For 27 years, the intensely fragrant Isles Bun & Coffee has been turning out a seemingly endless supply of enormous, cinnamon-laced sweet buns, baked six to a pan and blanketed with a thick layer of cream cheese icing.
Spouses Jeff and Catherine Veigel bought the place in 2000, and their tiny business commands big numbers. Here’s one: Jeff estimates that the bakery goes through 6 tons of butter a year.
“My dad ran a restaurant for years, and god bless him, he gave me a couple of pieces of great advice,” says Jeff, a dining industry veteran himself with a résumé that reaches back to the legendary Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale. “Don’t cheat. Use real butter, don’t save a few thousand dollars and use a cheaper margarine blend. And if you have to raise prices, don’t decrease portions.”
Four bakers per shift juggle the intricate logistics of the 200-square-foot open kitchen, and watching their well-rehearsed choreography makes for a riveting show. Their list of skillfully prepared temptations goes beyond those yeasty, spiraled wonders to include scones, coffee cake, cookies, carrot cake, brownies and a lunchtime pan pizza.
The top seller? Puppy Dog Tails, a more manageable version of the colossal buns.
“We think their popularity has something to do with a favorable frosting-to-crust ratio,” Jeff says with a laugh.
Isles sets itself apart by offering an in-house (and fee-based) delivery service. One of their busiest days is Christmas Eve, when throngs of regulars descend to pick up frozen, ready-to-bake — and ice, of course — cinnamon buns for holiday brunches.
And the name? “Isles” refers to the bakery’s proximity to Lake of the Isles.
“Read the fine print,” Jeff says. “If you eat a cinnamon bun, you have to run around the lake. That’s why the lake is there.”
1424 W. 28th St., Mpls., 612-870-4466