Eat Here, Not There: Cinnamon Rolls

Damn you, Cinnabon. Damn you and your evil scent that pervades every corner of an airport or mall food court. Cinnabon stores have really efficient staff, too, so lines move quickly and the hot cinnamon rolls move throughout the airport, causing their siren-like scent to waft even further. The caloric export of an airport Cinnabon store must be in the hundreds of thousands a day, and yet it's not actually a good cinnamon roll. It tends to be mushy, the icing tends to run, and once it cools, all bets are off; the carriage turns back into a pumpkin and the roll turns into a shriveled, overly yeasty, cloyingly sweet calorie puck.
This week, “Eat Here, Not There” presents not one, not two, but three alternatives that will blow the airport offender out of the water.

1. Blackmarket Bakery

I wish, I wish, I wish I had a picture of their cinnamon roll, but no cinnamon roll I've ever bought from them has ever lasted long enough to have a picture taken of it. The roll itself is slightly crispy on the outside, with plenty of cinnamon butter filling in the middle, and a lemony cream cheese icing that might be the most addictive substance in Orange County. They're not available all the time, but perhaps with a special order and sufficient advance notice, chef Rachel Klemek could be persuaded… 17941 Sky Park Circle, Irvine; 949-852-4609;

2. Break of Dawn

I'm well known in my circle of friends and family for baking apple pies with fifteen pounds of apple in an enormous cast-iron skillet. Cast-iron is the most undervalued bakeware in existence, but at Break of Dawn, smaller skillets come out of the oven with sizzling hot cinnamon rolls that practically ooze butter. They're soft, pliable and are topped with whipped cream rather than cream cheese frosting, and they're insanely good–good to the point that I've seen people risking skin burns to get the sauce in a spoon. 24351 Avenida de la Carlota, Laguna Hills; 949-587-9418;

3. Mary Beth's Bakery (Alice's Breakfast in the Park)

During the tenure of the hugely popular of Alice's Breakfast in the Park in Huntington Central Park, the single most-ordered item had to be pastry chef Mary Beth Gustafson's cinnamon rolls. They're the closest to a Cinnabon roll, except the taste is actually worth the caloric nuclear bomb contained within. The restaurant is, sadly, closed, but Mary Beth's cinnamon rolls are still available by special order. Their website says baked goods are available at Kathy May's BBQ on Golden West Street and at Mangiamo Gelato Caffè on Main in downtown Huntington Beach; it might be worth investigating. 714-848-0690;

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