The non-diet police
Carmichael, CA 95608
Does anyone else remember the ill-fated TV series Cop Rock, Steven Bochco’s bizarre police drama with musical numbers? Not surprisingly, it tanked. Based on its early cancellation, one might have thought that whimsical police-themed entertainment would go the way of the dodo. Then again, one also might have thought the theme restaurant was quietly shuffling off this mortal coil. Neither, however, is the case; indeed, the two concepts come together at Cops Donuts, a new quick-service place in Carmichael that aspires to the exalted condition of chain-restauranthood.
That said, a cop theme seems to me quite possibly brilliant for a doughnut shop, despite the fact that the faux cop uniforms worn by all the workers kept reminding me of male strippers at sitcom bachelorette parties. The trouble is that Cops Donuts is not simply a doughnut shop; it also offers a limited menu of burgers and fries, an awkward pairing with doughnuts. You know you’re in trouble when top marks for healthfulness on a menu—by far—go to coffee. Surely there’s an antioxidant in there somewhere? Oh, and they have milk, too. But otherwise, this is food that will make you long for an assignment to the street beat to walk off a few of the calories. There’s nothing quite like topping off a lunch of cheeseburger, fries and a shake with a doughnut for dessert to really make you feel pudgy.
Of course, the restaurant’s clientele is likely to break down into a lunch and a breakfast crowd—that is, once people figure out there’s more than just doughnuts on offer, something the signage doesn’t really help with. The restaurant is set up with the idea of looking like a police station from an earlier era, though the theme’s expression is a bit haphazard. There are framed old newspapers, a picture of Al Capone and a case containing a few old items of police gear (a uniform from the Soviet Union and a British bobby’s helmet) as well as a set of jailhouse bars that separate the doughnut-production line from the dining room.
The menu refers to the restaurant as the “Carmichael Precinct.” Thus far it’s the only precinct, but according to the Web site, the owners, who came up with the menu concept as something of a joke several years ago, are seeking out other locations to expand the restaurant.
They have a reasonably good base on which to build, at least in the concept and in the evident training of the staff, who are friendly, helpful and eager to tout the freshness of the food. Our server immediately inquired what our favorite kinds of doughnuts were and if it was our first visit to Cops. When we said yes and expressed a preference for maple-glazed old-fashioned and apple-filled raised doughnuts, we each were given a complimentary one.
For lunch, we had a choice of combos or à la carte burgers; the combos include fries and a soda. The burgers are big enough that we really didn’t each need a combo, but our server did at least steer us away from the large “lieutenant’s” and “captain’s” combo meals (a double-decker burger and double-decker cheeseburger, respectively) unless, as he said, we were really hungry.
Those complimentary doughnuts had taken the edge off, so we confined ourselves to a rookie’s meal, with a plain burger, and a sergeant’s meal, in which the burger comes topped with mild cheddar. The burgers were big and meaty but otherwise undistinguished. The pleasantly fluffy buns are baked on the premises. I got mine with crunchy bacon, which added a savory, salty hit.
The fries, which are thin and hand-cut, were disappointing. So freshly fried they still glistened with oil, they had a strange texture. I like fries that are crisp outside but fluffy inside, even if they’re thin; these had passed through the fluffy stage and were dry throughout, giving them a sticklike quality.
I also tried a chocolate milkshake, having long since thrown caution to the winds and committed to an extra-long workout the next day. It was sweetly swirled with chocolate syrup but not very flavorful.
We got a couple of extra doughnuts to go—the “cop’s snack” gives you two, with coffee, for just over $2. The devil’s-food doughnut was also oddly lacking in deep chocolate flavor, with a too-sweet chocolate glaze that tasted much like Hershey’s chocolate syrup and very little cocoa punch in the doughnut itself. The other doughnuts we tried, though, were excellent: None was heavy or greasy, and all were fresh. (The restaurant donates any unsold doughnuts to charity at the end of the day.)
I loved a simple glazed twist, which was light and perfect for dunking. Coffee here, in traditional doughnut-shop style, is nothing fancy, but a black cuppa joe is just right with any of the doughnut picks. My mom’s apple-filled raised doughnut had a delicious cinnamon-sugar coating, and my yummy maple old-fashioned had a nice moist crumb inside. These are doughnuts to delight the heart of any cop (perhaps even make one burst into song, Cop Rock-style), and they’re the best reasons to visit the restaurant for which they’re named.