Strong opinions on donuts are far from rare. But for strong and informed opinions about donuts—especially about donuts in Southern California—look no further than Crystal Quach and Jason Luu. They’re the married proprietors of Class One Donuts in Glendora, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley and also home to the legendary Donut Man.
Quach and Luu have visited at least 100 donut shops (so far) in their five years together as a couple. It’s not unusual for them to trek long distances—as far as 30 miles around Los Angeles—to try a new place. They analyze each donut and have long discussions on what made it good or how it could improve: better ingredients, the right level of doughiness and sugar, or a clear need to change out the frying oil to cut down on grease.
In 2018, Quach and Luu took over a longstanding donut shop that had already been in the neighborhood for 22 years in order to launch Class One. It was a challenge at first to get the existing customers accustomed to new owners. But they worked hard to build a rapport, and eventually won them over.
That means “knowing their names, kids’ names, pets’ names, and their favorite donuts,” says Luu. “My wife is very good with this. She remembers what they order every time they come in.”
No doubt Quach is a natural because she grew up in the donut business—her parents own Fresh Donuts and Sandwiches in Perris, and Daily Donuts in South Gate. Now that she has her own donut shop, she says, “People always ask, ‘Aren’t you cheating on your dad’s donuts?’”
Quach’s parents are ethnically Chinese (specifically of the Teochew diaspora) and immigrants by way of Cambodia. Rather than go into the family business, they wanted their children to pursue higher education and get experience working in the professional world.
“My parents worked so hard to push me and my brother not to go into the donut shop industry,” Quach says, “because it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of hours, and you never have a break ... They wanted us to have a stable life with weekends off, kind of like the American dream of having your kids not work so hard.”
Of the nearly 1,500 independent donuts shops in California, most are owned by Cambodian Americans, according to a California Sunday story from 2014. Ted Ngoy, a.k.a. “The Donut King” (and incidentally Quach’s uncle) came to the U.S. as a Cambodian refugee in the 1970s and built a donut shop empire. Ngoy helped fellow immigrants by employing them at his stores, and assisting them in becoming lessees of their own.
“These immigrants were able to keep their doors open through numerous social and economic adversities,” says Luu, whose family background is also Teochew by way of his Vietnamese mother. “Many shops are still standing today. Seven days a week. Some are even open 24 hours. If it wasn’t for the Cambodian immigrant owners, most donut shops would be corporate-owned. The experience would be different.”
As cases of anti-Asian attacks have grown in the U.S., the couple feels safe in Glendora. “We have a healthy relationship with our community ... people know that, and they protect us in the way that there’s a lot of police officers who live there and who are our customers, and they’re always watching out for us,” Quach says. “Older people are watching out for us, and our neighbors in the plaza [are, too]. We’re like family.”
Despite his earlier reservations, Quach’s father supports his daughter’s decision to open a place of her own. “Now I feel good to have my daughter carry on the legacy of the donut shop business—a business that was able to send all my children to college,” he says.
For Quach and Luu, their store isn’t just about the donuts—it’s about the comfort and escape they can provide from pandemic stress and other pressures. Quach even started curating and selling houseplants in the shop as a pandemic extra, encouraging combo plant-and-donut purchases. “Donuts are very positive,” Luu says. “When you buy a donut or come to the donut shop, there’s nothing that can really go wrong.”
Drawing on Quach and Luu’s first-hand and family-fueled knowledge of the best donuts for miles around, here are their favorite shops in Southern California.
M&M is open early like any donut shop, but after closing at noon, it reopens at 9pm for a famous late-night scene. Almost as famous as the donuts are the infamous long lines to snag them. They have the “best hot blueberry donuts,” Luu says of the Cambodian-owned shop. “Love the experience of sitting in the late-night drive-thru line for an hour at 11pm.”
Blinkies Donut Emporium
Asian-run Blinkie’s has been open since the 1960s, drawing four generations of customers through its doors. Luu describes the current owner as the “same warm lady” that’s been “behind the counter for many years.” He’s a fan of their black-and-white glazed donut.
Kettle Glazed Doughnuts
While Kettle Glazed has a strong hold on the classics, the shop isn’t afraid to step out of the box. The shop has “very unique flavors of donuts,” Luu says, adding that he and Quach love their lemon blueberry old fashioned the best. Kettle Glazed also plays with flavors like ube and makes flaky croissant-donut hybrids.
Sidecar has multiple locations in Southern California, but Luu calls out the Santa Monica shop for “very fresh, hot donuts with unique recipes.” The shop fries donuts in small batches all day long, and the seasonal menu includes flavors like rainbow berry pop tart and salted malted chocolate chip cookie dough. “Our favorite is their butter-and-salt cake donut—we journey out there often for this one,” Luu says.
Uncle Joe's Donuts
The Asian-helmed store is a “staple of the area, same owner for 30 years—and he still works there,” Luu says. “Their donuts still taste exactly the same as many years ago when we were kids.” It’s a solid old-school spot with classic favorites like maple bars and jelly-filled donuts.