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

Generally you allow Los Angeles solely to search 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 prepare station on my strategy to strive 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 search out, after 16 hours of journey to go to mates in Seoul, a Randy’s Donuts only a few blocks from my lodge 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 coloration and mottled texture that I’d by no means really 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 houses. The inside combined 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 same old 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 known 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 good friend and I went, we had 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 really ate the doughnuts they photographed.

By the point I acquired there, Randy’s in Seoul was previous information. There at the moment are 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’ll find 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 world 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, not less than 4 monumental doughnuts stayed open below names like Kindle’s, Dale’s and Donut King II.

Randy’s big doughnut was essentially the most well-known remnant of the chain, maybe because of 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 films, graced the quilt of a J Dilla beat document, and cameoed in “Iron Man 2.”

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

“Number one donut brand in the United States!”

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 effectively. 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 can quickly seem all over the place. Cities have change into 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 explicit cultural wizardry, which hoovers up hip ideas from all around the globe and creates remixes, replicas and remakes which can be so skillfully executed 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 acquired an official certification from the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani in Naples, Italy — certainly the world’s foremost authority on Neopolitan pizza authenticity.

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

Seoul residents have grown used to the accelerated life cycle of traits. After 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 change into notably tasty previously few years. However straightforward come, straightforward go.

“Sometimes there will be this thing that I think is really cool, like, and then I’ll come back a few years later and it’ll be a cosmetics store,” 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 simpler and extra meaningless. The whole lot is all over the place, and nothing ever actually dies out, nor will something actually final. Tradition has been freed, or stripped, relying on how you’re feeling, of the cumbersome ties to authenticity.

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

I browsed outlets that efficiently mingled midcentury fashionable decor with Andy Warhol-esque iconography and a childlike Fisher-Worth aesthetic — image a chrome diner-style Burger King clock and vibrant crimson 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 Fifties have by no means felt extra vibrant and alive. So what in the event that they’re serving Japanese curry as a substitute of hash browns?