True story: I once called an Uber at 2:30 a.m. from City Donuts that never came. The next morning, I woke up with a slight headache, a few donut crumbs around the left corner of my mouth and a $78 charge for an Uber ride to Long Beach.
The tale is unrelated but also related because City Donuts—open 24 hours a day, seven days a week—is one of the most frequented late-night eateries on Balboa Peninsula. Stop in during the wee hours of the morning and you’re bound to run into a brood of debaucherous, fun-loving patrons. And probably also your ex. (It’s a small, small town.)
Despite its reigning popularity, City Donuts is the epitome of low key. The place has no website and no social media. The only trace of a Facebook page is filled with posts from passersby who stop in for a donut and one of those Instagram photos holding up said donut triumphantly against a dark, half-blurred background, as if the viewer has never seen a donut before.
Ah, yes, and what about those donuts? They’re notably mediocre—not great but not bad either—and they probably will never be more than status quo; visitors to City Donuts honestly just don’t care. City Donuts’ most ardent late-night patrons don’t go there for a Michelin-star meal. Truth is, they just want something (anything!) to eat during the precarious hours between closing time and bedtime.
The prices at City Donuts are completely reasonable. Cronuts, glazed donuts and donut holes are all within the $1 to $3 range. In the summer, you can buy a shelled coconut then stick a straw through the hole on top and drink out the juice.
City Donuts staff members are all surprisingly friendly, given the boozed-up ridiculousness of the customers. Credit must be given for employees’ ability to drunk-translate; they understand without fail “I’ll take a bloopie loo gurrrrrrple” means two jelly donuts and a bottle of water.
So if you find yourself hungry at 2:30 a.m. and looking for a place that boasts all the accoutrements of a small, little bakery with about half the taste, then City Donuts is your spot.