Your morning in Maine is not complete without a tasty treat from one of the state's iconic doughnut shops.
Photograph by Jeff Scher
It is widely rumored that the doughnut was invented in Maine. Back in 1847 a ship captain from Rockport named Hanson Gregory is said to have placed his fried cake on the spoke of a ship’s wheel, thus creating the pivotal hole in the center of the modern doughnut. That’s one version of the legend, and true or not, you can visit the plaque commemorating Gregory’s “achievement” near Glen Cove in Rockport. Fittingly, the plaque just happens to be a short drive from Willow Bake Shoppe, one of Maine’s few remaining old-time doughnut shops. Its survival is a testament to the power of authenticity. Keep driving south on Route 1 and within five minutes you’ll pass a Tim Horton’s and not one but two Dunkin’ Donuts. Cheap? Convenient? Absolutely. But these national chains are no match for the local shops so revered by Mainers as oases of good fellowship. Consider doughnut shops the Down East version of a public house -— for the morning hours.
Here are five such shops not to miss. Stop in, enjoy a doughnut (or two), read the paper, have a cup of coffee, and talk to the owners and the other patrons. There’s no better way to “eat local” while satisfying your sweet tooth.
1090 Post Rd., Wells
6 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed Wednesdays
Congdon’s Doughnuts is a beacon of fried goodness in York County. A favorite of beach-bound tourists in the summer (Congdon’s does half of its sales in July and August), this bustling doughnut shop has been in the family one way or another since 1945. “Doughnuts are a fun food, a special occasional food,” says owner Gary Leech. “And they’ll feed the family cheap.” He must be on to something because on a rainy summer weekend Congdon’s can sell upwards of ten thousand in one day. The Congdon doughnut, which can be purchased in the drive-thru for on-the-run patrons, is not far removed from its cousin, fried dough: a deep-fried, intensely flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth experience. Get some milk to wash it down.
Don’t miss: Raspberry Jelly.
Tony’s Donut Shop
9 Bolton St., Portland
5 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily
“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” That’s the motto that hangs above this Portland landmark, and you should do as you’re told. For more than forty years, the Fournier family has been making tasty doughnuts at their famous shop in the Portland neighborhood of Libbytown. This family takes their doughnuts so seriously that the founder, the father of current owner Rick Fournier, even has a doughnut quote and image inscribed on his gravestone. On average Tony’s sells close to three hundred dozen (that’s 3,600 if you’re math challenged) hand-cut doughnuts a day. And while these doughnuts are top-notch, step inside and you get the sense that a lot of customers come for the chatter, too. “We’re fluent in three languages here,” says Fournier. “Football, baseball, and basketball.”
Don’t miss: Molasses (plain, sugared, glazed).
Frosty’s Donut & Coffee Shop
54 Maine St., Brunswick
4 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Closed Saturdays and Sundays
To step into Frosty’s is to step back in time. Pink Lady-like women with elaborate hair serve up these sugary delicacies within a shop covered with old-fashioned evangelical and cultural paraphernalia. The business, named after a nickname for Bob Frost, the owner, with his wife June, has been around since 1965, and at its current location marked by the colorful red and white storefront since 1970. The third and fourth generations of patrons buy more than one hundred dozen doughnuts cooked every day.
Don’t miss: The Twist.
Willow Bake Shoppe
1084 Commercial St., Rockport
6 a.m. to 12 p.m., closed Sundays
The second oldest shop of this bunch, Willow Bake Shoppe has been serving the same beloved doughnuts since 1949. Originally located on Willow Street in Rockland, the shop relocated in 2006 to its Route 1 spot in Rockport — just look for the quaint yellow house beckoning you to indulge. The cozy dining room is a great place to start the day with locally roasted Rock City Coffee, and, of course, a basket of doughnuts (or doughnut balls). Plus you’ll have a view of the steady stream of regulars, some of whom have been getting their doughnuts at Willow since they were schoolchildren in the fifties.
A doughnut a day might not keep the doctor away (the opposite might be true), but it’ll keep the patrons coming to this midcoast morning haven.
Don’t miss: Chocolate Sugared.
Mrs. Mike’s Donuts
19 Davis St., Presque Isle
3:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Closed Saturdays and Sundays
This rather unassuming white building on Davis Street is the relatively new Presque Isle home of this relatively old doughnut shop formerly located in Woodland for more than thirty years. Don’t worry: the new owner Bruce Berube still uses the same recipe for the handmade traditional doughnuts that are perfect for dunking in a fresh cup of coffee. If you find yourself up north early in the morning, this authentic Maine shop is the best place to refuel in the gastronomic sense since it opens its doors bright and early at 3:30 a.m.
Don’t miss: Plain (with a cup of coffee for dunking).
Here’s a baker’s dozen of other delicious bakeries, restaurants, and general stores that also fry a great doughnut:
Babin’s Grocery Outlet, St. Agatha
Baker’s Way, Boothbay
Bolley’s Famous Franks, Hallowell
Country Bakery, Bridgewater
Duck Fat, Portland
Eggemoggin Country Store, Sargentville
Frank’s Bake Shop, Bangor
Labadie’s Bakery, Lewiston
The Donut Hole Cafe, Buxton
The Frog and Turtle, Westbrook
Thompson’s Orchard, New Gloucester
Washburn Food Mart, Washburn
- By: Kathleen Fleury