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Every college town has a spot where locals and students, whatever their differences, come together to commune over food. It's usually a diner or a café, and in the pines of central Maine, it's a diner that's called a café. The Kennebec Café, named after the Kennebec river, is located in Fairfield (pop. 6,573, mostly blue collar families and the occasional moose) and also serves adjacent Waterville (pop. 15,605, including the 2,000 barefooted students of Colby College).
The Kennebec Café serves the usual greasy-spoon fare--eggs, home fries, coffee so strong it's nearly solid--but it's the special page tucked into each menu that lets you know this is no ordinary diner. By the time you've made it to the shop's unassuming exterior--I thought it was closed when I saw it--you already know: Kennebec owner and proprietor Ann Maglaras hand-cooks some really good, sustainable doughnuts. Ann has been behind the counter six days a week since opening the store seven years ago with husband and co-owner John. The two met when John, a cross-country trucker for National Starch and Chemical, became a regular customer of The Eating House, where Ann then worked.
Photo by Samantha Given-Dennis
Central Maine is a place where Souter-style New England understatement and back-country flannel folksiness come together. Like the other Mainer old salts who line up outside before every 5 a.m. opening and hunch over their coffee and doughnuts until closing, Ann and John are at once the friendliest people you've ever met and the most reserved. That ethos comes through in Ann's doughnuts. "I don't really care for sweet stuff," Ann says, and it shows: Her creations are a far cry from the sugar-delivery systems produced by Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts. This allows the natural sweetness of her flavors, usually based on a single, locally produced ingredient, to shine through: peanut butter, raspberry preserves ("razzle dazzle"), applesauce, molasses, lemon, carrot, fresh blueberries picked from the famous Maine farms of Wyman's, even squash.