VIDEO: Dunkin’ Donuts Opens In Santa Monica. Worth The Hype?

 

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

Flavors: Chocolate Frosted, Blueberry Cake, Oreo Crumb, Pumpkin Pie

Although summer is ending, it doesn’t look like food events in L.A. are slowing down one bit! As my friend and I happened to be in Santa Monica for a group taping of the Epic Meal Empire show by the guys of Epic Meal Time, we figured we’d also check out Dunkin’ Donuts.

We were curious to see how crazy the line was, as the grand opening was just a day ago. Since the line didn’t look as long as we’d expected and we had some time on our hands, we figured let’s wait in the line and see whether this long-awaited opening is worth the hype. For the sake of food journalism, of course!

In case you didn’t know (despite the frenzy here in Los Angeles), DD has opened its first location in Southern California in decades. You see, Dunkin’ Donuts was actually around until the late 90’s. However, all that’s existed in SoCal since then are a couple smaller locations such as the one in Barstow, on the way to Las Vegas. However, this is the first full-service store to open in recent times, and people are going ga-ga over it.

Once we arrived on scene with a healthy dose of skepticism in tow (so much hype!), we waited in the line that didn’t seem too crazy for Day 2, but did move quite slowly. However, shooting the video below to share with you guys did help the time go by more quickly. Forty-five minutes of our time, to be exact!

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

Was it worth it? Here are some tips and candid thoughts, along with a video review of the experience so you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth the trek and the wait:

  • If you absolutely must try a new place as soon as it opens, try to wait until at least Day 2. This will save you hours of your life versus braving the crowds, lines and general madness of opening day. The excitement will be there, minus (most of) the crazy. If you love camping out and scoring free stuff for being first in line on opening day that much though, more power to you!
  • Service was good, as they tried to be as efficient as possible by taking orders for 6 or more while customers stood in line. That way, they’re ready for you when you get to the front. However, not all options are listed on those glossy menu sheets!
  • The cake donuts are pretty solid. Moist, a bit fluffy on the inside, and not overly sweet. If you enjoy filled donuts, the Boston Cream is probably your best bet, unless you enjoy the artificial-tasting, extra sugary “cream” filling in the other donuts. Another one I really wanted to love, but at least the Boston Cream was a winner.
  • I tried Dunkin’ on the East Coast years ago. Was underwhelmed by the yeast donuts. I’m sad to say these were no different, tasting dense, a bit dry, and not very fresh. The chocolate frosting on the donut with sprinkles (see video below) was on point though. Still, Dunkin’s donuts pale in comparison to the glorious, pillowy, freshly fried rings of dough found at most mom & pop shops around town. Which basically come up every few blocks in most areas. Check them out sometime, trust me!
  • While I know many people rave hardcore about the coffee and not the donuts, I must say that I didn’t really enjoy the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Disclaimer: I’m not a regular coffee drinker, but I do enjoy an occasional ice coffee… and I know a good one when I sip one! This one even had an extra pump of pumpkin spice (cashier’s suggestion), but it still didn’t taste anything like pumpkin to me, and just tasted weirdly artificial. I wanted to like it, I really did!
  • “Pumpkin pie” donut didn’t have any taste of pumpkin nor pie, and seemed to be choc full of artificial flavoring and unnatural orange color. The texture was also not how it looks in the ads, tasting again like the sugary frosting of a storebought cupcake. However, the pumpkin pie spice cake donut was quite tasty! One out of three pumpkin flavored items nailed it, in our opinion.
  • Parking can be hard to find with all the permit-parking-only side streets, but there are lots around for $1 an hour. Not too bad on that front!
  • Sorry if I’ve offended you and your love of Dunkin’ Donuts. As a native Californian and donut lover (from small shops to gourmet eateries), I think there are a ton of specialty donut places around these days that offer far better quality, using better ingredients and innovative flavors. DD’s price is not bad at all, however.
  • If I go back, I do want to try their breakfast sandwiches. Wonder how good those are, because they look great! I just don’t want to get my hopes up ’til I try it, since you can’t trust the hype, it looks like. I still don’t understand the obsession, unless you grew up on Dunkin’. Sorry guys! I will try again sometime, though.

The overall experience was a good one, and I think they’ve done a fantastic job branding and creating a cultlike obsession over not necessarily the product itself (besides maybe the coffee, depending on whom you talk to), but the entire experience, which leaves you feeling happy you visited.

The Video:

Tanaya's Table - Dunkin Donuts Santa Monica Opening Video

Check out the one-minute video for highlights from Day 2 of the Dunkin’ Donuts opening!

Although East Coasters may have grown up on Dunkin’, I wonder how Californians will keep loving Dunkin’ in the long run, with all the other great donut and coffee places around. Perhaps Dunkin’ Donuts should be called Dunkin’ Coffee? It will also be interesting to see if local donut businesses and cafes (as we have a lot of mom & pop shops!) will take a hit as more Dunkin’ Donuts stores descend on Southern California. Personally, the DD experience was nice overall, but I’m all for the local mom & pop shops who have amazing donuts and a neighborhood feel!

Try it for the collective experience, and feel free to share your thoughts once you have been. Hope you enjoy it if you do decide to check it out. More summer food highlights to come!

Hidden Gem: Eat Food Drink Coffee

Although it may be a smallish suburban city, there are many things that Cerritos, CA is known for. For one, it’s got that really cool titanium-plated library with a shark tank, which was named one of the world’s 50 most beautiful libraries.

Of course, there’s always the Cerritos Auto Square that pretty much everyone in SoCal knows about as well. The Los Cerritos Mall, Cerritos Towne Center, and the Cerritos Performing Arts Center are also popular local destinations. Yet none of these involve one of the best secrets in Cerritos.

Okay, I lied. The hidden gem I’m talking about is Eat Food Drink Coffee, and it is located right next to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. However, most locals who live right down the street are oblivious to this wonderful little cafe that feels like home away from home.

Eat Food Drink Coffee Ube Pancake 2

When I first discovered Eat Food Drink Coffee, I actually almost missed it. It is adjacent to an office building, contained to a smallish corner of the large, corporate-looking edifice. However, once you meander inside, it’s a whole new world of warmth and good vibes.

The service is stellar, and even though I don’t prefer disclosing right off the bat (if at all) that I write about food, they must have detected that we were food lovers, because they seemed to especially enjoy having us there… in a genuine way. Juan, our chef, delighted in the fact that we trusted him to choose the options that came with our meal, and personally brought the food out to us.

Eat Food Drink Coffee Ube Pancake 1

We had the ube (purple yam) pancakes, which are technically not on the menu, but I had heard about them and they were accommodating in making them for us. The uniquely purple pancakes had the subtly sweet, starchy and slightly vanilla-like flavor, so they were definitely made with plenty of the real stuff. Your first time trying them (be sure to ask for them!), don’t expect a fluffy interior so much as a cake-like texture, which actually goes quite well with the ube flavor. Delicious, and a must-try for ube lovers and curious foodies.

We also got a breakfast bagel sandwich filled with a fried egg and crispy bacon, which was the special of the day and came with a hot beverage. Seeing how our group was sharing different items, Chef Juan cut the sandwich into four pieces before bringing it out to us. Talk about personalized service!

Eat Food Drink Coffee Sandwich

Lastly, the turkey and crispy onion sandwich on ciabatta bread was the perfect lunch dish to end our meal. The soft ciabatta bread held together moist turkey slices, crisp lettuce, a zingy mustard and crispy crushed onion rings. The Hawaiian hazelnut boba (yes, they have boba too!) is another flavorful complement to your midday meal. They also have a few interesting crepes, such as the red velvet or the PB&J, which I personally have yet to try.

As Juan chatted with us, it was clear that he loves his job and enjoys making people happy with his food. It was also clear that this place needs to be put on the map, because most current customers are office folks who need to get in, get out and get on with their work… and thus can’t truly appreciate the cafe for all that it is. Additionally, after the new management took over the cafe in August, even the office folks have been skeptical to give them a try, due to past experiences with an old place in the same location. However, this new gem, tucked away in an unassuming business plaza, is truly worth seeking out.

Eat Food Drink Coffee Location

Eat Food Drink Coffee is located at 17785 Center Court Drive, Suite 185 Cerritos, CA 90703, and they even deliver. They are open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on select Saturdays during the same hours as the nearby Cerritos Farmer’s Market. My recommendation would be to call them at 562.402.4400 before coming if you’re hoping to catch them on a Saturday.

Trust me, you’ll be glad you tried it. Cerritos pride!