“It’s really hard you know… but sometimes you just got to step it up.” – Henry Co-Owner of Hometown Donuts
I have a “love to hate” relationship with this place. There’s probably six reasons I’d like to go back to “Ala-MURDA” (the Swag generation came up with that one), three of them have to do with food/drink spots and the rest is personal.
It’s been two years since I started this blog publication. Within the two years alone of starting this publication, a lot has happened since then and I want to keep going considering the newfound determination that kindled my spirit.
With my new intern and girlfriend in tow, we decided to explore some stomping grounds, introducing Hometown Donuts, a corner truck stop on the lone corner of West Alameda:
Remnants of the Naval Base were converted into copy and paste Suburb housing, Mythbusters film sets, Hanger One (local Vodka distillery), and of course, a Fitness gym named Bladium to boot. When you first enter this place, it’s your typical truck stop with its signature dilapidated booth seating, lottery signage and the occasional blue collar worker ordering these bad boys:
*As a side story*: The donuts were standard products, especially to many Southeast Asian (Cambodian predominantly) owned businesses in the late 70s to early 90s. As time progressed most of them went out of business, but a few managed to survive throughout select pockets of the Bay Area as well as within Southern California.
A notable spot for me growing up was (insert cliche business title) Lee’s Donuts, which settled along Broadway in Oakland, California. What’s really interesting is when I was about six, for a majority of the time they ran out of their standard stuff (fritters, maple bars and the sort). All that was left was a few deformed doughnut holes (sold a dozen for a $1.00).
I remember going there every other week when I was in middle school and always asking the lady, “Why don’t you add custard to your doughnut holes?” She gave it some thought and then she replied, “You think people will like it?” “Of course,” I replied. Soon thereafter, the additional twenty-five cent surcharge on filling up my doughnut holes with custard became an all time favorite.
Years gone by and soon enough they (like most of uptown’s businesses in the early 2000s) went out of business, that is until the African Braiding company took it over and currently run the business as “Donut Savant,” an artisan doughnut hole joint. According to one of the DS crew members, she stated the original owners moved back to Texas. *end of side story*
What’s even more interesting to note is to this day, I haven’t found a single doughnut shop willing to take the risk and actually experimenting with this classic idea of adding custard to doughnut holes! (a man could dream)
The reason I brought up such a childhood memory is this place encompasses many things for me, as a writer, devotee of food/drink culture and a man of simple tastes. Which is why… I only come here for the burgers.
BURGERS… Why in God’s name would you come to a vintage donut shop for burgers, in B.F.E. of West Alameda?
As mentioned per my recent Yelp review, I really don’t come here for the donuts. A lot of people co-signed on my cryptic review and agreed the real beauty of this place is what’s on the grill.
The same thing happened when I wrote about Matiki Island BBQ in Anaheim, with only three reviews and some time after a small cult following grew (with one-hundred seventeen reviews and numerous reviews ). For my burger, I did away with the onion and tomatoes, getting in the way of the entire burger masterpiece.The cheese jalapeno fries are a cheap thrill, taking me down memory lane on the numerous off-campus lunches I had with a select group of friends before we went back and slacked in class.
Straight forward American flavors, no fuss, no artisanal ingredients. Classic cooking of the medium cooked patties, crispy strips of bacon, american cheese and lettuce.
We weren’t able to get an interview (we’ll definitely follow up on a later date) with Henry; however, he did specify this place opened in 1988 while he took ownership in 1990. 23 years of donuts, burgers and patronage.
With only two years under our belt, there’s much more to learn and grow from. Celebrating it with this issue meant to rediscover the roots of restaurant journalism. Thank you to everyone who’s supported us in this journey so far.
“Fortune Favors The Flavor 2014: It’s going to be one hell of a ride.”