Noshing on sticky buns the approximate size of your head is a Midwest breakfast tradition. I came to this realization early in life when, on a trip Up North to a friend’s cabin, we had some relief from the constant yodeling (on the radio, not the parents, though it was the their choice of music for three hours straight) when we stopped at Tobie’s in Hinckley, MN. Halfway between Minneapolis and Duluth, Tobie’s is a famous rest stop/family restaurant where people mostly load up on enormous rolls, sticky with caramel and studded with nuts, while reading all about the famous Hinckley fire on informative place mats.
But you don’t have to suffer an hours-long, yodeling car ride to get your hands on proper sticky buns. In Minneapolis, Isles Bun & Coffee is the place to go. It’s been there for 15 years (current owners have had it for about half that time), and though I grew up less than two miles from the place, it still took James’ recommendation on this last trip home to actually get me there.
James suggested we try the Puppy Dog Tails — puffy twists of cinnamoned dough that have nothing of the snips and snails about them whatsoever — and to make sure to get the icing. Well, we got two Puppy Dog Tails and a mongo sticky bun (the last in the pan, as it happened, and the baker asked us if we minded getting all the extra caramel goo and nuts. Um, no?!) and then we got the frosting. See, the frosting sits in a tall bowl over on the island where you get your milk, your cream, your sugar, and your soy stuff for your coffee. There’s a wide cake spreader for self-dolloping, and just how much frosting you scoop out is between you and your fear of diabetes.
We got our heavy box home and armed ourselves with knife and fork before tucking in, because when it comes to Minnesota sticky buns, there is just no room for dainty fingers and small bites. You saw into these sticky buns as you would a porterhouse. You scrape up excess caramel goo as if it were mashed potatoes and pile it back on your piece of bun. (Going with the steak analogy, the pecans would be sautéed mushrooms, but I’m trying to get you hungry for breakfast, not dinner.)
I won’t kid you, these buns are heavy. But it’s a delicious, soothing heaviness that sinks into your bones as you eat them while slowly sipping your coffee. It might even make you tired were it not for the intense sugar kick you get at the end, which makes it a perfect way to start your weekend.
Isles Bun & Coffee Company
1424 W 28th Street (at Hennepin)
Minneapolis, MN 55408
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