Thursday, May 17, 2018

Muriel's Donuts, Lebanon, NH

I'll just start with this: I know this review is going to make people sad.  It made *me* sad to write it.

Muriel's is an institution in the Lebanon area.  A donut shop, as ridiculously old school as it gets, helmed by a woman named Muriel, who has been in business since 1967.  She runs it alone, even though she is nearly 80 years old.  It is impressive, really.

I grew up having a Muriel's donut once a month, when my church had them after mass.  I remember being partial to the sugar donuts.  But it had been years since I had one.  And since then, I've had a lot of donuts.  I generally have at least one a week.  (Shh!)
The Muriel's Donuts Experience.
I went to Muriel's on a mission, despite the bad weather, despite it being closed even when supposed to be open, causing me to go back again.  I met Muriel, who is amazing.  I experienced the charm.  I got donuts.

But ... I didn't want another one.  I didn't want to finish one.  I'm sorry.

Setting

Muriel's is not located alongside any other business.  No, it is on a side street, next to houses.  It is located in a house, for that matter.  If you didn't know to be looking for it, you'd certainly never find it.

But find it people do.  When I was there, there was a steady stream of visitors, which honestly, puzzled me.  Where did all these people come from?  Its such a small town!
Storefront.
The only marking that tells you that you are at a business, rather than a home, is the sign painted above the window, and the posting of the hours.

Open every day but Sunday, 10am-1pm only.

The hours are ... well, a bit annoying, to be honest.  I wanted a donut for breakfast, but she didn't open until 10am, and I was up much earlier.  Or I've wanted a donut as an afternoon snack, but, alas, closed by then.  But worse, I arrived at 10:05am, and ... there was no one there.  I waited until 10:15am, determined to get a donut, hot and fresh, but, when there was no sign of anyone being there, I decided they must not be opening due to the weather (it was sleet and freezing rain, with a winter advisory in affect.  Like I said ... I really wanted my donut!), and finally gave up.  Other patrons also hesitated in their cars out front, and eventually drove away.

If these hours are not possible for you, you can also purchase her donuts at some gas stations around town, but, only later in the day, and clearly never as fresh.

I went back another time to find her open, but I recommend calling ahead, as the posted hours may not always mean she is open.
Donut Making Area.
But once inside, I was charmed.  It really is just a small front room where you enter and order through a window that looks into the back room, where the donuts are made.

It is there that Muriel is located, making donuts and taking orders.  She greeted me, and others who entered, immediately, pausing her work to take our orders, hand over our goodies, and then went right back to work.  As it was near the holidays, she even took the time to wish me happy holidays.

Off to the left, out of the photo is her board on one side with the dough laid out where she was working, which I didn't photo just to be respectful of her.  Next to that is the fryer ... with a big tub of lard under it.
Jelly Station.
The other side is the jellying station, and cooling racks.

Donuts

Muriel's offers the classics.  But even fewer than you are probably imagining.
Plain Donuts.
One style only, cake donuts.  No raised donuts.

Donuts are available in rings or twisted crullers, all just plain, although you can get them rolled in sugar or cinnamon sugar.  That is it.  She also makes a jelly stick.

But no other toppings, no other fillings.  Just simple donuts.

Very fresh donuts, on cooling racks right in front of you.  Chances are high they'll still be warm, as she makes very small batches.

They cost $0.75 each, or are sold by the half or full dozen for a discount.
Donut Bag!
Even if you get a dozen, your donuts do not come in a pink box.  Nope, paper bags are the serving choice at Muriels.

I could feel how hot and fresh my donuts were even just holding the bag, the warmth coming through immediately.  And the grease.  This was taken within moments of receiving my donuts, by the time I drove 5 minutes to my grandmother's house to deliver her one, the bag was ... drenched.
Jelly Stick. $0.75.
This was a very fresh donut.  That I knew.

I loved the crunch to the exterior, caused by the cooling racks imprinting a pattern on the exterior.

But it just tasted fried.  I know donuts are fried, and I like fried things, but this was just too much fried taste for me.  Maybe I just don't like the taste of lard?  I don't know when I last had something actually fried in lard.  It kinda tasted like bad bacon.  But I know the lard helped make it so crispy.

The jelly filling was good, sweet and tasty, likely homemade.

I just didn't like it, nor the way it left my stomach feeling after.

I also had the simple sugared ring donut, which had the same awesome crispy exterior, but it too tasted too fried.  The generous sugar coating helped mask the fried taste a bit, but, I still just didn't care for the fried-ness.

Sadness, as I really wanted to love these donuts, and I know my family members all do, and found the entire experience quite charming, but ... I didn't even want to finish my donutdonut.
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