The first thing you’ll notice is all the colors. Then you’ll notice the twelve different pots of coffee. Then the cream-filled “o-nuts,” custom-created “wow-nuts”, the 24/7 sign, and finally the fact that you’ve started drooling.
On the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and 16th Street lies what may be the greatest hub of donut innovation in the world. I had the good fortune of interviewing the lovely Mayly Tao, DK’s owner and the self-proclaimed “Donut Princess,” about what it takes to run what many have referred to as “literal heaven.”
Spoon: Why is it called DK’s Donuts?
MT: Years ago, these was a donut franchise called DK’s Donuts. The franchise owner did not want to run it anymore so he split it up and sold the shops separately. My parents were escaping from what was essentially the Cambodian Holocaust at that time, came to America, and bought the business.
Spoon: How do you taste test your donuts? What’s the process of donut discovery?
MT: I’ve grown up around donuts my entire life and our team has a pretty good idea of what would be good. We pick a certain type of person and try to design a donut for them. For example, we decided to make a donut for caramel lovers so our newest donut is the Caramel Snickers.
Spoon: With all your innovation, have you ever made a bad donut? MT: We once made a Vitamin Donut, topped with vitamin gummy bears. It was good but didn’t really take off. Spoon: What’s your most popular donut? MT: DK’s Special House Cream Double Decker O-nut! O-nuts are croissant donut hybrids, this one rolled in a cinnamon sugar powder and stuffed with our family’s delicious cream made from our secret recipe.
Spoon: How would you say the donut industry has changed over the last 30 years? MT: Two ways. First, the image of a donut in past years was simply the glazed donuts. Now, donuts have been elevated to be become true artisan items. Second, our donuts are currently headed in a more on-demand, personalized direction. Just like frozen yogurt is now completely customized, there will be more donuts like that in future. With our Wow-nuts [waffle donuts!], customers get to choose all their toppings and flavors.
Spoon: What’s your vision for DK’s?
MT: We’re already doing a lot. We ship our donuts around the country and cater many prestigious events. Right now, we’re focused on making a big impact here in SoCal and national expansion is definitely something we’re looking at.
Spoon: What’s the best reason for college students to come to DK’s?
MT: We are open 24/7. We’ve literally been open for 35 years, through holidays and everything. A college student could get hot donuts and coffee at 2 am any day of the week. Plus we have easy parking.
Spoon: What’s coming up for DK’s?
MT: Two big things are coming up. First, we’re being featured on Food Network as one of the top five donut shops in the USA. That will air in May. Second, the first Friday of June is National Donut Day. We’re turning it into Donut Weekend and will be making hot donuts for 72 hours straight! There will be a big celebration right here all weekend.