Just in time for our upcoming Donut Summit, the LA Times last week published a great story on the background and history of last year’s Donut King, Donut Man. Owned by third-generation Japanese American Jim Nakano, Donut Man opened in 1974 with Nakano manning a fryer and his wife, Miyoko, taking care of the order window. The rest is donut history:
With the treats came lore: Roy Rogers ordered a buttermilk bar before heading out on hunting trips. Elvis Presley, a jelly man, sent his karate instructor to pick up raspberry-filled doughnuts.
The tidbits are fascinating: Nakano was born in Boyle Heights and was only 2 when he and his family were sent to internment camps in Poston, Arizona:
He has vague memories of the sweltering tarpaper shacks where thousands of Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Even though the family was incarcerated, his father was drafted into the Army.
Released three years later, Nakano and his mother found that no one would rent to them, so they went to live with a white family they had befriended before the war. Eventually, they moved into Section 8 housing in San Pedro. His mother found a job at a cannery. Nakano fought off racist taunts in a community with few Japanese Americans.
There’s America for you. No thanks to that, Nakano and his wife eventually opened a donut shop, took over a local franchise, and began selling their own fried dough. The idea for the strawberry donut came from a friend; another friend conveniently owned a Marie Callender’s and was able to help him perfect the glaze.
A fascinating read into some great local history, the article also gets into the next fresh fruit donut (peaches) and my personal favorite, the shop’s tiger tails. Honestly though, anything that’s fresh out of the oven – just ask them, they’ll tell you – probably will be the best thing you’ve eaten in a very long time.
Photo by Burger Baroness and used under a Creative Commons license.