Since L.A. drummer and music producer Mark Trombino opened
Donut Friend on Sept. 14, which happened to be National Cream-Filled Donut Day,
Highland Park’s latest and much anticipated eatery has been attracting a
regular stream of customers.
“We’ve been getting great crowds,” said Trombino. “People seem to really like what we’re doing—it’s been kind of overwhelming.”
Pitched as "Donuts Done Differently" and priced affordably at $2.50 to $4 apiece, Trombino's donuts are a feast for the senses. The first daily wave of customers for the oozing confections at 5107 York Blvd. begins “right at 8 o’clock and then it tapers off,” Trombino said. The next rush of sweet-toothed fiends starts toward lunchtime, tapering off again.
With a staff of four or five people, Trombino’s there every day, behind the scenes, monitoring the kitchen to make sure that his recipes for donuts with intriguing names such as Spanish Bomb and Bacon 182 get cooked right. (Spanish Bomb is the only donut that’s not named after a music band; rather, it’s named after a song by a band called The Clash.)
Although some of the cooking staff do have restaurant experience, “nobody’s experienced in donuts,” Trombino openly confided, adding: “I’m the most experienced, but I have no experience.”
So, are donuts that easy to make (never mind the huge investment in opening the store)?
“No—they’re not easy at all,” Trombino said. “I wouldn’t say this was a smart thing to do. “But I knew I could do it eventually.”
Trombino training pretty much amounted to making a ton of donuts at home, watching a lot of YouTube videos, and visiting donuts shops to see how they do things.
“That’s about it,” he said. “It’s pretty much trial and error.”
Trombino gets his ingredients from different places—some hyperlocal, others not. “I’m still in the middle of trying to figure out where to get everything from,” he said, adding: “Some stuff I’m still buying retail, which is dumb, but I’m trying to find someone I can buy wholesale from.”
Buying retail includes popping into Whole Foods, “which is crazy,” Trombino admits, adding that although he’s trying to buy as many ingredients as he can locally, his priority right now is much more basic—keeping things in stock.
“If it’s local, great, if not—I want strawberries, so I’m getting strawberries,” Trombino said.
Until this past week, Donut Friend was open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This week, said Trombino, the store will be open until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
“Hopefully, we’ll keep expanding it,” Trombino said, referring to the store hours.