By EDDIE CEYLAYA
Like any town, Tucson has its perennial institutions. Reid Park and Fourth Avenue come to mind, as do poorly maintained streets and roads.
In my estimation, however, none come close to touching the glazed goodness of Le Cave’s Bakery.
Situated out of donut shop central casting, Le Cave’s is located on South Sixth Avenue across from a Catholic Church. (We’re notorious for donuts before, after and, if you’re extremely sinful like I am, during mass.)
Le Cave’s isn’t just my favorite pastry place. It’s Tucson’s.
Cashier Tiffany Molina explains.
“We have a national award from PETA,” she says. “We were mentioned in USA Today and voted number one in Arizona by various publications.”
Oh, and they happen to have a letter of recognition from Congress sitting around.
Customer Derek Ungurun couldn’t agree more.
“These are just the best donuts in town,” he says. “I’ll kill six warm glazed ones in a sitting. Could probably do the same with the Boston crème.”
It’s more than donuts, too.
“We do a lot of custom design and photo sheet-cakes,” Molina says. “We have tres leches cakes, cream pies and during Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie.”
Molina, the daughter of current owner Rudy Molina Jr., has been working both the front counter and in the bakery since she was 12 years old.
“I grew up in the place,” she says. “I’ve always helped out with little chores. It’s a great job, and it’s our family’s.”
If you’re wondering why the place is called “Le Cave’s” (pronounced cave, you know, like where bears hibernate) and not “Molina’s,” well that’s because the original owner and baker was named Basel Le Cave.
“My grandfather, Rudy Sr., did work for Mr. Le Cave,” Molina said. “The business started 80 years ago in 1935. We’ve been at the same location ever since.”
It’s been in the Molinas’ family for the past 60 years, soon to be 61.
Her grandfather “loved the manual labor part, the rolling the dough and making the donuts,” Molina says. “He really had a passion for it.”
That eventually led him to buy the place, she adds. “He grew up with it and after a while, he bought the business to do his own thing with.”
The passion and history shows through in the donuts. That, and a unique recipe that calls for no eggs or milk.
“We call them the veggie donuts,” Molina says. “They are vegan and we use a potato flour, so it’s just very different because no one else uses potato flour. The rest is secret, but I can tell you the flour isn’t something people usually run across.”
While the donuts have remained unchanged, the building that houses the bakery has unfortunately seen better times.
After a storm last October, the city health department forced the bakery to shut down due to unsanitary conditions caused in part by the roof caving in.
Le Cave’s has been operating under a provisional license granted by the Pima County Health Department that expires April 8.
Those issues are being dealt with, according to Molina.
“They haven’t been able to pass us because there were issues with the plastering for the roofing in the very back,” she says. “That’s all done now.”
The issue hasn’t stopped customers from continuing to visit Le Cave’s.
“We were talking the other day with a customer and figured out he was the fifth generation of his family to come through,” Molina says. “We get old folks who tell stories of getting their donuts for 5 or 10 cents.”
While you can’t score a donut for 10 cents anymore, a dozen unfilled donuts will cost you $8.99 in today’s world, with any filled donuts costing $1.59 each.
Tradition, passion and loyalty equal a cultural institution; a title Le Cave’s wears proudly.
“We’ve been here so long,” Molina says. “Same location. Not many people can say that.”
And nobody makes a better donut.
Le Cave’s Bakery
Address: 1219 S. Sixth Ave.
Tues-Fri, 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.