Congdon’s Doughnuts has reinvented itself time and again since it opened almost 75 years ago, and always without losing focus on what made it great in the first place: A hardy breakfast, preferably with a doughnut or two.
After all the publicity surrounding the brilliant introduction and expansion of the Congdon’s After Dark Food Truck Park, I was apprehensive that this venerable York County establishment still had its magic. Too much of a good thing can ruin anybody or anything, and there’s no underestimating the wild success of the seasonal food truck park.
My fears were allayed after a recent breakfast visit. I sat comfortably at the breakfast bar and within 15 minutes was served one of the biggest, heartiest and tastiest breakfasts I’ve enjoyed in quite a long time. Congdon’s still has it. Success hasn’t ruined this establishment.
Congdon’s is really two establishments – three when the food truck park operates during the warm-weather months: A take-out bakery, where doughnuts reign, and a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch. Congdon’s has been part of the food culture of southern Maine since 1945 when Clint and Nana Congdon opened a restaurant in Kennebunk that became popular because of Nana’s homemade doughnuts. It’s remained in the family and undergone many changes since, and in one form or another, it’s been in its current location in Wells since 1955.
When I sat down at the breakfast bar, that sense of nostalgia washed over me. There are decorative signs on the wall that advertise outdated prices, suggesting a long-ago era. There are shelves of knickknacks and country-kitsch signs on the wall.
The service was for the most part quick and efficient, and always friendly.
I ordered the Congdon Special, a robust offering of two eggs, homefries and a choice of bacon, sausage or ham, with toast and a doughnut, for $12.99. I asked for my eggs over easy and an English muffin, with bacon. I ordered my favorite doughnut, a honey dip.
The doughnut came right away, served on a simple, small white plate and without adornment. The doughnut was almost the color of my creamed coffee, light-brown tan. The flaky glaze glistened under the light. And, boy, was it good. I ate slowly, to appreciate its texture and flavors. It was airy and light, and chewy. The glaze stuck to my fingers, and I devoured its entire sticky sweetness. The flavor was subtle, with just a hint of honey. For me, the allure of this doughnut was its fluffy lightness.
The breakfast came next, with two perfectly cooked eggs, with the yolks just runny enough to dip my English muffin but otherwise cooked through. The bacon slices were thick and crisp, and the homefries were mildly seasoned, just-right-sized potato chunks. The problem was the English muffin. As far as I could tell, it was unbuttered and there was no butter available on the counter.
When I needed service, the waitress was nowhere in sight, and I couldn’t wait. Dipping the muffin is an integral part of the breakfast experience, and the eggs always come first. I proceeded with an unbuttered English muffin. The bacon strips made up for it. Three in number, they were cooked crisply through, and irresistibly salty.
My only other complaint was the coffee. It was weak to my taste, and costly at $2.99. That put my bill, with tax and before a tip, at $17.26. The feeling of nostalgia faded quickly as I got in my car and headed north to Portland.
WHERE: 1009 Post Road, Route 1, Wells; congdons.com or (207) 646-4219
RESTAURANT HOURS: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday to Sunday
WAIT: For breakfast, five minutes or so
PARKING: Plenty of parking in a lot
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes