Everyone has memories of a donut shop or bakery in their neighborhood growing up.
For me, it was Hagelstein’s bakery in Royal Oak, Mich., where we would arrive early to score a limited number of brownie crumb bags for 25 cents. These were bags full of bits of brownies that were left over for whatever reason. All I know is they were a prized possession among my friends.
Fast forward to my adult, somewhat health-conscious life, and I will be the first to admit that donuts have not been high on my breakfast list. That’s kind of a shame because the simple act of walking into a place like Leucadia Donuts can almost guarantee a smile on your face. I made it a point recently to revisit the morning bakery ritual of my youth, and the experience made me very happy.
I must point out that Leucadia Donuts, owned and operated by Tom and Emily Cheu, is as much of a Leucadia institution as it is donut shop. It’s been around for 29 years and their patrons have become more like extended family to the Cheus than customers. During several visits, the flow of customers was consistent and it always included several people in line who knew Tom and Emily by name. This was an all-ages crowd, kids on skateboards, post-session hungry surfers, vacationers from Arizona, and a smattering of seniors. Something about Leucadia Donuts made all these people very happy.
I spoke with one of those customers, Bryan Bome, to find out what the appeal was for him. His response seemed to fit he overall mood of customers. “I definitely go there because of Tom and Emily,” he said. “They are such great people; I always enjoy talking to them. I love supporting their business as well.”
Bryan’s favorites include the glazed, custard filled, old fashioned, and cinnamon. He is also a big fan of the coffee that he described as “good, simple coffee.” Amen to that. There is something to be said for a simple cup of black coffee. Bryan hits up Leucadia Donuts once a week, as much for the sense of local community he gets from it as the food.
Speaking of food, I had forgotten how immensely satisfying the sugary rush of a donut and cup of coffee can be. If it’s not something you eat every day, it’s like an endorphin rush of pleasure and the two just work in perfect harmony together.
The top sellers at Leucadia Donut include chocolate glazed, apple fritters, cake donut, and the incredible ham and cheese croissant which is a delicious savory option. Have them heat it up for you and it’s even better. I took one for later and it made for a nice lunch sandwich. And speaking of coffee, they serve a no-frills, but delicious Kona blend that works perfectly with everything they sell.
Tom starts his day around 1 a.m. and by the time he is done between noon and 1 p.m., he has cooked up two to three batches of donuts. They open at 5 a.m. and there is a steady stream of customers until they shut their doors. They rarely take a day off except for the occasional Monday.
Tom is a native of Cambodia and attended college San Diego State. He purchased Leucadia Donuts 25 years ago and had firmly established himself as part of the community.
I asked him if he had seen a recent Saveur Magazine article on the resurgence of donuts and them being embraced by the hipster community. He had not and that’s probably a good thing. Leucadia Donuts is pure old school, not ironically old school. If the hipsters embrace it, that’s just a bonus for Tom and Emily. I don’t see them getting all crazy gourmet with their donuts.
I know there a lot of readers out there who are saying that donuts do not fit into their healthy diets. My response to you is that most diets tend to fail because people need find some pleasure in their eating. I’ve learned that the 80-20 guideline is a good one to go by. Eat healthy 80 percent of the time but leave room for indulgence. And in that room, include Leucadia Donuts. They are good people and their donuts will make you smile. Find them at 1604 N. Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia. Call (760) 942-8981 for more information.