To be upfront, this blog post is a completely biased one. By the end, you will have no question about my feelings toward where I visited this weekend. In fact, out of every one of the blogs I’ve ever posted, this is probably the one I’ve been the most excited about speeding home (I mean… driving safely…) and writing. But, before I get into full gush mode, let me tell you a little story. (If you’ve already heard this one, my apologies. …Read it again, it’s a good one).
It was a blistering hot, June morning. Ryan and I had finally decided to rip off the bandaid and go to the beach. With towels, bathing suits, sunscreen and painfully translucent bodies all ready to go, we hopped in the car and started on our way. As we drove down Route 81, toward Hammonasset Beach, we spotted a bright orange food truck parked in a lot close to the road. With me being a lover of food, and Ryan being a lover of trucks, it only made sense that we should stop and check it out. Let me tell you folks, that was the best decision I made that day, for that food truck was none other than Redneck Gourmet Donuts.
After scraping our jaws off the road, and picking out five fresh, hand glazed and filled donuts from the truck, we continued on to the beach. There, we sat on our towels, ironically in bathing suits, blissfully enjoying each bite. Months later, when starting this series and finding businesses to feature, Redneck Gourmet Donuts was one of the very first places that came to mind.
First, a little background. Redneck Gourmet Donuts is owned by Jeff, and his wife Debbie. After spending 40 years in the construction business (along with owning and personally running about a million other companies), Jeff was working on one of his last few projects: a kiosk for Faddy’s Donuts. While working on the site, one thing led to another, and Jeff got the idea to open his own truck dedicated to serving donuts. Seeing as he had opened an local ice cream shop just a year earlier, and was an integral member of his town’s community already, putting a truck on the land he already worked on seemed like a logical move.
Now, on a day to day basis, Jeff and Debbie are surely seeing the fruits of their labor. In addition to beach goers in the summer, their regular cliental consists of town locals, people who travel by the truck on the way to work, and fans from further away, like me. On any given day, they’ll see up to 800 customers, with Saturdays and Sundays proving to be even busier days. And while most of us get to start enjoying Redneck’s treats at 5AM, the behind the scenes production starts at 2AM! Why so early? Well, that’s because every single product that leaves that truck has been made fresh that day, that morning, that hour even. After wrapping up shop at the truck at noon, Jeff and Debbie make their way over to their ice cream store, a stone throw away, and continue their day. At this point, any leftovers are donated to local homeless shelters, or even given to the local firefighters to munch on between saving lives.
When you arrive and get up to the truck, you automatically enter this amazing fair-like atmosphere. The warmth (not only from the donuts) but from the friendliest people inside, makes you want to hand over your entire wallet and buy one of everything. But, once you regain your composure, you’ll see that there are two winners on the essentials list: the cannoli and the apple cider donut.
Let’s start with the apple cider. Oh. God. Made with cinnamon, sugar, and real apple cider, this thing is so rich in flavor. While the outside is crispy, the inside literally melts in your mouth. Let’s just say, if you’re thinking of traveling to your local orchard to pick up a box of apple donuts, think again. Turn that car around and drive here, where your donut is probably being fried as you’re pulling into the driveway.
Next up, the cannoli. Yes, that’s right. An Italian delicacy, in a donut. The best part, is that these guys are cut and filled the minute you order them, not a second sooner. And, while the cream is good and sweet enough to just eat with a spoon out of the center of the donut (like I did), the fluffy donut shell keeping it all inside, is a perfect compliment.
So, I’ve gone on for about 700 words at this point, bragging about this Higganum find. If you’re still with me, and need me to give you something to wrap it up…here goes: passion. Jeff and Debbie are clearly the happiest people around. They’re running a truck that is adored by it’s fans, serves a fantastic product, and will eventually be handed down to their kids. There is no question that they love what they do and the people they serve, wholeheartedly. And, not only is passion obviously coming from the owners themselves, but it’s evident in the people that visit them as well. Even on a rainy day, as I walked around the truck taking pictures, I heard countless people commenting how much they missed their traditional Saturday stop when it left for a spurt at the Durham Fair last weekend.
In the end, if you ever find yourself on Route 81, on the way to work, the beach…any place, do yourself a favor. Stop and eat at Redneck’s. Hell, even if you’re nowhere near Route 81, get there. Immediately. Why? Well, who can resist a warm, freshly filled donut, made by passionate people? And, if you can eat it on a beach towel while others look on jealously, that’s just an added bonus.
Stay tuned and stay hungry,