Forever Torn Between My Two Favorite SF Cinnamon Rolls

To want a classic or to want a spin on the original, it’s my perpetual tug-of-war between these two San Francisco bakeries.

My corpulent childhood was punctuated by periods when I would find my breath heavy waiting for a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls to leave a warm oven. Or when I would reach for those sweet rolls that filled aluminum circle trays at Kroger. Or when my mom and I would stop at our favorite local bakery in North Texas to buy artisanal whole wheat bread — putting me in the way of yeasted spirals of cinnamon and sugar and butter.

Mall cinnamon rolls will forever be a thing for me. Airports remain precarious places where my self-discipline could fall away to the sight of teal packaging.

My adult life continues to oscillate around cinnamon rolls, albeit to a lesser extent. While plastic-wrapped Big Texas Cinnamon Rolls — consumed outside convenience stores in College Station, Texas — will (likely) forever outnumber the more quality buns in SF I’ll eat in my lifetime, this is not to admit I won’t do my part in closing that gap.

And the vast majority of those consumed, bakery-made buns will (probably) be those belonging to either Chadwick’s or Devil’s Teeth Baking Company.

She’s never not the moment or the ‘fun’ girl at the San Francisco party (Chadwick’s)

Chadwick’s sits unassumingly on the corner of Castro and Market streets, wedged between a Shell gas station and a raucous queer dance club. It exists as a bastion of solace away from the proverbial fray — evergreen nods to our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and the queer frivolity that regularly descends on the Castro. Among the calm-cool it protects inside is perhaps the best iteration of the perfect supermarket cinnamon roll (typed out in the most flattering way conceivable).

These “fun buns” are the signature item at the 2375 Market Street bakery. The yeasted roll is pillowy, yet structured; sweet, but not overtly saccharin; topped with icing, but not drowning in summoned powdered sugar.

Whenever my teeth sink into one, I’m awash with nostalgia and pleasure. They offer so much more than merriment — comfort, whimsy, joy, and contentment are all feelings that come to mind as the slightly tangy frosting begins dissolving on my tongue. I’m not being facetious when I tell you I’ve welled up in absolute bliss eating one of these after I stood up on a day-date at The Lookout a few years back.

Buns before boys, forever and always. 

2375 Market Street; more info.

She totally went to art school on the East Coast before embedding herself in SF (Devil’s Tooth Baking Company)

I both crave structure and rebel against it at all costs. The same carries over to my ideas of tradition and normalcy, which, too, relates to my affinity for cinnamon rolls. I love the O.G. cinnamon buns of my far-flung youth, but something must be said about iterating on a classic. When done well, it’s a glorious refreshing; when done poorly, it fuels reasoning as to why it’s best not to tinker with a well-oiled recipe.

Devil’s Teeth Baking Company has done a sublime Command + Shift + R on the platonic idea of a cinnamon roll. Its bun isn’t amusing, per se; it’s more buttoned up and austere than Chadwick’s’ fun buns, replacing the usual convivial white icing with a thick coating of caramelized sugar. It’s a baked good that invites entropy instead of one that necessitates organization for appeal. I like this (a lot).

The Devil’s Teeth Baking Company’s cinnamon roll teases you to unravel it, unlike Chadwick’s. Pulling it apart is a balm to my soul; I imagine it’s a sensation akin to what some people experience watching blocks of wet sand get cut with an exceedingly sharp knife. 

The bun doesn’t entirely crimp when presented with pressure. It merely elongates — a pulled sweetened dough that manages to be both breakable and forgiving, simultaneously. And when I inevitably decide to drip a torn piece into my coffee of choice, I’m reminded why I purchase International Delight’s Cinnabon creamer when it’s stocked at the Target off Geary Street.

Cinnamon buns can sweeten even the more ostensibly bitter things in life.

3876 Noriega Street and 3619 Balboa Street; more info

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