There’s something to be said about corporate coffee and chain restaurants: Generally speaking, they will offer a comfortable and consistent experience, so that you know before you go what you’re going to get. The beauty of finding a hidden-gem spot, however, is getting a dose of the unexpected: You really don’t know what you’re going to find unless you give a place a try, and when you find a spot that’s really great, it’s like discovering a treasure.
This is how I came to find Richmond Donuts. Ironically enough, I first noticed it on my way to a session with my personal trainer, who lives in Rosenberg. My usual route on Highway 59 had been plagued with construction delays, so I’d taken a circuitous route that day that took me past this small strip mall doughnut shop at the corner of FM 762/Thompson Road and Avenue I, where I spotted the shop’s old-school facade.
As I’m always hungry after my morning workout, I took a mental note of its location and returned after my sweat session to give it a try. For me, the litmus test for doughnut shops starts with a glazed doughnut because there’s very little to hide behind — just some fried dough and glaze. With just one bite of a glazed doughnut, you can usually tell whether everything else is going to be good.
Plush, moist, with an airy, pillowy center and a slightly chewy consistency, the glazed doughnut at Richmond Donuts was undeniably delicious. In fact, later that day, when a friend of mine offered me a Krispy Kreme doughnut to try, I couldn’t help but make a comparison. With the luscious taste of Richmond’s glazed orbs still lingering on my palate, I found them decidedly superior to Krispy Kreme, which, served at room temperature, had a cakier consistency with a more pronounced oily aftertaste.
The other thing I tried that day was the large sausage and cheese kolache. When you order it, the owner will throw it in the microwave, which yields a piping-hot kolache with a soft, pliant outer shell and a hot-dog-like center that oozes cheddar cheese. I’ve had enough kolaches to appreciate one that is done well, and this one easily fits that description.
While I was checking out, I chatted with the owner, Nydanee Narith Hory, and she told me her life’s story. A Cambodian immigrant, she moved to the United States in the early 2000s, barely able to speak English (her English is fine now). Not able to find a job, she worked in her great-aunt’s doughnut shop for free for four months, just so she could get some experience and learn the business.
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By the time she opened Richmond Donuts in 2008, she’d had several years’ worth of working in a doughnut shop. Even so, she says she has continually worked to improve her craft, watching YouTube videos so she could fine-tune her recipes and her methodology.
That’s what you taste when you visit Richmond Donuts. You don’t find super-fancied-up doughnuts and kolaches here. You find the classic stuff made with the skill and know-how of someone who put in the hours and the sweat equity needed to build a new life for herself and her family.
Places like these are the ones I treasure. The fact that it's also competitively priced is also a bonus. The classic glazed doughnut is just 55 cents. A dozen doughnut holes run $1.29. And my large sausage and cheese kolache set me back just $1.79.