In Middlebury, Vermont there’s a restaurant that primarily sells buns — sweet buns, savory buns, but always buns in a pleasing, spiral shape. Haymaker Bun Company operates out of the same space as the Arcadian, an Italian-leaning restaurant right on the Middlebury River. In the mornings, the buns, along with other pastries and coffee, take over the front of the restaurant, and at the counter right in front of the entrance, customers can watch as a baker stretches out the dough, spreads out filling, and then rolls the whole thing into a log before slicing that log into more buns.
A restaurant specializing in one item isn’t novel. Bakeries, in particular, often deal primarily in one item. But a bakery specializing in buns — and not loaves or doughnuts or even muffins — is unusual. Technically, a bun can come in a variety of shapes — an early episode of the Great British Bake Off features a Paul Hollywood recipe for iced buns that resemble small hoagies. Buns are defined more by their handheld size. But, in America, when we hear the word “bun,” we most likely think of cinnamon buns and sticky buns with a spiral of dough sandwiching gooey, sweet filling. Those are the buns I’m talking about here — and in Middlebury, I couldn’t remember the last time I had a specifically savory bun, in which sticky cinnamon filling is swapped for broccoli and cheddar or sausage with caramelized onions and rosemary. It’s a shame the savory versions are so scarce.
Sweet, swirly buns, filled with cinnamon or nuts or some other syrupy, sugary concoction, are everywhere. They’re at bakeries and on restaurant breakfast menus, at Cinnabon, sold in four-packs in supermarkets, and dominate the cases at coffee shop chains (Starbucks offers both a cinnamon-sugar “morning bun” and a cinnamon roll, with a layer of icing melted on top like a slice of American cheese). And while the sweet buns are certainly a worthy treat, they don’t offer the same practicality as their savory counterparts.
Sweet buns are indulgences, thanks to rich frosting and literal heaps of sugar. However, with an ideal ratio of dough to savory filling (that may include protein and possibly even nutritious vegetables), savory buns can be a hearty — and balanced! — breakfast. If they were more readily available, they’d cure many an afternoon hunger pang. In short, they serve a real purpose. They — like a hand pie, sausage roll, or Hot Pocket — are a meal.
Other savory pastries have gotten their due. Croissants stuffed with ham and cheese are sold everywhere from Australian import Bourke Street Bakery to Dunkin’. Spanakopita has surpassed Greek bakeries to be sold in the freezer aisle. So isn’t it time for buns? There’s no more satisfying snack than baked, bready dough accompanied by vegetables and cheese, particularly when swirled together to form one, portable, near-mess-free entity. Buns would proliferate in a world designed to my preferences. Until that day, if you’re ever in Middlebury, Vermont, do go to Haymaker Bun Company and get a bun — or several — as long as one is savory.