Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Butter Hard Rolls

I have taken a sort of sojourn away from writing about the foods indigenous to our great Upstate New York homeland as of late. So I thought it might be nice to examine an item that is maybe not absolutely unique to Upstate NY, but is so ubiquitous here that it is worthy of mention. 

Who likes butter hard rolls? I try to think of white carbohydrates as a treat to be enjoyed sparingly lately so my butter hard roll intake is pretty slight. But I have eaten more than a couple of these bad boys in my life. The borders of the area of butter hard roll availability seem to be pretty consistent with those of breakfast sandwich land, i.e. New York and New Jersey. Of course you see the butter hard roll elsewhere... but I would arge that New Jersey and Upstate New York are the true butter hard roll spiritual homelands.

A butter hard roll, very simply put -- is a hard roll... with butter... Not too overwhelmingly complex of a concept but the devil is always in the details. I am going to put this out there right out front -- A true Upstate NY butter hard roll is often a very disappointing experience. They have most likely been left at room temperature for indeterminate lengths of time which leads to a host of problems. A stale hard roll or rancid butter are two of the main issues and a pet peeve of mine is when the maker tries to spread cold butter on a soft roll and tears up the crumb. That is the move of a rank butter hard roll amateur.

In any event (and for better or worse) butter hard rolls are available at most gas stations, convenience stores, bakeries, and diners 'round these parts. The specimen we will examine here today was obtained at my beloved Stewart's (click for an unnecessary amount of posts that I have made about Stewart's). I forget how much they cost at Stewart's but I think they are around a buck.

Here you have your standard Stewart's hard roll, which are OK, but not my favorite. They are a bit soft crusted with a crumb that is a little denser than one would like. The roll is split, given a hearty smear of butter (Stewart's uses Cabot butter), rolled tightly in cellophane, adorned with a "BUTTER" sticker written in Stewart's trademarked font, and parked in a basket next to the register awaiting your grubby mitts. 

There she is folks. Bland, buttery, and cheap sustenance.

Butter hard rolls of this ilk have their purpose. This purpose is mostly to settle your stomach after a night of heavy drinking and this is a purpose most worthy when you think about it. In fact, during my wife's first pregnancy she could stomach little and I remember buying these for her a time or two. So my two cents is that Stewart's should market its butter hard rolls towards pregnant ladies and drunks.

To sum it all up, butter hard rolls are widely available in Upstate NY, often bad, but sometimes good. Fiorello's over on Western Ave. does a pretty good version for a buck and I think the McCarroll's at the Delmar Market will make you one with a Prinzo's roll if you ask... A good hard roll with good butter actually really is a simple and splendid thing when done right.

I will not get into a discussion of hard rolls here as that is a topic all of its own, but I will tell you that I favor Prinzo's Bakery's hard rolls. I live off Delaware Ave. in Delmar so Prinzo's is pretty much right up the road from me. I can generally obtain their hard rolls at peek freshness which is most likely the reason I favor them over any of the other usual suspects in the local bakery world. Below is an example of their product-

As I just made a metric butt-ton of delicious 'Ndjutica Butter I thought it might be nice to treat myself to a bit of a spin on the classic butter hard roll. I cut and smeared that roll with a lordly amount of delicious, spicy, fatty, 'Ndjutica butter...

This was glorious.


  1. You are right! I grew up in California and the first time I saw a buttered hard roll was in Albany. I have never eaten one with an upset stomach, thanks for the tip.

  2. Random...have you tried Price Chopper brand San Marzano tomatoes?

  3. Thing is, a buttered hard roll is close to breakfast perfection, so close that it's practically a staple in, of all places, France, that bastion of good eating. Think of bread and brie, or simply a croissant, which is nothing more than butter baked into the roll. Bakery product plus dairy product, it doesn't get much simpler or better than that. The only thing we're missing in the states is the wine.

  4. I missed the real buttered hard-roll.. I grew up in NY State. I haven't found a good one since I moved to CT. They try. They give you a different roll with butter and say that's a buttered hard roll. Different roll. Not the same. :(

    1. The Real deli's from that era are gone.

  5. New haven has an Italian bakery on cedar street with great buttered hard rolls.

  6. It's not just and upstate thing...it's a New York State thing. I grew up in Albany, went to School in central New York, Moved to NYC after College and now live just above the city. My old friend the buttered roll has been with me the whole time. Albany Stewarts, Gas Stations in Syracuse, Bodegas in NYC, Delis and gas stations in Westchester. I would love to know when and how it started, but folks are right...most people I know outside of the state have no idea what I am talking about.


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