Location: 4010 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA
Website: Official Best Buns site
Price: $3 per cupcake
Atmosphere: Small, bustling bakery. There's limited seating in the front window, but with all the activity going on at the registers, it's best to get your treats to go.
My Review: After exploring the various cupcake options in New York City, now that I've relocated to the DC Metro area, I decided to see what sort of cupcakes there were to have here. My first stop was to the well-reviewed Best Buns Bread Company.
Located in the cute Shirlington Village--which is essentially a restaurant row with a few small shops (and a theater)--Best Buns is your quintessential bakery. You can pick up a whole loaf of bread in any number of flavors, a danish and a cup of coffee in the morning, a soup and sandwich combo for lunch, and a cookie or a cupcake whenever. Despite the allure of their sticky buns and monkey bread, I was on a mission to try out their cupcakes (during this initial trip, anyway).
Best Buns' cupcakes are huge--roughly the size of a baseball I'd say, if I knew anything about sports. Well, they're bigger than a golf ball, but smaller than a basketball, which I know for certain! At $3 a pop, they had better be a generous size. I picked up a half dozen variety of flavors to bring to a birthday party, but managed to get at least a taste of each one.
My initial reaction to the basic vanilla and chocolate-based cupcakes were that they were good, but not really remarkable. The peanut butter frosting on the Chocolate Peanut Butter was tasty--not too much like straight peanut butter, but not too much like straight frosting--but the chocolate cake reminded me of the relatively decent cake you can get out of a box mix. And while I have no real issue with the good people at Duncan Hines, or the memories of grade school birthday parties their cakes evoke, I expect something a bit more special and unique from a professional bakery.
I had the same response to the Vanilla cupcake--good, but kind of generic--but the vanilla buttercream frosting was smooth and creamy and not cloyingly sweet. The Toffee and Coconut cupcakes had the same basic chocolate cake base with tasty frostings and toppers. The Chocolate Ganache could have used a slightly softer ganache frosting, and I would have loved some kind of filling. Though I may just be longing for the Chocolate Ganache cupcake from Eleni's in NYC (with its buttercream filling), which is probably my favorite cupcake of all time.
The true star at Best Buns is it's Carrot Cake cupcake. The cake is moist and filled with real chunks of carrot, coconut, and walnuts. And the best part of all--no raisins! Raisins are the scourge of the earth and shouldn't be put in anything, especially something as divine as carrot cake. The cream cheese frosting on the carrot cake was really well-balanced with just the right blend of sugary sweetness and cream cheese tang.
Bottom Line: Best Buns' cupcakes are a bit pricey at $3 each, but they are generously large. Their vanilla and chocolate cakes are relatively generic for a professional bakery, but the carrot cake is worth a repeat visit. I'll probably pair it with a sticky bun or some monkey bread, rather than other cupcakes, next time.