Hamburger & Egg Sandwich — Pete’s Blue Chip, Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles

Pete’s Blue Chip on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock is a curious establishment. Situated awkwardly, seemingly run-down and with a bizarre menu, it took me an exceedingly long time to figure out which sandwich to order. I decided at last upon the hamburger and egg sandwich, and after having consumed it, I am no less puzzled.

The hamburger and egg sandwich — and it is a sandwich, as it comes on your choice of bread, with “bun” not being an option; that is a separate section of the menu — is a strange creation indeed, at least the one that was constructed for me that day.

The sandwich consisted of a thin hamburger patty, an enormous quantity of scrambled eggs, iceberg lettuce, a dollop of mayonnaise and a truly gargantuan slice of tomato on an English muffin. In the eating, it was exceedingly and perhaps a bit unsurprisingly bland. Not nearly so bland as my egg-and-little-else sandwich from some time ago, but quite bland, indeed.

The strange thing about this sandwich is that so much could have gone right were any of the ingredients swapped out for another. Were the hamburger patty instead a sausage patty; were the lettuce or tomato instead red onion; were the mayonnaise instead Dijon or stone-ground mustard; were the eggs fried rather than scrambled…any of these would have represented an exponential upgrade in both flavor and quality. The concept had unlimited potential. With just one small tweak, this sandwich could have come close to living up to that potential.

Croissant Sandwiches – Le Boulanger & Manley’s Donuts, San Jose, CA

Scrambled eggs, chopped bacon, and cheddar cheese on a croissant. It’s simple, and it would be far too easy to simply inhale one early in the morning and never think twice about it. There’s a lot going on there, though. A tender, flaky croissant. Fluffy eggs. Crispy bacon.  Cheese. The risk of this negligence of attention seems highest at breakfast, I think. The breakfast sandwich is one that is rarely a respite from something else; when one sits down for lunch or supper one is often trying to unwind, taking a short solace in simple pleasures. At breakfast your’re gearing up, considering the day that lies ahead, and as a result your sandwich may get scant attention. In this case, I was at the airport, taking in an early sandwich before I started an extended vacation. I can’t honestly tell you that I gave this sandwich what it was due.

That sort of mindless eating is unfortunate, but the alternative can be even worse. Such was the case with the similar sandwich I got from Manley’s Donuts, also scrambled eggs and bacon on a croissant. My mind may have started to drift, but this sandwich wasn’t having it. The labor required to dispatch tough, chewy bacon functioned as a sort of preliminary roadblock, and the dense, greasy croissant only slowed things further. This compounds the earlier sin, I suppose. The good sandwiches run the risk of passing hardly noticed, but the bad ones refuse to be ignored. In both cases, a sort of lack of effort undermines the whole thing; either you drift away or else you are put upon. I put it to you that true enthusiasm, sandwich or otherwise, requires effort. It requires a certain focus. Don’t we owe that to ourselves? Don’t we owe that to our sandwiches? In instances such as the sandwich from Le Boulanger, such effort pays off in the experience of a very good sandwich. In instances such as Manley’s Donuts, well…take it as a learning experience. The next time I approach the heights of some fine sandwich, I’ll take a brief moment to remember the greasy depths of Manley’s Donuts. There’s no reason to seek out bad sandwiches, but there’s also no reason to let one go to waste.

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.

Chicken Fried Chicken Breakfast Sandwich — Black Bear Diner, Bancroft Rd, Walnut Creek, CA

Sometimes, in the service of finding interesting sandwiches, you will find yourself presented with precisely what you ordered, and you will feel a sudden sense of…well, not quite sadness, precisely, but something very near to that. The special promotion at Black Bear Diner at the moment, is a selection of “Chicken-Fried Chicken” items. I loathe the term “chicken-fried chicken,” as it’s redundant at best, and shameless, nonsensical, pandering buzzword-grasping at best. There is such a thing as a chicken-fried steak. That is a steak that is battered and fried in the matter that one would fry a chicken. There does not exist any such beast as chicken-fried chicken. There is merely fried chicken.

Getting past semantics for a moment, let us discuss this creation. Black Bear Diner is a chain of kitschy diners, mostly located in smaller towns throughout Northern and Central California, and their claim to fame is an extensive menu of extremely generous portions at a fair price. The quality of their offerings is, on average, far above your usual chain diner, so it’s a great place for an individual on a budget. The “chicken-fried chicken” breakfast sandwich is a fried chicken filet, scrambled eggs, and gravy served on a biscuit. The biscuits at Black Bear Diner are generally the size of softballs, and not the first thing you would think would make an ideal delivery method for a fried chicken sandwich.

When my plate arrived, I was filled with a strange sense of remorse. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I ordered it, but the reality of the situation seemed extremely daunting. I feared there was no way to eat it without getting a large amount of gravy on my hands, and that fear proved extremely accurate. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the most difficult-to-handle sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It was even easier to eat than the Shrimp Po’ Girl, which was surprising after first glance.

The breakfast sandwich was far too large, which was its first mistake. It would have been far better served on toast or on a roll, which would have eliminated one of the only two elements which made it a breakfast sandwich in the first place. The other breakfast element, the scrambled eggs, were mostly lost in the doughiness of the biscuit, the crunch of the breading, and the creaminess of the gravy. this is a sandwich that would have been far better served with a few strips of thick bacon rather than a couple whisked eggs.

Overall, the sandwich was not entirely objectionable, and certainly very unique, but not at all worth revisiting. It was far too much food, and far too gimmicky, from its ridiculous name to its being forced into the breakfast sandwich role.

One final note: this may be a sandwich that many people would be too “embarrassed” to order, or would feel shameful upon consuming or being observed while consuming. This sandwich blog is delightfully free of any unnecessary societal taboos like embarrassment or shame. We exist for the pursuit of the sandwich, whichever form it may take. We recommend you do the same. You will find this attitude quite preferable to the alternative.

 

 

Bagel Egg Sandwiches — Made at Home

One of my greatest simple pleasures in life is making a sandwich on a bagel. It usually doesn’t matter what type of sandwich. I don’t care for cream cheese, so no matter how much I love bagels — and I do love them — my options for consuming bagels usually comes down to “plain bagel,” “toasted bagel,” or “bagel sandwich.” As you can see, one of those options is clearly head and shoulders above the rest.

I found myself with a few bagels over the weekend and no lunch meat. I briefly considered making a grilled cheese or a peanut butter sandwich before remembering that I had eggs, and so I made a monster bagel egg sandwich. I split and toasted an “everything” bagel, to which I added margarine. To this, I added two fried eggs and a slice of muenster cheese. The end result was quite pleasing, particularly with the bits of onion on the bagel adding a welcome, savory saltiness. The margarine was a bit lost, and had I used butter, I feel it would have been lost as well.

The following day, I decided to revisit the experiment with a couple of significant changes.

This time using a sesame seed bagel, I again fried two eggs and added a slice of cheese, but instead of butter or margarine, I went with apricot preserves. Although messy (due to the hole in the bagel), the combination of jam and egg is always welcome, and paired better with the sesame seed bagel than it would have with the “everything” bagel. I feel I made the correct choice with both bagel sandwiches. The only thing I would do differently next time is giving the eggs a liberal dose of pepper. If you find yourself with a bagel, a couple of eggs, and five minutes, you would certainly be doing yourself a favor if you whip up a quick and satisfying sandwich.

Apricot & Egg Sandwich – Made at Home

I recently prepared a meal of roast pork loin with apricot glaze and as I considered the leftovers the next day a sandwich seemed like the obvious choice. I’ll be honest: It’s a rare set of leftovers that doesn’t suggest a sandwich. I had some arugula left over from a stellar arugula & grilled potato salad and I laid it down on a toasted whole wheat English muffin. The pork loin was sliced as thin as I could manage and seared in a skillet, lending it a wonderful crisp. Apricot preserves went on the top half of the English muffin. As it stood then, though, it just didn’t seem like a complete sandwich. Since it was still morning, albeit late morning, an egg seemed like a natural addition.

Mixing eggs with fruit preserves seemed a bit risky, so I decided to scramble the egg. The more mild flavor of a scrambled egg, I reasoned, was less likely to get all crossed up with the preserves. That instinct proved to be correct to a fault. The egg didn’t do much of a job announcing itself, and I had no real sense of how the egg and the apricot worked together because I couldn’t taste the egg doing any work. It was a tasty sandwich, but it was lacking. Luckily, this was a problem with an obvious remedy: Fry the egg.

Frying the egg wasn’t the only change I made. Immediately after putting the egg down in the pan I sprinkled it with minced toasted garlic, the setting egg holding the garlic fast. I also went into the fridge and replaced the standard preserves with a bit of leftover pan sauce from the night before, a concoction of preserves, citrus, butter and savory drippings. Arugula and seared pork made for the same base as before, but the rest of the sandwich had been considerably upgraded. The actual eating quickly confirmed what I suspected, that this was a very good sandwich. I suppose the pan sauce and the garlic stack the deck a bit in favor of the fried egg, but it was the rich, creamy yolk that brought those new, stronger elements together in harmony. The first sandwich was pleasant enough, but the second one was exceptional, a surprising bit of genuine deliciousness on a lazy morning. And what more could I ask for, really, than a fine sandwich to ease me into the rest of my day?

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.

Fried Egg & Anchovy – Made at Home

I like anchovies. I like them quite a bit, and I’m a bit bewildered that they’ve got the reputation they do. The chewy fish run right up to the edge of “Mercy, this is too salty” and, in my opinion, stop just short. I think they’re delicious, but they’re not the easiest thing to incorporate into a meal. They’ve got quite an attitude, and they’re prone to standing at the forefront of a dish regardless of where you put them. So while I’m quick to try and incorporate them into a sandwich, the boldness they bring is of particular concern. A good sandwich, as we all know, relies on balance. What could stand against the anchovies? My thoughts quickly turned to eggs. A perfectly fried egg, the yolk warm and runny, is incredibly rich. That seemed like just the thing to balance out the anchovies.

I started with a large roll, spreading roasted garlic across the top and laying a bed of caramelized onions and tomatoes on the bottom. Now, I must admit that I can be a man of appetite and I’m unlikely to open a tin of anchovies then put some aside for later. This was where I first cast restraint aside, reasoning that I had a full tin of anchovies, so they all ought to all go on the sandwich. With that many anchovies, then, I figured that I needed two eggs to achieve the balance I was looking for. That decision, dear readers, would prove to be my undoing.

I like a soft yolk in my fried egg, and so I accept that any fried egg sandwich I make is probably going to be a bit messy. The egg/bacon/avocado breakfast sandwich I wrote about earlier was a bit messy, but the two sandwiches I prepared that day were both tremendous. And that’s the rub, friends. That day two sandwiches, this day one. And the gulf between two fried egg sandwiches and a sandwich with two fried eggs was one I wasn’t capable of crossing. This sandwich was just a complete mess. The roll just couldn’t handle all of that yolk. I was left with hands covered, but afraid that if I put the sandwich down I might never get it back together again. I would like to note that construction aside, this was a good sandwich. The flavors were on point, the richness of the eggs married with the anchovies exactly as well as I suspected it would. But I lost my head in making it, and absent proper restraint I can’t rightfully call this a good sandwich. I tried something and I failed. I learned a few things and I feel my next anchovy sandwich will be absolutely excellent, but there was no excellence here, just a lot of anchovies and a whole mess of egg yolk.

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.