The question isn’t “How far would you go for a cinnamon roll?” It’s "How far would you go with a cinnamon roll?” At Dozens, the breakfast and lunch eatery at 2180 South Havana Street in Aurora, the answer for many customers is “around the world." Dozens started its Cinnamon Roll Challenge in the 1980s, after a regular customer took a picture of himself traveling with one because he loved the restaurant's cinnamon rolls so much. Dozens put the photo on the dining-room wall, other customers began bringing in their photos of memorable moments palming a cinnamon roll — and the challenge was born.
Particularly interesting on the challenge wall is a picture of a couple getting married, the bride blissfully clutching the cinnamon roll between her parents and her groom. Another photo shows two women with a cinnamon roll in Australia — and, directly beneath it, a picture of their daughters twenty years later in the same Australian location holding up one of the sweet confections.
Of course I had to try this jet-setting pastry ($3.50) for myself. It came to me on a small plate, but was about the size of a Quarter Pounder. A large dollop of butter sits where frosting is traditionally placed. The picture-perfect way that the butter oozed down the inside of the roll with each fork-tender bite seemed premeditated. I was pleased to find large streaks of cinnamon evenly distributed throughout the not-too-sweet roll.
While the pastry was delicious with my coffee during my visit to the restaurant, I can’t imagine trying to travel with one. If I were a gambling gal, I’d bet that the traveling challengers did not eat their rolls after several days without refrigeration, since mine tasted a little funky after I sampled leftovers out of the fridge as a snack a few days later.
Along with my cinnamon roll, I had the Louie’s Donkey ($11.50), a breakfast burrito filled with eggs and chorizo and doused in homemade green chile with a side of potatoes topped in freshly made pico de gallo. I ordered a pricey side of guacamole ($4.50) and was pleased with the taste, even if a few brownish spots marred the ice-cream-scoop-sized ball (I was dining just before closing time, after all). The eggs were airy and spongy and neutralized the heat from the chorizo and green chile, fiery and speckled with black bits of roasted chile. The potatoes also seemed best for cooling the palate between spicy mouthfuls of burrito, since they had little flavor of their own, despite the pico.
Along with the breakfast burrito, you can choose from more than thirty other egg-based entrees, many of them named after famous Colorado landmarks and cities, like the Wash Park omelette ($10.25), with asparagus, mushrooms and Swiss, or the Platte River platter ($11.75), with crab, shrimp, Swiss cheese and Hollandaise. “We’re not dozens of waffles, pancakes or French toast,” says owner Chris Miley. “We do eggs, and we do them right — starting with extra-large and jumbo-sized eggs.”
The extra-large eggs are how the half-sized omelet portions became available on Miley's menu. For about $1 to $2 less, you can get an omelet made with those instead of the jumbo eggs. It comes out smaller than the standard-sized omelet but is still filling. The smaller omelets are labeled "The D.E.V.I.L. made me do it" on the menu, with each letter in the acronym standing for a popular breakfast chain. Miley claims that many of these restaurants use “small to medium-sized eggs, and therefore portion sizes are much smaller in these types of chain restaurants.”
Miley also takes pride in the quality and freshness of his produce. “Not only do we serve up much larger portions than the average breakfast chain, we have fresh fruit and veggies — none of that canned stuff," he explains. "Every piece of produce in the kitchen is washed, cut and used within 24 hours.”
The owner notes that the Denver Dozens (at 236 West 13th Avenue) and his own Havana location were at one time related; both were opened by two brothers in 1984 and then sold separately in the 1990s. The two restaurants are now run under different owners, but with a few similarly named dishes. “What happens at the Denver location stays at the Denver location,” Miley comments. “We are not associated with them in any way, other than me honoring the occasional gift certificate that comes from the Denver location.”
Unfortunately, Miley adds, his Dozens suffered from the backlash of allegations that the Denver Dozens owner had made racist comments to a customer in May 2017 (which sparked a small protest outside that location).
In addition to the Louie’s Donkey, a few other originals that only show up on Miley's menu are the sin-namon French toast, the Avon Scramble, the Pancho Villa Benedict, and the Pope Benedict XIV (spinach polenta, tomato and garlic along with the standard Benedict ingredients). The restaurant also offers a variety of breakfast cocktails that incorporate fresh squeezed or pressed juices, such as a mimosa, Bloody Mary, screwdriver and Cuervo Sunrise (all for less than $8 each).
To accompany my half-eaten cinnamon roll on my relatively short trip home, I ordered a couple of fresh-made muffins ($3 per muffin) and shared them with my kids the next morning. They were dense and chewy and lived up to each of their names. The pumpkin nut was very much pumpkin-forward; the almond poppyseed was bursting with almondy goodness and even had thinly sliced almonds throughout the muffin, not just on top.
The globetrotting cinnamon roll is worth a visit to Dozens; you can also see how the scratch-made green chile compares to the version at your favorite Mexican joint or fill up on eclectic omelets in two different sizes.
Dozens is at 2180 South Havana Street in Aurora and is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Call the restaurant at 303-337-6627 for takeout orders or to make reservations for large parties. Read more of my Havana Street explorations here, as I stop in at every non-chain eatery from south to north.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.