Randy’s Donuts in Seoul provides L.A. taste to South Korea


Typically you permit Los Angeles solely to seek out that it has arrived at your vacation spot lengthy earlier than you.

Just a few years in the past on a visit to Tokyo I encountered Downtown Los Angeles’ Pie Gap within the basement of a practice station on my method to attempt Afuri Ramen, a yuzu ramen specialist.

And this cultural transmission works in each instructions. Just a few weeks in the past, not removed from the unique location of Pie Gap, I had the identical bowl of noodles on the new Arts District department of Afuri Ramen.

So I used to be extra bemused than shocked to seek out, after 16 hours of journey to go to buddies in Seoul, a Randy’s Donuts only a few blocks from my resort in Korea.

The blocky brown font spelling out “Randy’s” in all capitals was unmistakable. And the enormous doughnut — although scaled down to slot in a storefront window — had the acquainted disturbingly brown colour and mottled texture that I’d by no means truly need an precise doughnut to have.

The similarities ended there. Randy’s Donuts in Seoul options the sloped tile rooftops discovered on hanoks, conventional Korean properties. The inside blended gentle wooden accents and polished white granite tabletops with paper lanterns and wall decor impressed by sliding paper display screen doorways. Within the show case there have been the standard maple bars, apple fritters and glazed old-fashioneds; and more moderen creations together with a cronut-like pastry and a glazed doughnut topped with charred inexperienced onion, garlic cream cheese and cheddar.

I washed down my spring onion doughnut with one thing referred to as an Aewol Ocean Ade, a fizzy blue lemonade topped with a mint leaf.

The primary commonality between Randy’s in America and Seoul is the chance to be the unwilling backdrop to professionally created social media content material. When my buddy and I went, we have been flanked by a three-person shoot, together with lights, tripods and even a dressing up change. I can’t recall if the modern trio of Korean influencers truly ate the doughnuts they photographed.

By the point I acquired there, Randy’s in Seoul was outdated information. There are actually 5 Randy’s Donuts places in Korea, the primary of which opened in August 2019 on Jeju Island, a preferred Korean honeymoon vacation spot. Now you will discover Randy’s in Costa Mesa, Las Vegas and even Manila. Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme have been duking it out in Korea for many years.

Historical past is usually misplaced within the transition from beloved native favourite to international model. The story of the unique Randy’s follows the rise of programmatic structure and one man’s endearingly bombastic response to Southern California automobile tradition.

As soon as, 10 gigantic doughnut statues standing greater than 20 toes tall loomed over Los Angeles. They lured drivers to places of the Huge Donut Drive-in chain, begun in 1950 by Russ Wendell, a former doughnut machine salesman.

After Wendell determined to shut down the chain within the Seventies and bought off the places one after the other, at the very least 4 monumental doughnuts stayed open underneath names like Kindle’s, Dale’s and Donut King II.

Randy’s large doughnut was essentially the most well-known remnant of the chain, maybe due to its location at La Cienega Boulevard and Manchester Boulevard. Neighboring LAX and visual from the freeway, the doughnut stand’s visibility made Randy’s right into a ubiquitous cultural icon. Randy’s doughnut has been featured in catastrophe motion pictures, graced the quilt of a J Dilla beat file, and cameoed in “Iron Man 2.”

The Randy’s Donut Korea web site provides a simplified model.

“Primary donut model in america!”

This viral cultural fluidity has been part of city life for practically a decade now. Grand Central Market’s Eggslut has unfold to Seoul as nicely. And it’s helpful to take a step again and take into consideration how bizarre this new world is. If one thing is cool anyplace, it is going to quickly seem in every single place. Cities have turn out to be extra like trending pages, the place something would possibly seem and disappear on a given day.

Randy’s presence in Korea displays the nation’s specific cultural wizardry, which hoovers up hip ideas from everywhere in the globe and creates remixes, replicas and remakes which can be so skillfully finished that you just hardly discover the historic or cultural incongruities. My journey additionally featured a margherita pizza from a Little Italy-style restaurant replete with stained glass home windows and a Korean chef who obtained an official certification from the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani in Naples, Italy — absolutely the world’s foremost authority on Neopolitan pizza authenticity.

You begin to marvel, why hassle dragging your self to a different nation? Simply wait lengthy sufficient, and an algorithmically optimized collection of the world’s most viral meals and experiences will possible seem in your metropolis.

Seoul residents have grown used to the accelerated life cycle of developments. Once I met with John Lee, a post-punk musician born in Southern California who lived in Chicago earlier than arriving in Seoul in 2008, he famous that the smashburgers round Seoul had turn out to be notably tasty previously few years. However straightforward come, straightforward go.

“Typically there will probably be this factor that I believe is admittedly cool, like, after which I’ll come again a number of years later and it’ll be a cosmetics retailer,” Lee stated.

Our tradition is so fluid now that geography and historical past appear superfluous. The previous, current and future commingle in a heady, chaotic combination, and discovering gems has by no means been easier and extra meaningless. All the pieces is in every single place, and nothing ever actually dies out, nor will something actually final. Tradition has been freed, or stripped, relying on how you are feeling, of the cumbersome ties to authenticity.

It’s straightforward to really feel disturbed or jaded in any respect of this. I can not advocate the spring onion doughnut. However there was a palpable inventive power in Seoul that shortly whittled away my cynicism.

I browsed outlets that efficiently mingled midcentury trendy decor with Andy Warhol-esque iconography and a childlike Fisher-Worth aesthetic — image a chrome diner-style Burger King clock and vibrant pink plastic foldout chairs paired with a espresso desk of glass and metal.

Diners are a crumbling custom in america, however in Seongsu-dong, which some name Seoul’s Brooklyn, I discovered eating rooms the place the Nineteen Fifties have by no means felt extra vibrant and alive. So what in the event that they’re serving Japanese curry as an alternative of hash browns?



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