10:15 pm on a Tuesday night and Lakeshore Avenue is dead. A few cars whiz past on the street and some stop to park outside closed shops and restaurants. The thick, sticky, sweet scent of sugared treats wafts down the sidewalk pulling people into the only business that’s open at this end of the block. Inside, the brightly lit glass cases hold towers of sugared, glazed and sprinkled donuts. A man and woman greet you behind the cases. Low yellow lights bounce off the shining marble table tops and black leather chairs. The white, old fashioned lettering on the maroon outdoor awning and logo perfectly describes the shop’s mellow, classic, old-timey vibe. It’s all so simple and simply perfect. Donuts and coffee. Donuts and milk. Colonial Donuts.
Operating since the 1970’s, Colonial Donuts remains a happening spot where all people, especially teenagers, flock to at night. Because it is open seven days a week, 24 hours each day, teens can go on craving runs, whether it is 2:00 am or 2:00 pm. Store manager Phing Yamamoto said that many people come to the store at night, which is why it remains open late. The previous owners kept the store open at all hours, so when Yamamoto’s parents bought the store about 30 years ago, they decided to continue that tradition.
Located in the heart of Lakeshore Avenue Colonial Donuts is easy to walk, bike or drive to. “It has a close and convenient location and is best to go at night because most places are closed and parking is easier than it is during the day,” said local high school student Paige Ellis. She continued, “Colonial is still open though, so it’s a nice spot to go when you’re with friends.” Yamamoto said that Colonial Donuts is well known and loved by the community since most stores in the Bay Area are not open 24/7. Yamamoto added that she always sees all sorts of people there at night, playing chess, sitting and talking, playing scratchers or lotto, or picking up donuts to go. “Colonial Donuts is where the action happens during the night,” local high school student Claire DeVroede said.
The real draw for people to visit, however, is the donuts. Yamamoto said that the store serves fresh, handmade donuts, made one or more times each day at the store. The workers make the first batch of donuts in the evening and early morning of the following day, and will cook more batches throughout the day depending on how busy it is, Yamamoto said. The mornings are the busiest time, since people stop by on their way to work or school. Yamamoto said that other busy days are Friday nights after dinner or sports games, and Saturday mornings because of the Farmers Market.
This Lakeshore business has affordable options for any type of donut craving. Prices for the regular donuts range from $1.20 – $2.25, and donut holes are $0.30 each. Ellis said that a major draw for teenagers is that “it is really cheap, so we can afford to buy treats.” Their main flavors include the classics, such as glazed, sprinkled, cake, and old-fashioned, but they also have a few unconventional kinds, like their newest edition, maple bacon. Ellis said that she likes the old-fashioned donuts and sprinkled the best. Yamamoto said that their most popular donuts are their glazed, blueberry, glazed old fashioned and more recently, sprinkled. Yamamoto said that teenagers like to buy the colorful, sprinkled donuts and take pictures of them to post on social media. Colonial Donuts not only serves the glazed and sprinkled treats, but also other foods such as muffins, pastries, bagels, croissants, cookies, and sandwiches. They also serve drinks including coffee, hot chocolate, juices, teas, and milk.
They were voted best gourmet donuts of Oakland and the East Bay by Oakland Magazine in 2012 and received the East Bay Express Best Donuts Readers’ Poll Award in 2014. As a small business with 10 employees, Yamamoto said that the shop has faced difficulties with competition, labor, and wages, but it has persevered and remains a vital part of Lakeshore Avenue. Yamamoto said that the community supports traditional, small businesses like theirs, and appreciates that they handcraft their donuts. They also value Colonial Donuts as a place where anyone can sit down with friends to enjoy a donut and coffee, buy a lottery ticket, or act like a teenager and pick up a pink box of a dozen donuts at 2:30 am.
3318 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland CA 94610
Open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year