Not All Breakfast Sandwiches are Created Equal
Along with pizza, fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and barbecue, I would like to nominate breakfast sandwiches for my personal food hall of fame. How great are breakfast sandwiches? Where else do you find flaky biscuits or some other appropriate breadstuff, cured and smoked meat, tangy melted cheese, and fluffy eggs in one glorious edible package?
Even bad breakfast sandwiches are pretty good. A McDonald's egg, cheese and bacon biscuit is pretty damned satisfying, though I invariably end up removing the loaf-like eggs after a bite or two.
One of the best things about breakfast sandwiches is how ubiquitous they are in most parts of the country. Every deli and coffee shop in New York makes fresh egg sandwiches to order on a flat-top grill. That means you can get a freshly made breakfast sandwich just about anywhere. It can be difficult to find breakfast sandwiches with softly scrambled eggs because eggs made on a griddle are invariably overcooked, but in the larger scheme of things that seems to be a small price to pay.
The ingredients may not be top-quality in a generic breakfast sandwich, but egg sandwiches are good enough to withstand any Alice Waters-like scrutiny.
As long as they are made to order.
Starbucks recently introduced breakfast sandwiches, but when you order one it's a real turn-off to watch them take a pre-made breakfast sandwich out of the pastry case and pop it into their combination convection-microwave oven. The results are not pretty. In fact, I would say that Starbucks breakfast sandwiches are an unmitigated culinary disaster. At "wichcraft, what would be a stupendous breakfast sandwich of bacon, eggs, gorgonzola, and unnecessary frisee, is done in by the fact that the eggs are pre-made. You can't assemble breakfast sandwiches, Tom Colicchio.
But even though generic, freshly made breakfast sandwiches are pretty damn good, there are a few places in New York that have elevated the breakfast sandwich:
Egg (at Sparky's 135A N. 5th St. (at Bedford), 718-302-5151: The breakfast sandwiches at Egg are unquestionably the breakfast sandwiches of champions. Eggs Rothko features a soft-cooked egg in a slice of Amy's brioche topped by extraordinary Grafton Village cheddar. Imagine eggs-in-a-hole made by Alice Waters.
The country ham biscuit is stunningly good. On a flaky, just moist enough buttermilk biscuit George Weld puts homemade fig jam, Col. Bill Newsom's hall of fame country ham, homemade fig jam, and some of that Grafton cheddar. It probably doesn't need the cheddar, but what the hell. Just to complete this heart attack on a biscuit, this sandwich comes with insanely buttery Anson Mills grits. This one's Colonel Sanders meets Mario Batali.
Fairway Cafe, 2127 Broadway (bet. 74th and 75th Sts., 2nd fl.) 212-595-1888: At the Fairway Cafe you can actually get softly scrambled eggs in your breakfast sandwich, because they make the eggs in a pan. Sometimes the service is so slow that the breakfast sandwich doesn't arrive at your table until lunch, but you can't have everything.
'ino: 21 Bedford St. (bet. Downing St. and 6th Ave.) 212-989-5769. I know it's a fancy-pants breakfast sandwich, but the truffled egg toast at 'ino is one of the greatest things you can pop into your mouth in the morning. It's one of the only uses of truffle oil that I can condone.
Prune, 54 E. 1st St. (between First and Second Aves.), 212-677-6221: There's only one problem with the breakfast sandwich served at Prune. It's served at lunch. Otherwise the egg, cheese and bacon sandwich served on a Kaiser roll is perfect.
Are there other stellar breakfast sandwiches out there?