In many ways, Japan is a wonderland of desserts, a place with cherry blossom lattes, roasted tea parfaits, and even suicide-themed bean cakes. Still, the country is rather lacking when it comes to donuts. The indigenous Mr. Donut chain has branches all over, but while their products are indeed tasty, they’re usually a little on the bland side.

If you want the full-fledged flavor of an authentic donut, you’ve got to visit one of the American outfits in Japan, such as Krispy Kreme or Donut Plant. Unfortunately, Donut Plant locations are few and far between, and the lines at Japan’s Krispy Kremes are ridiculously long, so there’s no way for us to get our hands on the real deal without a bit of time and travel.

Since we’d already tossed subtlety out the window as far as flavor is concerned, we decided to do the same for the scale of our search for donut satisfaction. We hopped on a plane, leaving the Land of the Rising Sun and heading for the Land of the Ring-Shaped Cake, America.

But as the saying goes, sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone, and as our plane touched down in Los Angeles, I realized how spoiled I’ve become living in Japan. Even in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, you can still find independent confectioners and bakeries, places with a real sense of presence. Many of them have a rotating lineup of seasonal offerings, adding a feeling of immediacy that mixes with the almost palpable history that comes from being family-owned in an era where large-scale corporations have become the norm.

Could I find a similar experience in Southern California? More importantly, could I find a place that would justify dragging my wife across the Pacific, partly on the premise that we could get some really good donuts in America?

Like the gold prospectors and would-be Hollywood stars who came before us, we’d come to California chasing our dream, and the chase led us to The Donut Man, in the city of Glendora.


Checking off the first box on our list of criteria, The Donut Man has just a single location, from which it’s been serving up delicious donuts for more than four decades. The store’s service record is all the more impressive when you take into consideration that the store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (although they do close for major holidays, so you’ll need to pick up your Christmas donuts at least a day ahead of time).

The Donut Man’s similarities to a Japanese sweets shop extend to its menu of limited-time only items. Their most popular indulgence is their fresh strawberry donut, which doesn’t settle for some wimpy strawberry sauce or glaze, but rather stuffs the donut full of the fruit.

DM 1

Other seasonal donuts include peach, pumpkin, and even peanut butter.

DM 2

Sadly, the strawberry donuts weren’t in stock on the day we stopped by, although they are available right now. Luckily, The Donut Man has a standing menu with over two dozen items, so we wouldn’t have to go home hungry. Customers order from a window that opens to the outside of the shop, and we looked over our options as we stood in line.


With so many types to choose from, I decided to ask the clerk for her recommendations, which she happily gave. As I started translating what she’d said for my wife, the clerk suddenly switched to Japanese and continued her explanation. As luck would have it, she was born and raised in Kobe, further illustrating The Donut Man’s power to pull people across the Pacific.

Now at the front of the line, it was decision time.

▼ Hmm…what to get…what to get…


▼ That! I don’t know what it is, but we’re totally eating it.


The monstrosity that caught our eye was the apple cinnamon crumb donut, and there was no way we weren’t getting one. We decided to round out our order with the clerk’s suggestion of a tiger’s tail, a length of twisted dough with chocolate braided into it.


But if there’s one drawback to The Donut Man, it’s that there’re no tables to sit and eat at. So we hopped back in the car and cruised to the neighboring town of San Dimas and Puddingstone Lake, braving the harsh elements of a 75-degree winter’s day in Los Angeles County.

▼ Brrr….I think I’m gonna need a long-sleeved shirt.


We opened up our box and noticed, for the first time, just how big the donuts were. At the shop they’re displayed behind glass, and with the glare coming off the windows it’s hard to get a sense of scale, but they’re massive.




We started with the tiger’s tail, fully expecting it to be both oily and delicious. Our prediction was only half right, as while the outer edge does indeed have plenty of oil, the pastry is surprisingly dense, leaving the inside doughy and soft, but not at all greasy. The chocolate gives it plenty of sweetness, but the donut itself is the main attraction here, with a great texture that avoids being flaky or crumbly.


Next, we moved on to the main event, the apple cinnamon crumb donut. Once we had it in our hands, it felt less like a donut and more like a sandwich.


Again, despite the glistening outer glaze, the thickness of the dough keeps the donuts from being greasy or slimy. Actually, it feels a bit like a slice of apple pie, with the cinnamon giving a slight accent to the sweet chunks of apple.


What makes the whole thing work is the firmness of the apples. Without it, this could have been a disaster that felt like dunking a soggy donut into a jar of apple sauce. Instead, the pastry has a properly layered taste that’s so good it left us looking forward to our next chance to chow down on one, even as the one we’d just eaten was still digesting.

Unfortunately, there was no time for a second Donut Man run, since we had a plane to catch. And while it’s great to be back in Japan, every time I look out across the ocean towards America, just before the round sun dips into the sea, it looks just a little like a donut to me.

Shop Information
The Donut Man
915 E. Route 66
Glendora, CA 91740
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Top image: RocketNews24
Insert images: RocketNews24, The Donut Man