The Food Whisperer: Ruby Donut features freshness

The cardboard takeaway box from a new little gem in Ayer called Ruby Donut reads, “You deserve a donut.” Yes, yes I do. In fact, we all do. Whether it be a chocolate frosted with sprinkles or a glazed pillow of dough stuffed with raspberry jam or Boston creme, this place offers freshly baked doughnuts in a friendly atmosphere. Plus there’s no drive-thru window as there is at many doughnut chains—you have to get out of the car for these. Feeling a little guilty for indulging like this so close to swimsuit season? Park at the far end of the lot and jog over to the front door. There, problem solved.

Ruby Donuts abuts West Main Street near the Verbeck Gate to Devens. (Photos by Lisa Aciukewicz)

Lilly Phal owns the shop, which is named after her daughter Ruby, with life partner Chan Ving. Phal’s smile is the first thing customers see upon entering the establishment, which opened in late March. She works the register and happily explains less familiar items on the menu. Old-fashioned? A cake doughnut in the shape of a ring with tapered edges. Long Johns? Bar-shaped pastry, glazed or iced and filled with raspberry jam or a custard filling similar to an eclair. Pine Cone? A glazed doughnut that looks pretty much like its name. Bear Claw? Tastes like a glazed doughnut but filled with an apple and cinnamon mixture, fanned out to resemble a bear’s claw.

Some may remember the long-ago commercial with Fred the baker mumbling, “It’s time to make the doughnuts” over and over as he shuffles along to work in the wee hours of the morning. Well, Ving can relate. He gets up at 2 a.m. each day and travels from his home in Lowell to ensure that his doughnuts are made fresh.

Steve Duffy orders doughnuts from Lilly Phal as Chan Ving delivers more baked goods to the case.

“Nobody wants to get up at 2 a.m.,” he said during an interview one recent morning, “but I’m happy to make my customers happy.” One major drawback to his day beginning so early? He doesn’t get his goodbye kiss from Phal, who is fast asleep when he leaves for work.

Originally from Cambodia, Ving spent many years in Texas, where he learned how to make doughnuts and also his personal favorite, kolaches. Extremely popular in the Lone Star State, a kolache is a sweetened yeast roll often filled with fruit. Ving offers several varieties at Ruby Donut, including lemon, raspberry, and also a smoked sausage and cheese version. He said at first his customers had no idea what kolaches were and would refer to them as pigs in a blanket. But now this pastry, with an origin going back to Eastern Europe, has become a fan favorite.

Both Phal and Ving credit their customers with spreading the good word about their first business venture. Business has been steady and, according to Ving, “We get new customers every day.” In fact, workers from a competing franchise and New England mainstay (that shall remain nameless) have been known to stop in for a doughnut on their way to work. Weekend mornings prove to be their busiest days, with long lines extending to the door. Those lines are a beautiful sight for these warm and gracious business owners. “We love it,” said Ving.

“One customer said our doughnuts are better than Krispy Kreme,” he said, beaming with pride.

Ruby Donuts

210 West Main Street, Ayer

Monday to Friday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 75p.m.

For more information, follow the store's Facebook page.

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