In 1947, the nation was in the midst of great change. Families were reunited after nearly a decade of foreign conflict. Industry took on a new peacetime focus. Government leaders promised a booming era. Wages would be high. Innovation and invention would replace the inconvenience of the latter decade. Above all else, a greater sense of family would develop from the unspeakable destruction and loss suffered during World War II.
Hanover, NH, nestled among the White Mountains and banks of the Connecticut River, was no different. Young men returned from Europe, Asia and Africa with an unparalleled sense of optimism and energy for the growth of their beloved hometown. One man in particular had ambition, and a vision. With only a little borrowed start-up capital, he set out to improve Hanover in a very small way. He invested in a failing restaurant on Main Street, realizing a dream of operating his own coffee shop and full-service bakery. With his hat in his hand, he opened the doors to the newly remodeled diner on April 11, 1947. Slowly – at first – then steadily, customers were beckoned by the smells of fresh cinnamon buns and steaming coffee, a freshly baked doughnut, and a smile from one of the friendly waitresses. Lou Bressett, a recently discharged Marine, dubbed his place “Lou’s,” and in doing so began a Hanover tradition that would last well into the next century.
The good food and low prices drew many young Dartmouth men out of their residence halls, in search of a good home-cooked meal. Their professors were drawn to the corner booths for early morning inspiration, and perhaps a break from the normalcy of academia. Out-of-towners sought local lore and gossip, while businessmen found the morning news and fellow companionship on cold winter mornings. Everyone who enjoyed a cup of coffee or set his elbows on the formica tables was greeted with a smile.
In the decades that followed, Lou’s reputation for food and atmosphere spread throughout the state (and, as many postcards attest, throughout the world). Customers traveled from Boston and New York and found their way out of the dorms and off the Appalachian Trail to savor some of the delicate, rich morsels prepared daily in the bakery.
In 1980, Lou Bressett retired as owner/proprietor of this lasting institution. His namesake, however, would live on. The new owner, Bob Watson, implemented many changes in the menu. In addition to the home style entrees served for years, he added Mexican fare – one that has been called “the closest thing to Mexico you can get in New Hampshire.” The Mexican entrees sparked surprising interest and have remained as a permanent part of the current menu. Watson elected out of the restaurant business and in 1992 turned the place over to Pattie and Toby Fried. While many feared additional changes, most were pleased to find only aesthetic changes in the restaurant’s aging interior. The food, the name, the friendly conversation and cozy atmosphere would remain. Toby, an engineer-turned-pastry-chef put the Lou's Bakery on the culinary map, and introduced many Austrian and German entrees and desserts that locals look forward to each Octoberfest.
Lou passed away in 2003 and his presence is still missed, and Lou's Restaurant celebrated 70-years in 2017. In mid 2018 and after 27 years, the Frieds passed the Lou's tradition onto the next generation in a symbolic passing of a giant golden cruller at a small ceremony attended by the Lou's staff. The new owners, Jarett and Cailin Berke, plan on keeping Lou's exactly how it is and embracing the institution that so many locals, Dartmouth alumni, and out-of-towners have loved for so many years.