we’ll probably make it for you.”

D.K.’s certainly is a staple of Santa Monica. Perhaps it is not as famous as the Santa Monica Pier, but it has found its niche amongst the hospitals, car dealerships, offices, and residents in the surrounding area. It is always good to support your local businesses so why not do it with a bear claw, coffee, and a big grin on your face at D.K.’s?

Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike. To reach him visit his Twitter at twitter.com/greaseweek or his website at Greaseweek.com.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *