Take a peek into yester-year with a stop at Muriel’s Donuts in Lebanon, NH, a place that even some of the locals miss.
We’ve been on a mission to hit up all THE donut shops in New Hampshire. There are precious few die-hard bakeries known for their donuts in this state and almost all of them are quite the drive away. Muriel’s Donuts has been on my list for a while but Lebanon, NH is 1.5 hours away so it required a day trip. The perfect day came when my husband had a couple hour business meeting up there on his day off so we packed up for the day and hit the road, making time for a stop at King Arthur Flour just 10 minutes across the NH/VT state line.
Thank goodness for GPS because we’d have never found Muriel’s Donuts on our own. Located on a small residential street on the first floor of a nondescript building with a simple sign, the magic awaits inside. And Muriel’s Donuts is magic. Come along. Let’s walk together.
It’s been a drizzly gray day today. Aren’t you glad it’s let up a bit? Let’s make a dash for the door before it changes back to a steady rain. We pull on the heavy door, take a step up, and into the spare room, tiled floor, walls bare except for a bulletin board of ads and local events, and a “cashier’s window.”
At the sound of the door a grandmotherly looking woman’s face who one would assume is Muriel (if only I had time to stop and chat to find out) appears in the opening and greets us. Since she’s only open 10-1 every day and we’re arriving just before 1 I ask if she has any donuts left. Indeed she does, as I look down and see several rows of old fashioned fried donuts on racks with paper lining under them to catch the grease drips. It’s set. We’re having plain donuts today. But that’s the secret to a good donut shop – the ability to win us over with a plain donut.
Short on time, we aren’t able to chat as I would like to – to learn about the business – how long it’s been there and any other question I can think to ask. “We’ll take a half-dozen please.”
As she bags our donuts in a doubled brown paper bag, we note the space. The kitchen is narrow and long and I’m fairly certain we stepped through the door into another time. To the left there is an old wooden donut making table covered in flour with a big wooden rolling pin and partially rolled dough. Clearly we’ve interrupted her work though you wouldn’t know it from her smile.
Behind her is the fryer and hood with old fashioned and jelly stick donuts sizzling in the oil. A ball of dough is rising nicely on the shelf below. Between us are the rows of donuts and she hands us the bag in exchange for our money. Just as we turn to leave I glance to the right where the only thing to see is the jelly filling machine on the counter top.
As we go to leave she asks about the rain and we answer, bid each other a good day, and walk out the door with smiles on our faces.
Back in the car I snap the few pictures I will take of this whole venture. I hope my words are enough to give you an idea. The scent of donuts lingers still, our half dozen bringing a hint of the scent inside the bakery along to fill the vehicle and taunt us as we dole out donuts to everyone. No one can wait for that first bite and the moment of truth.
They’re amazing. Crispy fried on the outside. Soft and pillowy on the inside. Still warm. Just enough sweet and a pinch of nutmeg. Next time we’ll have to try the jelly sticks too, not instead….
No matter what other travel plans you have in the Lebanon, NH area, make sure you take time for Muriel’s Donuts. And if you’re needing a cup of coffee, stop in at Dirt Cowboy Cafe (Hanover, NH) for a good cup of freshly made coffee.