Lost in the foodie hubbub over cupcake this and pan dulce that is the doughnut: the unassuming, fat-producing pastry of 3 a.m. fryings and black coffee, of Cambodian families misspelling the word to save a few bucks on the marquee and working-class stiffs seeking a meal of sugar to fuel the coming day. Orange County still has quite a few places whose most artisan pastry is the doughnut with sprinkles, though not as many as before. Few ever receive the praise they deserve, mostly because if you’ve eaten one dozen, you’ve eaten them all.
But standing as a calorie-busting exception is Oh Those Donuts, a Costa Mesa institution that has seen the rise, flourishing and fall of Triangle Square just up Newport Boulevard while never ceasing to bake its offerings 24 hours a day. Its selection is just like that at any other doughnut shop—bulging jelly versions with a crimson indentation to mark where the bakers stuffed sweet goo; plain doughnuts, thick and hearty, optimal for a dunk in milk; glazed pseudo-wheels that shine brighter than a just-polished fender. The maple bars work fine, while the bear claws look little like an ursine paw but nevertheless please you the same way they did when you were 10 and Dad allowed you to pick the final choice for the baker’s dozen. Half of Costa Mesa seems to worship the glazed twists, which look like a DNA strand come to life, but I’ve always been a cinnamon-roll guy, and the swirling, slowly rising rendition here is a must-eat: chewy inside, completely caked on the outside with a glaze that cracks when you bite into it. Or—better yet—unspool the roll to reveal the cinnamon frosting inside. If you want it topped with even more frosting, the shop’s staff will oblige—and it’s piping-fresh.
Oh Those Donuts has evolved with the times. Fat burritos share the menu with towering sandwiches, which you can custom-order by filling out a form. Cooks must use some of the oil they use to fry the doughnuts on the onion rings and French fries, so gloriously greasy are they. It even offers free WiFi, a fact usually lost on the drunks from the many bars surrounding the place who stumble in around 3 a.m., looking for anything to soak up one too many—an annoyance, to be sure, but something also strangely comforting. And that drive-through window? Genius.
Oh Those Donuts, 1734 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-4046.
This column appeared in print as “Glazed to Perfection.”