The sign in front of Butcher Block Cafe has remained unchanged for the past decade. Its power is in its simplicity, reading "HOMEMADE CINNAMON ROLLS." But the sign is quite humble for the quality and cult following of the rolls.
Chef Corey Michel has been rolling out hundreds of these each week since 2005. His father and uncles opened the first Butcher Block in 1979. They acquired the building on 38th where they make the cinnamon rolls in 1995. It was also operating as a diner at the time and sold cinnamon rolls.
"Theirs were good, but they were heavier, more dense," says Michel. He changed the recipe after spending some time with his grandmother on her farm in North Dakota. "I used to go up there for a few weeks at a time and she would teach me how to bake." Her influence changed the recipe into the golden rolls served today.
It's a simple process on a massive scale. Michel makes them early in the morning twice a week. The magic is in Michel's intuition. After ten years of baking, his own eye is more valuable than a recipe could ever be. From the amount of flour in the dough to the amount of time it needs to be worked to the freehand cinnamon and sugar, his proportions create some of the most consistent and sought-after pastry in the city.
You can get one every day of the week at the 38th Street location until 3 p.m.