On the Line: Shawn Cao of Glee Donuts & Burgers


Shawn Cao. Photo courtesy Glee Donuts & Burgers

After launching their second location last year, we stopped by Glee Donuts & Burgers at the corner of Ball and Beach in Anaheim. The quality, price and service were so memorable, it made our Top 5 in December. So for a month in which we celebrate love, we present our love for Glee’s delicious menu.

What were you doing before Glee?
Before starting Glee, I was in insurance and real estate. Today, I’m still practicing part-time. It was a dream to be in the restaurant business.

Can you explain why you chose to feature both donuts and burgers?
I recognized the trend for savory types of food, so one day I tried substituting a donut as a burger bun. It was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Everyone definitely has to try it at least once, and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

What are the things you wanted to focus on when opening Glee?
1. High quality. 2. Exceptional customer service. 3. Fair pricing.

What do you recommend for first-timers? And what are your best-sellers?
Glee offers something throughout the day. For breakfast, definitely a breakfast burrito. For lunch or dinner, our California Burrito or Soft Shell Crab Burger. Our Soft Shell Crab Burger is one of our best-selling burgers. I’ll have to agree; it’s an amazing burger.

An unusual customer request (and did you do it?).
One day, a customer asked for Spam in his breakfast burrito. The very next day, the customer came back and we made it for him. He said that was the best breakfast burrito he has ever had. Today, it’s on the menu as a Spamurritto. We want to create the best food experience for our customers, so taking special requests is what we do.

Favorite food to eat.
This is a very difficult question. I love to eat, and I try almost everything. Different days of the week will entail eating at different ethnic restaurants. Some of our dishes are infused with different ethnic influences. One of my favorite dishes to eat at a sushi spot is the Spider Roll, so I pulled components I enjoyed and I combined it with our burger.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don’t be afraid to go outside the boundaries of original recipes; you may discover the next big dish!

Favorite appliance or kitchen utensil that isn’t a knife.
I would have to say our grill. With our grill, we are able to produce the Best Burgers in OC, according to Best of OC 2017.

An underutilized ingredient. What dishes can we find it in?
I am a huge garlic fan, so many of my dishes that I developed have a component of garlic in it. For example, our Stinkin Bagel, Stinkin dog and Stinkin Burger Style. There’s something about roasted garlic that brings our dish to the next level.

Where did you grow up?
My family immigrated here from Vietnam in 1981 and have settled in Southern California ever since. I have traveled to many parts of the world, and there is no place like Southern California.

How did you meet your wife?
I’ve known my wife for 22 years, and we met through a mutual friend in high school. She was so cute. I wanted to make her mine, and fortunately she said yes. We are blessed with an eight-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter. We also have a MaltiPoo dog named Fuzzy. Both our parents have been supportive of us on this Glee adventure.

What is your guilty pleasure food?
I would have to say our Croissant Donuts (a.k.a. Kronuts). We are one of the few shows in town that does it on a made-to-order basis, and every time I do eat one, it’s so worth the extra calories!

Where was the last place you traveled to?
My wife and I just got back from Park Hyatt in Maldives. It was the most amazing destination we have ever been to. There were coral reefs and beautiful fishes just below our water bungalow. If heaven was on Earth, it would be the Maldives.

Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I am really handy. If anything breaks at the shop, I would try to fix it before calling in the professionals. Call me the weekend warrior.

Last thing you looked up online:
Best food to eat in Costa Rica, as we’re planning a trip there, and I love to eat good food when I visit other countries.

Hardest life lesson you’ve learned:
Not listening to my parents. Parents know everything, and are much wiser. As you age, you slowly figure things out, and in the end your parents were always right.

You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
Definitely one of our breakfast burritos called the Burgeritto. The Bureritto has two fried eggs, crispy hash browns, cheese, bacon, hamburger patty, sausage, ham, ketchup and mayo with our secret sauce all tightly wrapped in a tortilla.

What other profession would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?
I’ve got a pretty good ability to taste food, so maybe a professional food tester? Be like Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to get paid eating. Why not (laughs)?

Glee Donuts & Burgers, 9475 Heil Ave., Ste. A, Fountain Valley, (714) 531-0288; also at 3024 W. Ball Rd., Ste. A-B, Anaheim, (714) 816-5777; www.gleednb.com.

A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.

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