Even though Monterey is the gateway to some of the most glamorous ocean front property on the West Coast, including multiple Pebble Beach resorts and 17-Mile Drive, the city is at heart a working class town. Cannery Row was once the domain of John Steinbeck and used to house sardine canning factories before the Monterey Bay Aquarium and surrounding tourist traps took over. Downtown has seem a bit of a revival in recent years, but there’s still one institution that harkens back to those blue collar days: Red’s Donuts.
Red’s opened in 1950. Herman and Helen O’Donnell left the business to their two daughters and son, who now produce donuts in nearby Seaside, and deliver to the original location.
The downtown Monterey space has canary yellow walls, a yellow linoleum counter, paintings of clowns and old signs for companies like Coca-Cola and Monterey Savings & Loan.
Red’s keeps their selection lean. We ordered a pleasantly chewy old fashioned and a glazed chocolate that proved to be more supple and obviously sweeter.
It sure seems like little’s changed at Red’s Donuts in the past six decades, other than a new kooky painting here or there. We can still picture a cannery worker or fisherman grabbing a box of donuts to go before dawn, not that we’d wake up so early to find out for sure.