There has been a line down the street to get in to Dunkin' Donuts for days. The Massachusetts chain opened its first California store in Los Angeles last Tuesday, September 2, and despite the city's reputation for cool hipsters that prefer all-natural, organic food and the finest upscale coffee brews available, Dunkin' Donuts is a huge hit.
The feverish response to the arrival of Dunkin' Donuts has perplexed the supposed taste makers of LA. Online foodie haven Eater LA cried, "Why, Los Angeles, why?" Even popular local blog LAist's snarky cynicism could not convince people to go elsewhere. Patrons still camped out overnight for the grand opening, some in line for more than 24 hours for a chance to be among the first to sample the legendary east coast coffee.
The confusion is understandable. Dunkin' Donuts tried to set up shop in California before but it didn't work out. It's been 20 years since there was a DD in LA. That's due in no small part to the steep competition, which may be even steeper now. Los Angeles might be in the midst of a record drought, but there is a huge abundance of coffee flowing in the city. There are more than 2,500 Starbucks locations in California. Coffee Bean is headquartered in Los Angeles, and has some 200 locations in the greater LA area. There are also a number of smaller coffee bars and mini-chains that make up something of a craft coffee movement in Los Angeles. The Dunkin' Donuts approach to coffee is decidedly less craft. And yet, it has a charm that Californians can't resist.
The doughnut competition isn't much better. As KCAL 9 observed last year, there's a doughnut shop on nearly every corner in LA. The vast majority are independently owned mom-and-pop shops, so they may not have the marketing muscle of a Dunkin' Donuts, but that doesn't mean they haven't earned their faithful customers. In July, a list of the 9 Best Donuts in Los Angeles on Thrillist was met with a baker's dozen of angry comments from Los Angeles doughnut aficionados demanding retribution for not mentioning their favorite shop. Dunkin's donuts might not be able to live up to local recipes, but there's something about those Munchkins that Los Angeles can't resist
As The Boston Globe notes, many of the first wave of diehards were east coast transplants with deep nostalgia for Dunkin' Donuts, as well as curious first-timers. LA-based Buzzfeed sent some 20-somethings down to investigate, and even they had to admit it was good.
"East coasters, you're right; this is delicious," concluded one taste-tester.
As announced in April, Dunkin' Donuts will stagger the opening of other Dunkin' Donuts locations throughout Los Angeles and southern California. So this is only the beginning for LA. Will the thrill wear off or is Dunkin' Donuts in LA for good?
[Image source: Boston Globe]