Randy’s Donuts is an unquestionable icon of 1950s Los Angeles for obvious reasons: it is a typical mid-century drive-up restaurant with a giant donut on its roof. Not just a giant donut—Randy’s has THE giant donut, the most famous donut in America and maybe even the world. It has appeared in innumerable television shows, music videos, and films.
The donut shop was reportedly designed by Henry J. Goodwin as the second of ten locations for Russell C. Wendell’s now-defunct Big Donut Drive-In chain and was completed in 1953. Several others still survive, but Randy’s in Inglewood is the best known.
The building itself is a fairly unremarkable if admirably intact Mid-Century Modern drive-up food stand, and it may not technically count as Programmatic architecture (in which a building looks like the item it hawks). But the donut on its roof is just so large, so uncompromising, so demanding of our attention that we’ll look the other way and consider Randy’s a Programmatic design.
Structural engineer Richard Bradshaw, who worked on the Theme Building at LAX, is said to have designed this and other giant donuts out of rolled steel bars covered with gunite. The restaurant has seen multiple owners since Wendell, including the one who named it Randy’s in the mid-1970s, but it has been owned by donut enthusiasts Ron and Larry Weintraub since 1978.
Randy’s Donuts is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic landmarks and represents the postwar optimism and whimsy of the city in a way few other places can.