A maple-bacon-bourbon glazed donut and a Duck Rabbit milk stout: It’s difficult to imagine a more offbeat pairing, and even more difficult to imagine a shop where such a combo exists.
Which is part of the reason why, day in and day out, a line of hungry (and undoubtedly some curious) customers, including eager foodies, stretches from counter to door at Durham’s Monuts Donuts.
To be fair, not everyone enjoys a cold beer with their hand-crafted breakfast pastry. But at Monuts, it’s at least an option. After all, considering the shop’s proximity to a large population of doctors and nurses who sometimes work overnight shifts, an early-morning beer isn’t so out of the ordinary. Monuts offers a half-dozen craft beers on tap, as many wines, and a small collection of brunch cocktail standards like mimosas and bloody marys.
“We’re pretty happy to have a ‘happy hour’ option for them when regular bars aren’t open,” says front-of-the-house manager Amelie Freeman-Lynde.
But for most people, Monuts is all about the donuts. Flavors change often and range from the standard glaze to gourmet offerings like toasted almond to Irish coffee, in two general categories: cake and yeast. As Freeman-Lynde explains, the cake variety is a more Northern-style donut, like the apple cider donuts you might get in Vermont. A yeast doughnut, which sets to rise like a bagel, is more typically found in the South—think Krispy Kreme, for example.
And speaking of bagels, Monuts makes theirs from scratch, too. After living in New York—the epicenter of all things bagel—for 10 years, Freeman-Lynde found her bagel options limited when she returned to the South.
“I figured I’d have to forget bagels because not many local stores made them fresh,” she explains. “Ours are similar quality to a New York-style. They have an overnight rise, then they’re boiled and baked with a great, chewy quality.”
Of course, just about everything is made fresh at Monuts: sauces that pair with a range of sandwiches (the ooey, gooey Gouda is pretty awesome), biscuits, and, of course, coffee.
As students of Durham-based (but nationally present) coffee experts Counter Culture, baristas at Monuts know their joe. There’s the standard drip variety, plus a range of reasonably priced, espresso-based drinks to give their customers an extra lift.
In fact, the folks at Monuts are all about giving people a lift, not just of the caffeinated variety. As a member of the Living Wage Project, they strive to not just pay each member of their team a living wage but are actively involved in understanding what that means for Durham, a principle Monuts is willing to work for.
“I know a lot of people in the restaurant business who really care about their people,” says Freeman-Lynde. “But they say there’s no way you can pay people a living wage and still keep the business in operation year after year. We have a kind of mission to show that a restaurant can be a survivable place to work.”
Over the last several years, the shop has grown from a box on the back of a tricycle, to a small downtown shop, to a 40-employee operation near Duke University. The first employee after owners Lindsay Moriarty and Rob Gillespie, Freeman-Lynde has enjoyed watching their “fanatical fan base” support the growth.
But at the end of the day (or maybe it’s the beginning?), it’s all about the donuts. Light and fresh in texture and creative in flavor, they are well worth the wait—at any hour.