Breakfast Sandwich – Chaumont Bakery, Beverly Ave, Beverly Hills

chaumontI suspect that if I were to list the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, breakfast sandwiches would be over represented on the list. There’s something a little cheap about them – between the bacon and the fried egg, it’s a little bit tough to make a bad one. That’s no excuse for not giving it your all, though! Take Chaumont Bakery, for example. The fried egg is joined by beef bacon, melted provolone, greens, mayo and mustard. That last item is no footnote, and the bright, tangy notes from the mustard made this a fine sandwich. And it doesn’t stop there! Chaumont Bakery, being a bakery, really has some stellar bread. In many places baguettes aren’t quite what they used to be, the stiff crust yielding to an American palate that prefers things a little softer. Not so here, where a stiff crust surrounded tender insides that made the perfect sop for the egg yolk. The average breakfast sandwich is already pretty good, when someone minds the details as well as Chaumont Bakery did it’s nearly perfect.


Breakfast Sammich – Little Chef Counter, San Pedro Sq, San Jose, CA

Little Chef Counter’s menu is constantly changing, and on top of that there are specials moving in and out every few days. Upon hearing that their brunch menu included a breakfast sandwich, you can be certain I made my way over there with all due haste. I’ve already been seriously impressed by one of their sandwiches, and quite pleased with another. Their offering for breakfast was a sweet Hawaiian bread roll, scrambled eggs with spinach, and bacon. Simple, clean, tasty as all get-out. I’ll even forgive calling it a sammich. (For the record, though, “Sammies” is a bridge too far.)

I want to specifically point out the difference between the eggs here and the eggs from Monday’s sandwich. Forget the spinach. One of these places is making an effort, and the other isn’t. And this isn’t a case of “well they aim for gourmet, and we’re just a cafe.” Scrambled eggs are scrambled eggs, and they aren’t tremendously difficult to do well. (Perfect scrambled eggs are hard. Good ones are not.) Bacon is more welcome than not on a breakfast sandwich, and the choice of roll was a subtle thing a lot of places aren’t going to pick up on. It’s soft and yielding, so the actual holding and consuming of the sandwich don’t send the eggs sliding everywhere. That, in turn, allows for softer, fluffier eggs. It’s the kind of touch that shows a bit of thought went into things, and if more folks were committed to doing just that, we’d all have more tasty, tasty sandwiches like this one. Little Chef Counter is now three for three with sandwiches, and if you’re a sandwich enthusiast in the bay area I suggest you give them a shot yourself.

Breakfast Sandwich – Cafe Rosalena, The Alameda, San Jose, CA

Scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and breakfast sausage on sourdough. That’s an easy recipe for a good sandwich, and a good breakfast sandwich is very good indeed. Or it would be, anyhow, with the slightest bit of effort. I was exceptionally hungry when I ate this sandwich, and I’d really like to be able to tell you it was grand, the key to satiety, a great start to the day. It wasn’t. Here’s the thing:

This sandwich was six dollars, and from the outside that seems almost reasonable. But looking inside revealed that my six dollars had bought me two rather large pieces of bread, but a single slice of cheese and a single sausage patty. There are ample eggs, but eggs are almost certainly the cheapest part and amping them up in an attempt to simulate value just throws off the whole balance of the sandwich. So the second half of my sandwich got a sliver of sausage, a corner of cheese, and not much else.

It’s up to each individual establishment to decide just what their product is worth, but whether or not the value offered is reasonable is my decision. If this had been served on smaller bread or an English muffin and been four dollars, I wouldn’t have an issue. I would have eaten it and been on my way, happy as a clam. But instead I confronted the above, two meager accouterments on an expansive of eggs. (The eggs were a bit flat and dry, compounding the sin.) So instead of enjoying a nice breakfast sandwich I just stared at the above, thought about my beloved (and cheap) two eggs on a roll, and was disappointed. And being disappointed by a breakfast sandwich is a remarkably poor way to start one’s day.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwich — Johny’s Kitchen, Cal State Los Angeles

I have consumed a great many meals on a good many college campuses in my time. Truly, some of my fondest sandwich memories have come from on-campus or campus-adjacent eateries: the truly spectacular but pricey sandwiches from the Ord Market on the territory that comprises CSU Monterey Bay; the turkey and Swiss croissant microwaved with love and served out of a small shack in the middle of San Francisco State.

California State University, Los Angeles is heavy on the name-brand fast food and light on the independent sandwich shop or eatery. There is, however, a storefront in the food court called Johny’s Kitchen, which appears to be a singular entity. The menu is far-reaching diner fare, and when I found myself in need of a quick breakfast, I gave them a shot.There were half a dozen breakfast sandwich options or slight variation: bacon and egg, sausage and egg, ham and egg, etc. served on one’s choice of bread. I opted for the bacon and egg on wheat, and unfortunately, was served a sandwich that will in no way hold a special place in my heart.

There was a significant quantity of egg…I would say between two and three eggs, and a few strips of bacon served on two pieces of slightly grilled toast. There was no butter on the bread, no seasoning in the eggs, and no other element to the sandwich. It is among the blandest sandwiches I have ever encountered. Even a dash of salt and pepper would have made the sandwich exponentially better. I can’t imagine that the other bread choices of rye, white, or sourdough would have improved the sandwich, either. We talk a lot about the unnecessary inclusion of cheese in sandwiches, but any cheese at all on this sandwich would have been a marked and welcome improvement.

As I chewed and swallowed this massive, warm wad of egg with an extremely slight bacon flavor, I reflected on the fact that one of the breakfast sandwich options was merely “double egg.” I felt a deep sadness for any unfortunate soul who elected to travel that unappetizing road.

Bagel Egg Sandwiches, Round Two — Made at Home

The single most popular thing in all of America is football. Specifically, the NFL. In honor of the first Sunday of the regular football season, the day was spent watching the sport on television while making an assortment of bagel egg sandwiches. You will recall that I have touted the glory of sandwiches made on bagels, and this was a great opportunity to stretch that experience out over two meals while watching some sports.

My first attempt, pictured above, was sausage and egg on a cheese bagel. Chicken apple sausage was cut lengthwise, then again cut in half and pan-fried.  Eggs were fried, white onions seared in a pan, and combined on the bagel along with fresh avocado, medium cheddar cheese, and tomato. The end result, although of a pleasing taste, ended up being frustrating to eat. The toughness of the sausage casing and the shape and positioning of the quartered sausage caused no end of filling creep. The sandwich nearly fell apart in my hands as I struggled to hold it together. A lovely sandwich completely undone by the method in which I chose to include the sausage. Had I the opportunity to do this over, I would have cut the sausage into much smaller half-circles or cubes, which I would have then dropped into the egg as it finished frying in the pan. Hindsight, however, is 20/20, and I was left with a good-tasting but frustrating sandwich.

The second sandwich was nearly identical, served on an “everything” bagel, but with one all-important difference: instead of sausage, freshly-prepared bacon was included. This, my friends, was a road well-traveled, but made all the difference. One cannot deny the allure of bacon, but it is with good reason. The bacon was the perfect meat for this sandwich. It added smokiness, saltiness, and crunch, but more importantly, it yielded perfectly to each bite, adding substance without resistance.

A sandwich that holds together is a good sandwich, and sometimes it all comes down to what best makes the center hold. As you can imagine, this is especially true of sandwiches prepared upon a bagel.

Breakfast Sandwich – Kevaccino’s On The Beach, Vista Del Mar, Los Angeles, CA

I have a special place in my heart for the breakfast sandwich. Simply put, there’s no better way to start a day than with a good sandwich. It sets your spirit right and sends you into the world sated and ready for anything. A good breakfast sandwich doesn’t need to be complicated, but trying something a little bit more involved can often yield an excellent sandwich. On one recent cloudy morning, while cycling between Venice and Manhattan beaches, I stopped for a bite to eat. The breakfast sandwich at Kevaccino’s seems on the simple end of the spectrum, being listed on the menu board as simply eggs and cheese. An addition of avocado and having the sandwich grilled are offered, and I took advantage of both options. I’m not a man to pass up and avocado, and if you’re not dealing with a roll, toasting or grilling bread for a breakfast sandwich is almost mandatory.

The basics of the sandwich are on point. As you can see in the photo, the sandwich had a substantial amount of scrambled egg, and it was light, fluffy and moist. The cheese was a fine sharp cheddar and there wasn’t too much of it. The grilled was very light, just enough to give the bread a crunch without really trying to brown it. That leaves one remaining hurdle: The avocado. I’m sorry to say that that’s where the sandwich stumbled.Making my way through the first half the sandwich, I gradually came to realize something was not quite right. Peeling open the second half of the sandwich my suspicions were confirmed. What you see above is the entire amount of avocado provided on one half of the sandwich. The first half contained a similar amount. Combined, the two would struggle to equal even half of the most diminutive avocado. The avocado was not a casual “extra peppers” sort of addition to the sandwich. It was a specific option for which I tendered an additional dollar. I can appreciate that a restaurateur operates between thin margins, but what I saw in that sandwich strains the boundaries of what I can accept. I looked down at the second half of that sandwich and I felt cheated. This, I suppose, is the risk in pinning the start of your day to a sandwich. When it goes well, you set off with your best foot forward and greet everyone you meet with a smile and an open heart. If it goes wrong, though, if some charlatan, some rogue takes your money and delivers only the barest pittance of what he has promised, then what faith can you be expected to have in the world at large?

Sausage & Egg – Le Boulanger, Bascom Ave, San Jose, CA

I popped into Le Boulanger one evening, thinking I would enjoy a quick sandwich before heading on my way. At the counter I simply ordered “the sausage sandwich,” thinking of the turkey & chicken pesto sausage sandwich that I have enjoyed in the past. Apparently that it was dark out wasn’t sufficient context to convey that I wasn’t interested in a breakfast sandwich, and so I received the Sausage & Egg you see above. I didn’t really have time to attempt an exchange so I took what I was given and went to eat.

I’ll cut to the chase: This was a bad sandwich. I don’t write about a lot of the sandwiches that I don’t like, because I prefer On Sandwiches to be a celebration of things we love.  That said, sometimes something just strikes me the wrong way and I can’t let it slide. This wasn’t any good. It goes beyond uninspired. A few scrambled eggs, a breakfast sausage patty, some cheddar cheese. That kind of simplicity is one thing when I’m paying three or four dollars in a deli. But if I’m handing over a ten spot and barely getting enough back to buy a newspaper I expect a little bit more. The eggs were unobjectionable. If pressed to describe the sausage patty the best I might be able to come up with is “It’s a sausage patty.” The cheese quickly took on that oily sheen that makes you wonder why anyone bothers with any cheese, at all, ever. The dutch crunch roll was as good as dutch crunch often is, but it was all wrong. It would have been swell on the sandwich I thought I was ordering, but here it just didn’t fit. Between that and the aim-low-and-we-won’t-have-far-to-fall ambitions, there wasn’t anything redeeming here. A trio of uninspired ingredients somehow came together to be a good deal less than the sum of their parts. Enough. On Sandwiches is a celebration; I am an enthusiast, not a critic. There is no need to dwell here, there are great sandwiches out there, waiting to be eaten.

Eggs & Bacon on a Bialy – Top Grill & Deli, Bayside, NY

2 eggs and bacon on a bialy

Some time ago I featured the humble two eggs & bacon on a roll, the standard of New York breakfast sandwiches. In that review I mentioned that there was something distinctly New York about that sandwich to me, in that hackneyed oh-they-don’t-make-it-properly-here-not-like-at-home sort of way. Well, my friends, I’m going to return to that shameful stance again, because two eggs & bacon on a bialy feels even more distinctly New York than the standard roll. Cousin to the bagel, a bialy skips the boiling and goes straight to the baking, and simple has a dip where the bagel has a hole. Fill the dip with diced onion, garlic and poppy seeds and you have a wonderful base for a sandwich. They’re not solely confined to New York, but it seems like finding them elsewhere is like something of a snipe hunt, a quest from bagel store to bakery that has thus far been fruitless for yours truly. But, I suppose, that makes the times I find myself in the right territory all the more worthwhile. That’s how it was with this sandwich, a delicious, salty, chewy, and perfect way to start the day.

Bacon, Egg & Avocado – Made at Home

On a recent Saturday morning, after a morning of yoga and other elements of physical culture, I stood in the kitchen wondering what I should have for breakfast. Now, after one’s gotten one’s sutras in order and engaged in bouts of meaningful vigor, it’s important to keep the momentum rolling. That’s not the kind of day where you want to become a lump on the couch. No, it’s a day where you immediately want to set out and achieve great things. And so it was that I started with a couple of sandwiches.

I fried up a few slices of bacon in a skillet, with enough of the fat reserved afterwards to fry a couple of eggs. But before the eggs went in I went for a special touch. I put a few minced cloves of garlic down, waiting a minute for the flavor to develop, then cracking the eggs into the pan directly on top of the garlic. (Truth be told it was more than a few cloves, when it comes to garlic I’ve a heavy hand and offer no apologies.) The egg white held the garlic in place as it cooked, and when the eggs went between wheat toast the garlic came with it. Each sandwich was two slices of bacon, one egg, half an avocado, some cracked black pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce. They were transcendent. A little heat, obscenely rich, and underwritten by delicious, toasted, savory garlic. The avocado was perfectly ripe, offering that instantly-yielding hint of firmness that stood as a subtle middleman to the toast and the egg. An East Coast associate tells me that he has to give up on avocados this time of year, that by the time they get to him they’re completely bereft of flavor. It breaks my heart that he’ll have to wait months to give this sandwich a shot, but I hope when he finds himself in warmer days he does so immediately. This wasn’t a complicated sandwich, it wasn’t revolutionary or an amazing discovery. But it was incredibly delicious, and I suspect that it will quickly find a spot as one of my regulars.

Egg Sandwich – New York, NY

egg sandwich

“Two eggs on a roll, bacon, salt & pepper.” It is the thing I miss most about New York City. The location where I purchased the sandwich above was left out intentionally. Every deli has the same counter, the same griddle, the same flat of eggs all manned by the same crew. You make a simple request and for a fair price you get a simple sandwich. While there are countless breakfast sandwiches that feature eggs bacon and bread none of them are this sandwich. None of the parts are especially great, the roll nor the bacon are especially flavorful, but on the whole the sandwich is special. It is beyond cliché to talk up New York City and the last thing I want to do is post another tired, self-involved impression of the city but I find myself unable to explain this sandwich any other way. Ignore the fact that you cannot quite get this exact sandwich outside of New York. There is a moment after you are shoved off a crowded train, drag yourself upstairs and watch the sun starts to creep above whatever buildings surround you. You have a coffee in one hand and in the other you hold a fine, fine sandwich.