The Ultimate Guide to Sticky Buns in PhiladelphiaBy Danya Henninger
February 5, 2014
Fritz's sticky bun
Move over, cheesesteak. Of the many foods Philadelphia deserves to be famous for, the sticky bun ranks high on the list. The dessert-for-breakfast favorite was born here, brought over by immigrants who had long baked “schnecken” in their home countries (the word is German for “snail” and refers to the pastry’s swirled shape). Pennsylvania Dutch kitchens were producing these morning palate pleasers in great numbers as early as the 17th century.
Numerous Amish bakeries throughout Lancaster County continue the tradition, but there are also plenty of places closer to the city to score sticky buns both traditional and new. Check out our sticky bun map below, and then read on for details about where to find the best in your area.
The Northeast is home to a plethora of bakeries that have been passed down from generation to generation. Here are eight that do sticky buns right.
Schenk’s Family Bakery: You can choose either raisin- or pecan-topped sticky buns at this family-run bakery that’s been serving the Northeast since 1938. Either way, arrive early, because batches sell out quickly each morning (three for $3.25 or 12 for $10.50; 215-722-0997).
Fritz’s Bakery: When Paul Bartholomai’s grandfather arrived from Germany in 1936, he opened a bakery in Croydon, and those roots have been transferred to this shop just outside the city line in Bensalem. Sticky buns come five ways: plain, raisin, walnut, raisin-walnut or with cream cheese icing ($1.50 each or 12 for $11.50; 215-364-1595).
Haegele's Bakery: The third generation is now running this family-owned German bakery in the heart of Mayfair. Sticky buns here go by their traditional name - schnecken - and come out of the oven bubbling hot each morning, just like they have since 1930 ($11.50 per dozen; 215-624-0117).
Holmesburg Bakery: When he got married, proprietor George Gouger’s great-grandfather took over his wife’s family's bakery business, which was founded in 1900. “Pull-aparts” - as they’re called here - have been a specialty for more than 100 years ($10.50 per dozen; 215-624-1091).
Oteri’s Bakery: This family-run Italian bakery has been serving the Philadelphia region for over 100 years, so it’s no surprise bakers added the local favorite to their Italy-influenced repertoire. Buns are topped with honey glaze and either walnuts or raisins (three for $2; 215-637-1330).
The Dining Car: Northeast late-nighters have been counting on this ‘round-the-clock diner since 1961. Stop in and order your sticky bun to go with a cup of coffee or pick up a family pack at the to-go counter next door. NB: Buns usually come with raisins, but if you order in advance you can ask for nuts on top instead ($2.50 each; 215-338-5113).
Lipkin’s Bakery: Mitch Lipkin is probably best known for “Mitch’s knishes,” but the sticky buns are also good (and also kosher). Choose yours with raisins, nuts or both (three for $1.75 or 12 for $6.29; 215-342-3005).
Mayfair Bakery: The family that runs this shop has been baking since 1923 and baking in the Northeast since 1965. Choose your buns with raisins or walnuts, and know that they sometimes do sell out ($11.50-$12 per dozen; 215-624-7878).
Oteri's sticky bun
Adjacent to Germantown (the birthplace of the American sticky bun), Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill have in recent decades become baked-goods hubs in their own right.
Night Kitchen Bakery: The husband-wife team of Amy Beth Edelman and John Millard has gained national acclaim for wedding cakes, but sticky buns are also a much-loved produce at this cafe-bakery on Germantown avenue. Minis go for $1.50 each, or get a round of six for $11.50 (215-248-9235).
Baker Street Bread: In addition to supplying rolls to many area restaurants, this bakery supplies its retail cafe with pastries and breads both sweet and savory. “Take-and-bake” sticky buns come in pans of six, ready to be re-heated in your oven for hot, fresh enjoyment (6 for $10.75; 215-248-2500).
Bredenbeck’s Bakery: Founded in 1889, this full-line commercial bakeshop also has an attached cafe and ice cream parlor. Sticky buns are full of cinnamon, sugar and butter, and the brown-sugar glaze is dotted with raisins or walnuts (three for $4.75; 215-247-7374).
Little Jimmie's Bakery Cafe: Opened in March of 2011, what this newcomer doesn’t have in history, it makes up for in heart: opening a bakery was proprietor Jimmie Reed’s lifelong dream. Large sticky buns covered in glaze and raisins go for $2.89 each (267-336-7139).
Flourtown Bakery: Just northwest of the city line is this small, family-owned bakeshop that’s been serving Flourtown for over 25 years. Cinnamon sticky buns come out of the oven early each morning, and bunches of a dozen are available in either raisin ($8) or nut ($9; 215-836-7441).
Bredenbeck's sticky buns
Philly - North of Market Street
Scattered throughout the north parts of Center City and nearby neighborhoods are several great spots to find sticky buns - some best enjoyed at a table, and some suitable for taking home.
Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat: The giant, pecan-studded rolls at this Northern Liberties brunch favorite are made fresh daily (and only sometimes sent to the other Honey’s outpost on South Street West). Arrive early or call ahead, they do often sell out ($5; 215-925-1150).
Beiler’s Bakery: The Amish-run stand in Reading Terminal Market is where to get your ultratraditional sticky bun without leaving Philadelphia. Any day but Sunday or Monday, head over to pick them up in either raisin or nut (three for $3.50 or 12 for $11.50; 215-351-0735).
Jerry’s Bar: Chef Marshall Green works magic with walnuts and honey to create a brunch starter worth a visit to this Northern Liberties bar. If you use your spoon to eat the copious cream cheese icing on its own, no one will tell ($4; 267-273-1632).
Stock’s Bakery: For nearly 100 years, the Stock family has been providing Kensington with baked sweets of all kinds. Mostly famous for the unmatched pound cake, the bakery’s sticky buns are well-loved too ($10.50 per dozen; 215-634-7344).
Jack’s Firehouse: Proprietor JackMcDavid once created 10,000 sticky buns for a Clinton inauguration party, and you can pick up your own taste of the presidentially approved pecan sticky bun at this Fairmount tavern during Saturday and Sunday brunch ($3.95; 215-232-9000).
Denise’s Delicacies: This North Philly bakery isn’t close to much else - it’s around halfway between Brewerytown and Mt. Airy - but the quality of the goods brings crowds so large you have to take a number. Make your wait worthwhile with sticky buns topped with either raisins or nuts ($11.50 per dozen; 215-392-2562).
Jerry's Bar sticky bun
Philly - South of Market Street
From Rittenhouse to deep South Philly, this half of the city proper does not lack for sticky bun purveyors, though most offerings are the large kind, sold singly instead of in trays or strips.
Kermit’s Bake Shop: Pastry chef Chad Durkin does not hold back with the dripping glaze on the huge salted caramel sticky buns at this Washington Avenue combination bakery-pizzeria. Order one to pick apart as you wait for your fresh-made pie ($4; 267-639-4267).
Swiss Haus Bakery: When Jim Hausman took over this family-run Rittenhouse bakery in 2007, he was committed to continuing the shop’s tradition of great European pastries. The large sticky buns are a testament to that, baked daily with pecans, raisins and lots of honey glaze ($3; 215-563-0759).
Frangelli’s Bakery: Just like the donuts and all the other creations here, the sticky buns at this unassuming Rittner Street bakeshop are a great bargain for an in-city find. Score a strip of three good-sized rounds for $2.75 (215-271-7878).
Le Bus Bakery: Giant cinnamon swirls are found regularly at the Rittenhouse outpost of this prolific bakery (it’s well-known for supplying rolls for many of Philly’s best burgers). Pick yours up for $2.25 (215-932-3092).
Isgro Pastries: Sticky buns have been incorporated into the rotating menu at this Italian Market icon, and while they don’t grace the dessert case as often as the shop’s famous cannoli, if you stop by on a Saturday or Sunday morning, you’re likely to find a few gooey, raisin-topped rolls to try (three for $3.25; 215-923-3092).
Metropolitan Bakery: Saturday and Sunday are also good bets to find sticky buns at this artisanal bakeshop in Rittenhouse. Both nuts and raisins grace the top of the glaze-covered rolls, available for $2.85 each (215-545-6655).
Fork / High Street on Market: Pastry chef Samantha Kincaid has been getting creative with her takes on snail-shaped treats at these sister Old City establishments - she calls them “escargot,” and if you haven’t tried the one with coffee gravy, do it soon - but occasionally she’ll also create the traditional kind too ($2.50-$3.50; 215-625-0988).
Kermit's Bake Shoppe sticky bun
The Main Line
Viking Pastries: The family-owned bakery in Ardmore will be featured on the Food Network’s Save My Bakery this spring, but even before the show airs, you can stop into the revamped storefront to get your sticky-bun fix. They’re sold by the pound, and $13 will score you around 18-20 pull-apart nuggets (610-642-9227).
Main Line Baking Co.: Seekers of a gluten-free bun can head to this Wynnewood bakeshop for a swirl that’s full of cinnamon, raisins and sugary glaze, but zero wheat. Note that the retail storefront is open Wednesday-Saturday only ($2; 215-292-4200).
Au Fournil: While this Narberth bakery does not sell directly to the public, you have very likely eaten sticky buns from the ovens there - they supply around 50-60 area cafes. If you happen to be driving by and stop in for a visit, you just might be able to score a gratis sticky-bun sample as a snack (610-664-0235).