By Darlene Donloe
INGLEWOOD — For 44 years, Randy’s Donuts & Chinese Food has served a loyal clientele.
To be clear, this is not the iconic establishment with the multi-story donut towering toward the sky. Rather, it is the popular cafeteria with the same name located at the end of a strip mall on North Market Street. So, while it’s not the Randy’s most people associate with Inglewood, it is just as beloved by its long-time customers, a community with a diverse and faithful clientele.
Charlie Taing operates the family-owned buffet-style restaurant. Taing’s family, which came to the U.S. from Cambodia in 1975, has been at its current location since 1979.
“We’re the oldest establishment here,” he said. “Back then, when it was for sale, it was an opportunity for my family to start a business.”
The restaurant was the ninth one built by the original Randy’s owners when the business model included selling franchises.
“When my parents bought the place, they didn’t know it was a famous donut shop,” Taing said. “At one time it was called Randy’s Donuts and Submarine Sandwiches. At some point, we decided to keep the name Randy’s.”
And they kept donuts on the menu.
“It was my dad’s vision,” said Taing, who is not a chef. “He created the menu by putting his own spin on things. His thinking was to have donuts at breakfast and after breakfast you have Chinese food for lunch.”
After five years in business, his father went to culinary school to fulfill his vision of adding Chinese food to the menu. Eventually, staples like beef and broccoli, orange chicken, and teriyaki wings — along with Southern fried chicken and jalapeno chicken — outstripped donuts in popularity.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, the diner stopped selling donuts to focus on its core business.
Taing greets everyone who walks through the door. Some customers have patronized the restaurant for decades and are featured in photos on the wall.
“We have some very loyal customers,” said Taing, who received his business acumen from his dad, Steven. His mother, Cynthia Taing, a co-owner with him, still works behind the counter.
People keep returning “because we have good quality food, reasonable prices and good customer service,” Taing said. “These ingredients keep us loved by the community. That’s why we have customers who have been coming for 30 or 40 years.”
Some of his customers are the grandchildren of the original customers.
“We have kids, their parents and the parents of the parents still coming here,” he said.
It wasn’t always easy to be a minority in Inglewood — a majority-minority city whose population is mostly African American and Latino. But for many years now, Taing has felt right at home.
“Our customers are so loyal that during the riots [in 1992], they stopped people from burning down the restaurant,” he said. “We are so grateful. The restaurant is really part of this community.”
Frank Edwards, originally from Nigeria, is a Randy’s aficionado. A patron for 44 years, he can attest to the consistent quality of the food, the service and the friendly atmosphere.
“I used to live in Inglewood when I was a single guy,” said Edwards who now lives in San Luis Obispo. “I couldn’t cook, so I was always here.”
Edwards, who drove down to visit his 22-year-old daughter who is attending college in Fullerton, said he couldn’t come to the area without swinging by Randy’s.
“If I’m anywhere near here, I come by to get some food,” said the retiree.
Vietnam veteran Frank Edmondson, 76, has been coming to Randy’s for 23 years.
“I love this place,” he said. “I come here every chance I get, which is usually three or four times a week. I like to try it all. I get my steamed rice, orange chicken, jalapeno chicken, and egg foo young with yellow gravy. It’s the best.”
Salvador Castillo’s parents brought him to Randy’s 20 years ago and now he brings his 8-year-old daughter, Delilah. Together they can savor a piece of his childhood.
“I come here once a week,” said Castillo, who lives in Inglewood near Hyde Park. “It’s a habit, a good habit. It’s very friendly — you can feel the harmony. Nothing has changed. It tastes the same way it did during my childhood.”
Taing, who lived in Inglewood before moving to Ladera, opens the restaurant every day. Sometimes he’s there 17 hours a day.
“The hours aren’t my concern,” he said. “A lot of what we do, people don’t even know. The kitchen and the operation, they don’t see. It’s all the time away from our families. You work so much that you don’t have time to spend with your kids. The restaurant business is brutal.”
Still, Taing wouldn’t have it any other way. While his focus has been maintaining the quality of the food, he’s noticed that the city itself is changing rapidly.
When Taing heard about the development of the Inglewood Transit Connector, he wasn’t quite sure what to make of the news. But he remains optimistic and open-minded.
“I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen,” he said.
The transit connector is a proposed automated transit line designed to connect the K Line’s Downtown Inglewood station to the Kia Forum, SoFi Stadium, the Clippers’ Intuit Dome, and housing and commercial centers in development along Prairie Avenue. The city of Inglewood hopes to have it running in time for the 2028 Olympics.
A number of businesses will be affected in some way by the new development, including Randy’s Donuts & Chinese Food. The business will move, likely to another location in Inglewood, but it’s still a move. City leaders have pledged to work closely with Taing to help him find a great spot in close proximity to his current location.
“I understand that we will be affected by the project in some way,” Taing said. “If so, I want to move within walking distance to a place with parking spaces. We deserve a prime spot.”
Mayor James Butts, a long-time customer of Randy’s, agrees with Taing. The new spot should be good for the Taing family and their customers.
“Randy’s is a beloved institution in our city,” Butts said. “I started going there when I was a police officer in the 1970s, and I intend to continue to patronize Charlie’s business for decades to come.”
The mayor’s favorite dish?
“Chicken and broccoli!”
City Councilman Eloy Morales is big on fried chicken and rice.
“I’ve been going to Randy’s since the ’80s, and it never disappoints,” he said. “Everybody loves Randy’s, and Charlie always helps everyone who needs it. So, wherever he moves in Inglewood, I’ll be there.”
Taing started helping his parents run the business when he was 12 years old, coming out from behind the counter to greet patrons. Randy’s, Taing said, will stay in Inglewood and thrive alongside the city as it flourishes.
“I am married to this place,” he said. “In the beginning, I didn’t know what I was getting into. You do it so much that it becomes the love of doing it. You forget the rest. This is what I wanted to do.
“It has to be. I’m still here.”
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.