In the middle of a nondescript block of East McNeese Street in Lake Charles, LA, stands Nelson's Donuts. Nelson's is an institution. During my childhood, Tastee Donuts and Nelson's were the spots we frequented most; Tastee was good and its location was more convenient, but it never touched Nelson's. And while Tastee shuttered its drive-thru many years ago, Nelson's continues to thrive.
The sign is new, a slight update to the one I grew up looking out for as Mom, or later friends and I, drove towards the brick-red-roofed building. Gal pals and I spent many a post-slumber party morning tricking our fatigue with the sugar rush of a warm, freshly glazed dozen. Elia, Mom and I often went for an early weekend breakfast, and now, the boys insist that a trip to Nelson's be one of our first activities upon arriving in Lake Charles.
Nelson's is open seven days a week, from 5am to noon. As Tom and Jack were immersed in a spirited game of Chinese Checkers, Ol and I made the Nelson's run this morning. We arrived at 7:45, and, per the usual at that time, the drive-thru line snaked into the street (drivers not headed to Nelson's go around without complaint). We took the last lot spot, and Ol flew to the window, eager to place our order.
The smell of hot grease, yeasted dough and sugary glaze envelops you as you approach the counter. Even if you swear you're not hungry, you will find yourself ordering a donut or two for yourself and later regretting that you didn't get more. I made that rookie mistake this morning and have rued it ever since.
Jack had requested two strawberry-filleds, one cinnamon twist, some donut holes and a chocolate-glazed. Ol chose a chocolate-glazed bedecked with sprinkles, donut holes, a cinnamon twist and an eclair. We got a French Market (like a beignet) too, just because. Ol sucked down his cinnamon twist before we reached home, and I poached a bite of J's strawberry-filled and Tom's chocolate-glazed.
I have eaten many a donut all over America, including those from vaunted spots like Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland and Dough in Brooklyn. Those from Dough were magnificent, and yes, a Krispy Kreme is good when a fix must be sated. But there's something perfect about donuts from Nelson's. They don't try to be anything but delicious, consistently so, and they are. Nothing fancy, nothing silly, no soupçon or drizzle of anything you really didn't want anyway. They're just wonderful, and we're already looking forward to a big, messy, sugary box next time we're here.