Coming in hot: Sidecar Doughnuts opens in Carmel Valley


Over the past few months, the Sidecar Doughnut truck has occasionally parked at Del Mar Highlands Town Center giving people a taste of what’s to come. Building hype worked: At a pre-opening community open house on Dec. 14, a line of people wrapped around the circular center counter for most of the morning and afternoon for a complimentary hot and fresh doughnut and cup of coffee.

Sidecar serves up hot and fresh doughnuts.
(Tawny Alipoon)

An official grand opening for the long-awaited sweet spot out of Orange County and Los Angeles was Dec. 17 and they will celebrate all month with a piping hot Birthday Cake doughnut, a vanilla bean cake topped with pink glaze and rainbow sprinkles.

Every day at Sidecar, customers can pick from a selection of “the world’s freshest doughnuts.” The daily line-up includes flavors of Butter and Salt, a vanilla bean cake with brown butter glaze sprinkled with fleur de sel; Maple Bacon; Madagascar Vanilla Glazed; Saigon Cinnamon Crumb; and the best-selling Huckleberry, slightly more tart than the average berry donut, made with freshly imported Oregon huckleberries.

The Old Fashion is Sidecar’s take on classic buttermilk with a bit of a cinnamon cake vibe, deliciously spiced with nutmeg and topped with a vanilla bean glaze. They also serve up a savory Basil Eggs Benedict and there is always a gluten free option.

The Carmel Valley location is still new but once they get going, the menu will rev up to include four monthly flavors in addition to the daily eight. In the Costa Mesa and Santa Monica shops the December’s seasonal flavors have included Eggnog Brule and Chocolate Peppermint.

Sidecar opened in Costa Mesa five years ago, the brainchild of founders Sumter and Chi-Lin Pendergrast and co-owner Bob Nilsen. Sumter Pendergrast actually came from a background in clothing design, “It was quite a departure,” he said of trading haute couture for hot doughnuts.

Inside the new Sidecar Doughnuts.
(JTran Photos)

What he took most from his experience in fashion was brand building and that is what he and his fellow co-owners have tried to create with Sidecar—building a reputation for a tasty, high-quality product and using their artistic flair for design to create cool gathering places that people want to be.

Originally, Pendergrast’s idea was to do a coffee shop, but he had a feeling that by the time he got good at roasting coffee the third wave of coffee would pass him by.

“I looked at American staples and the doughnut I felt like was one of them,” Pendergrast said. “The East Coast seemed to be doing a better version of the doughnut…there was nothing like that out here.”

The Costa Mesa Sidecar served up inventive flavors and artisan spins on classic doughnuts, and rather than roasting his own coffee, Pendergrast brought in Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The concept took off and they were able to opened their second shop in Santa Monica in 2015.

Coming down to San Diego seemed a natural progression for Pendergrast—he lives next door to the Del Mar Highlands Town Center ownership in Costa Mesa.

“We wanted to be in a different community and San Diego was a really great opportunity,” Pendergrast said.

In the Carmel Valley center they benefit from a lot of foot traffic and the fact that they are the only doughnut shop for miles, “We felt like it was an under-served market for our product,” he said of their treats but also their coffee.

Sidecar now serves up its own coffee that is sourced and roasted in Costa Mesa by Common Room Roasters: the menu includes single Sidecar single origin coffee, cold brew and espresso drinks as well as Vietnamese iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk.

“We’re excited about it,” Pendergrast said of the Sidecar proprietary blend. “It is still one of my passions to have great coffee.”

A fresh batch of Old Fashion doughnuts goes on display.
(Karen Billing)

As someone who grew up knowing that the best time for a Krispy Kreme was when the “hot” sign was lit up, Pendergrast had that idea in mind when it came to his product. In the beginning, he converted an art studio into a doughnut factory for him and his wife to test recipes and every Saturday they gave out the delectable treats for free. When the doughnuts didn’t even have time to sit out for long and were still warm was when people were most whipped into a frenzy—he knew he had to find a way to keep their doughnuts as fresh and hot as possible.

The solution: Small batches of 12 doughnuts or less are fried all day long, different than the traditional model where you fry ‘em up once and let them sit all day or until they’re gone.

“That’s what makes us,” Pendergrast said. “People say it’s the freshest doughnut that they’ve ever had.”

That sometimes means a customer has to wait for their favorite flavor to finish, but as the first rush of customers on Friday proved, people were willing to wait for a fresh huckleberry.

Pendergrast was encouraged by the opening days and is excited to see the shop buzzing on its first full weekend.

“We have to ingratiate ourselves to the locals and win their business by giving them great hot doughnuts, good customer service and fresh coffee,” he said.

Part of Sidecar’s business is giving back to the community with its Side Cares program— a portion of proceeds are donated to a selected partner charities throughout the year. In 2018, Side Cares paired with Arts and Learning Conservatory, Meditation Mount, Best Friends Animal Society, the Ecology Center and the Surfrider Foundation. At Del Mar Highlands, 10 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the Birthday Cake doughnut will go toward Side Cares.

Sidecar is open daily at 6:30 a.m. and closes Monday through Thursday at 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. Find them at 3435 Del Mar Heights Road, Suite D6B or