The Ultimate Mall Food Showdown: Cinnabon Versus Auntie Anne's

I made it exactly 364 days with my 2012 New Year's resolution to not step foot in a mall. I lost on the last day. No, that's not annoying. At all.

But, sometimes being a marginal parent trumps our own selfish whims, dreams and desires. So, when my daughter wanted to "go to the mall" for her birthday, after two days of constant begging, I happily obliged. She's funny and I figured it would be an adventure. Plus, there's always the gut-bomb redeeming factor of Cinnabon.

With tweener in tow, we braved the most disparaging introspective of ... well, everything, and did the mall. After an hour in Barnes and Noble, we set out into the real mall and, not two steps out, saw the bright blue beacon of the Cinnabon sign.

There was a problem though. Auntie Anne's was right there too. Shit. Which do we get? Cinnamon rolls or cinnamon pretzels? OMG, #firstworldproblems. Tag each on FB, but check in at the Cheesecake Factory. #WheresOrangeJulius?

I was surprised to see a line at least five deep at Auntie Anne's, but no one at Cinnabon. We chose the latter, but I think that was a mistake. Let's delve deeper into this showdown and break it up into three different categories: technique, atmosphere and taste.

Technique Auntie Anne's wins here easy because the process has an element of acrobatics and wizardry. After the dough is unloaded from a big plastic bag, it's rolled out then -- this is where it gets exciting -- they flip it and twist it to make the pretzels. This act gets front-counter, Plexiglas billing.

The work at Cinnabon lacks inspiration. Zoned-out teenagers slather icing on the rolls like they're scrubbing old queso out of a crock pot.

Hands down winner here was Auntie Anne's.

Atmosphere When all else lacks, I hereby officially declare that smell qualifies as atmosphere. Now, both of these bakeries omit a knee-buckling scent. But, I think Auntie's Anne's lingers more. Say you're in Macy's looking for free samples of Jimmy Choo perfume and someone walks past with Auntie Anne's, it'll stop you in your tracks. You'll want to rub a cinna-stick on your neck instead of perfume. Promise.

The funniest thing about all this was the Cinnabon seating area in the back of the store. There's a "shelf" that was built at about belly button height: too low to be a bar, but definitely to high to be a table. And the table height chairs put our pastries at about nose level. It's comical. Maybe the idea is that we're supposed to just dig in with our faces (snouts), sans hands? That would totally make sense.

Taste At Cinnabon, our glazed biscuit seemed old and dry, yet at the same time, undercooked. Which was confusing since they literally pulled it out of the oven just before boxing it up. That takes talent. So, maybe Cinnabon wins this category by doing something that seemed impossible. Plus, I just feel sorry for them.

We left Cinnabon partially disappointed, and by partially I mean that expectations weren't high like walking into Bouchon Bakery. (I think I get bonus points for linking Cinnabon to Bouchon in one sentence.)

About half an hour later of walking around aimlessly, I begged for direction, "Do you want to get a new shirt or something?"

"No, I hate shopping," she says like, "Duh! Don't you know me at all?"

I don't know what to say at this point. Next time I'll wait it out in the Auntie Anne's line, I guess.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

Latest Stories