What makes a perfect cinnamon roll is a matter of taste.
Some people like them big and round and dripping with frosting. Some like them square and tall and filled with nuts and raisins.
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Cinnamon roll fan Diana Gordon’s requirements are much more loose.
“Whichever one is closest to me when I want a cinnamon roll,” said the Wichitan. “Which is whenever I think of cinnamon rolls. Which is daily.”
Recently, a Dining with Denise reader asked me who makes Wichita’s best cinnamon roll, and I realized I had no idea. Like Gordon, I pretty much like any cinnamon roll I’m handed. But I do have a cinnamon roll standard to which I compare all others.
The best ones I ever tasted came from the lunchroom of Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Dodge City. The lunch ladies of the 1980s were some serious epicureans, and I wish I could adequately describe the homemade goodness they produced each day in our school cafeteria. Their cinnamon rolls were one of their best creations. They weren’t too bready, and the cinnamon was evenly distributed within. The interior was sticky and buttery, and the top had a perfect coating of sugary glaze. Few cinnamon rolls I’ve tried since have compared.
So I asked readers to let me know which local bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants serve their favorite cinnamon rolls, and I got more than 100 responses on Facebook.
I tallied them up and then spent several days sampling cinnamon rolls to bring you this sticky, gooey, sweet and sugary report.
▪ The Lunchbox, 110 S. Main: Readers raved about the cinnamon rolls served at this tiny, easy-to-miss cafe that Raquel Ramirez opened on the ground floor of the High Touch Technology building in January 2016. She serves them only on Fridays, and her fans know this, so they start streaming in as soon as the doors open at 7 a.m.
“On a Friday, if I put 60 out, they’ll be gone by 10 o’clock,” Ramirez said.
Her secret, she says, is the cream cheese frosting that she piles high on top of each homemade roll. It’s somehow light and airy, and the cinnamon sugar that drips down in the pan as the rolls cook makes for a crunchy finish to each bite.
Ramirez, whose family used to own a Mexican restaurant in Haysville, said she came up with her secret cinnamon roll recipe by combining her recipe with her sister’s. At The Lunchbox, she also serves breakfast burritos and daily lunch specials. Hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
▪ Great Harvest, 535 N. Woodlawn: Readers also said they loved the cinnamon rolls from Great Harvest, which are pretty different from the rest of the pack. They’re large and flat with a chewy dough achieved by mixing white and wheat flour. And they’re not drowning in frosting. A little glaze goes a long way.
Customers can buy Great Harvest’s rolls fresh daily at the counter, and the shop also has them four-to-a-bag ready to go.
▪ Livingston’s Diner, 9747 E. 21st St., and Livingston’s Cafe, 4733 E. Douglas: The cooks at this Wichita institution are serious about their cinnamon rolls, which they make daily. The rolls are raised twice before baking, said Livingston’s Diner owner Jeanne Shaft, and they’re “gooey, bready and very cinnamony,” she said.
The cinnamon rolls are a big hit with customers, Shaft said, and at the diner (which will reopen in its new spot at 9747 E. 21st St. on Monday), the staff passes out mini-versions to customers while they’re waiting on their food.
▪ Copper Oven, 2409 W. 13th St.: The giant cinnamon rolls at Copper Oven are so popular that customers often order them by the dozens and dozens. But they’re also available to someone who just wants one at breakfast. The secret ingredient, staff members say, is the sweet mocha icing on top.
▪ The Good Egg, 2141 N. Bradley Fair Parkway: This breakfast spot has cinnamon rolls on the menu that are best described by customer and fan Linda Lansdown, who said she craved the cinnamon rolls when she used to live in Kansas City. “I used to come to Wichita on my birthday to get this cinnamon roll,” she said. “The bread is so light – almost melty like a Krispy Kreme doughnut, but then covered in the best, not-too-sweet cream cheese icing. Oh so good!”
▪ Sugar Sisters, 917 W. Douglas: Several readers also mentioned the cinnamon rolls at Sugar Sisters, which owner Kelli Sykes makes only a few times a week. She describes them as being made from scratch with “a sweet dough with lots of butter.” Sometimes she tops them with a butter cream frosting. Sometimes it’s a cream cheese frosting. Those who want to try her rolls will have better luck on Fridays and Saturdays. Twisted Java, the coffee shop at 2615 W. 13th St., also keeps them in stock.
▪ Other cinnamon roll makers that were mentioned: Town & Country, Bagatelle, Milkfloat, Il Primo Cafe, Paradise Donuts, Jimmie’s Diner, The Beacon, Panera, Caesar’s Table, Twisted Buns Bakery, and Carriage Crossing in Yoder.