Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #97 - McDonald's aka Again? Are You McFucking Kidding Me?

Sandwich: Egg McMuffin
Location: McDonald's (East Washington Ave.)
Date: July 22, 2017
Cost: $3.39

At this point you probably think I'm a corporate shill, bought and paid for by Big Sandwich to lobby for their interests on Capitol Hill or in some tiny, fetid backwater of the internet. I understand why you could think that. I reviewed McDonald's just over a month ago and if you're keeping track you know this is my FIFTH trip to a McDonald's, which is embarrassing.

Just read on and keep an open mind. McPlease. I'm just a McRegular guy reviewing McSandwiches of my own accord I would never let outside forces or McSponsorships stain my McIntegrity. I hope by now you would understand this. This has been a long journey and some of of you have been along for the entire ride so you know where I'm coming from.

What's important is to understand why I went back to McDonald's. The reasons are three-fold and they are intertwined and they are as follows.

#A) Convenience. That's right, McDonald's entire business model is built on convenience and that hooked me on this Saturday morning. I was out running errands and I wanted a fancy and delicious breakfast sandwich but didn't want to expend the time and effort to get such a thing. A quick and easy sandwich would sate my hunger and provide an opportunity for a review. See #B.

#B) A sense of obligation. If you think I take the readership here for granted, you are wrong. Any publisher will tell that it's important to provide regular content. You people are like sponges in the condiment aisle. You're sopping up the glorpy knowledge I'm throwing down. If I don't provide it, you'll go elsewhere. There are thousands of sandwich blogs you could be reading instead of this one.

#C) Completism. If you read review #95 you know I was shocked and disappointed that I had somehow neglected to review the all-time classic breakfast sandwich, the Egg McMuffin. This oversight had to be corrected before I hit sandwich #100. It was chasm in my research that called out to be filled.


Slightly defective muffin.

Not, you know, sexy looking.
The Sandwich - Egg McMuffin. At this point it's ubiquitous. It's the trunk of the breakfast sandwich family tree. All other breakfast sandwiches are indebted to the Egg McMuffin in some way.

After all this buildup I have to admit I was mostly disappointed with this sandwich. The overall texture was rubbery (not in a good way) and while it had less of a salty flavor than I thought it would, it didn't have much flavor at all. The muffin was toasty and had a light crunch and the cheese was melty, but those factors were not nearly enough to bring this sandwich into a positive light. 

There isn't much else to say about this sandwich. It was unimpressive and forgettable. 

The Result - 1.43 McFuck Its out of 5 McFuck Its. This sandwich moved from my Bucket List to my McFuck It List in the blink of an eye. It's hard out there for a sandwich, even a classic like the Egg McMuffin. The Egg McMuffin is surrounded by sandwich competition from within the golden arches, AND all the other fast food chains, AND all the coffee and donut shops, AND all these boutique sandwich joints sprouting up in every city. Somehow it has hung around all these years so it must have it's fans and supporters. Not this reporter.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #96 - Tavernakaya aka Nice Buns!

Sandwich: Egg & Cheese Brunch Buns
Location: Tavernakaya
Date: July 2, 2017
Cost: $12

I had never been to Tavernakaya. I hadn't even considered it as a possible location for a breakfast sandwich or bun, as it were. A mantou bun is not technically a sandwich, it depends on if you consider steamed buns to be bread. If you define bread as requiring baking then these buns aren't going to qualify. I don't know and don't much care. I'm getting fast and loose with the rules around here since I passed the benchmark of 52 sandwiches long ago and there have already been reviews of crepes and open-faced sandwiches. One day a review of a breakfast burrito will appear here and all manner of outrage will be flung in my general direction and it still won't matter a lick. So what.

When I sat down at Tavernakaya it felt like it had been months since I had had a breakfast sandwich at a proper restaurant. If you don't count the bullshit sandwich I had at Panera (I don't) you have to go back to May 28 to find a decent sandwich arepa. That isn't very long ago, but it felt like an eternity. That's what happens when you eat a breakfast sandwich while standing in a parking lot (#94) or sitting in a car (#95).

If I hadn't snapped this photo I'd be hard pressed to remember what was in these.

Three little pigs - chorizo, ham, bacon. Also, sometimes you order a greyhound and you're expecting white grapefruit juice but it comes with pink and if it weren't for your delicious sandwiches you'd probably be sad. 

The real reason I took this is to bring back the memory of the tactile sensation that is the squeezing of the bun. 
The Sandwiches (Buns) - This would have been a hell of a lot easier if I had ordered three of the same but that wasn't going to happen. First, let's be clear that I did NOT order the House-Smoked Tofu option. I'm sure it's delicious but that isn't how we do things around here. You know this.

I could, and may, go on at length about the mantou buns 馒头 alone. You've had them. You know how wonderful they feel in your fingers. These had the perfect amount of taut-squishiness that feels oh so right in your hands. A gentle squeeze yields to the pressure, and when you release a light imprint is left for just a split second and then the bun snaps back to it's original form. I could squeeze these buns all day. I may take some into work and have them at my desk instead of one of those stress relieving balls that nobody actually uses.

The eggs are scrambled on all of these. A runny egg wouldn't really work here and I'm not even going to hold that against them.

OK, let's get down to business.

House-Made Chorizo. The only previous chorizo based breakfast sandwich I reviewed was back in February of 2015. Is that possible? Maybe I missed one. This chorizo was excellent for this situation. Not too greasy or cinnamony, it was suited for these buns. At a taqueria I could see wanting a greasier version, but for these, it was perfect. The avocado crema gave this bun a cool viscosity and blended well with the eggs. Cilantro was a crucial touch on this one. I give it a 4.55 overall.

Nueske's Ham. You've heard me praise Nueske's Ham at length so I won't do it again here. It's always fantastic. Here is where my skills as a reviewer are exposed for the fraud that they are. At the time I thought they had mistakingly put the spicy mayo from the bacon bun on this bun, instead of the togarashi maple. They look the same in the photo above. When I tasted a pepper spice I thought that was what happened but now I'm sitting here with a search engine and I find that togarashi 唐辛子 is chili pepper. I think I got hung up on the spiciness and didn't take into account the subtle maple. At this point I can't be sure. What I can say is that this bun had a richness and heavenly salty flavor that was delightful and made this my favorite. I give it a solid 4.85 even though I didn't know the word for chili pepper in Mandarin or even Cantonese.

Bacon. This one had bacon on it, hence it's clever name. This was a solid bun but I feel it is included simply because they have to have a bacon version on the menu. People think of brunch, they think of bacon, here is that bacon. There was nothing wrong with this bun, the spicy mayo and scallions gave it that extra touch. Although it was my least favorite (one of them had to be) it's still a good 4.31 on the sandwich scale.

If I had to do this all over again and I were me I would order two of the Nueske's Ham and one of the Chorizo and I think I'd be happy as a pig in...a bun.

Finally, I feel compelled to comment on the house salad. It was very lightly dressed mixed greens and if you're up to speed on my reviews you know I appreciate these as a side during breakfast. I find them to be refreshing alternative to potatoes.

The Result(s) - 4.57 Bun Averages out of 5 Bun Averages. I did the math and that seems like a good rating. These buns were excellent. Nice buns! $12 might seem a touch expensive for these but you aren't going to get this level of quality for much less than that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

America Number One Fast Food Chain Restaurant Sandwich Roundup U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Tomorrow we celebrate the Independence of the United States of America and there is nothing more American than the fast-food restaurant. Chain restaurants are also something our nation can be proud of. After that it goes downhill quickly. What do we have besides incredible National Parks and National Football Leagues? I can't think of anything else. (Did you see that we have Citizenship Ceremonies in National Parks? I didn't know that. The cynic in me says that it won't last for long but for now I think it's pretty great.)

Do fast-food and chain restaurants represent our shared culture and uniquely American ideals, freedom and vision or are they symbols of our laziness, homogeny and dwindling intellect? All of those things, probably.

To celebrate our nation's birthday I have compiled a roundup of all the sandwiches I have reviewed that are available from sea to shining sea. As our nation increasingly slides into a languid mental torpor I offer the following as the perfect reading material for letting your frontal lobe morph into xanthan gum.

These are listed by review number, location, sandwich type and finally, the rating I gave the sandwich. They are ranked highest rating to lowest.

#25. Taco Bell AM Crunchwrap with Sausage - 3.75
#66. McDonald's Sausage, Egg Biscuit - 3.5
#68. Chik-fil-A Chicken, Egg & Cheese Bagel - 3.5
#71. Panera Sausage, Egg & Cheese - 3.5
#55. Taco Bell Breakfast Quesalupa with Sausage - 3.4
#95. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McMuffin - 3.09
#42. Subway Bacon, Egg and Cheese - 2.98
#37. Einstein Bagels Bacon & Cheddar on Green Chile Bagel - 2.95
#17. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McMuffin - 2.29
#27. Hardee's Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich w/Sausage - 2.19
#83. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McGriddle - 2.06
#93. Panera Sausage Egg & Cheese - 2.0
#14. Cracker Barrel Egg Sandwich + Sausage Biscuit - 1.99
#30. Burger King Bacon, Sausage, Egg & Cheese - 1.974
#12. Sonic Breakfast Toaster with Bacon - 1.56
#63. Denny's Two Moons Over My Hammy - 1.56
#21. Dunkin' Donuts Bacon, Egg & Cheese on Bagel - 1.27

I skimmed the reviews as I compiled them and my general impression is that the top rated sandwiches are rated a little too high. Also, #83 and #30 are two of the better reviews. I'm not sure my opinion is valid but I'm sharing it anyway.

Review #30 is by far the most read review of those listed and is the second most read review of all time. That stat is a bit misleading as it was shared on Reddit which pushed its numbers up dramatically. #17 is a distant second in terms of fast-food readership. I don't know why that one is more widely read than some of the others.

I had no idea I'd eaten so many mass produced sandwiches and I don't know if it makes me feel dirty or like an All-American Hero. I do know that tomorrow I'm going to eat some bratwurst.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #95 - McDonald's aka McQuartet

Sandwich: Sausage Egg McMuffin
Location: McDonald's, Little Chute, WI
Date: June 18, 2017
Cost: $3.09

Nobody wants to read about another McMuffin. I know this. It still counts as research.  It's research I can totally phone in though, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

This sandwich came into my life as part of the same road trip that brought you Sandwich #94. There I was at a Mobil/McDonald's in Little Chute, Wisconsin on Sunday morning and I was facing down the digital menu boards. I knew I had reviewed the McGriddle as Sandwich #83 (in what I think is one of my finest reviews. It's a fucking masterpiece, OK?) and there was a sausage sandwich of some sort (Sandwich #66) and there was the another McMuffin way back in the early days (Sandwich #17) but I wasn't sure which one it was. I knew I wasn't going to get the Steak, Egg & Cheese Biscuit. This may be a safe space for unencumbered research but in my head there is a venn diagram that consists of "Steak" and "Things To Order at McDonald's" and you could sail an aircraft carrier between those circles (I think that means it isn't really a Venn diagram but we don't get into math here). It did not occur to me until just now that this would be my fourth review of a McDonald's product. This is embarrassing.

I didn't want to think about it anymore so I ordered the Sausage, Egg McMuffin knowing it was likely that I had already reviewed it.
The color of this is all weird from the tint of the car windows. It was on my lap and I didn't grab a plastic knife and wouldn't have been able to cut it half very well anyway. You know what a McMuffin looks like, right?
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg McMuffin. I could have/should have ordered the classic Egg McMuffin with Canadian Bacon. It turns out I have not reviewed that, which is a major oversight on my part. Crap. The McMuffin isn't a bad sandwich. It's set the bar for grab and go breakfast sandwiches in the psyche of America simply due to it's longevity and ubiquity.

The muffin could have used a bit more toasting but the cheese was melty and the sausage had more flavor than my sandwich the day before. The egg was a perfect egg puck and was cooked through as is the practice at these types of places. 

The Result - 3.09 Accidental Quartet of Reviews out of 5 Accidental Quartet of Reviews. This sandwich hit the spot on this day but I was hungry and in a car. It wasn't great but I enjoyed it. It cost $3.09 so that's the rating I'm giving it even if that seems a little high. Chances are you've had one of these and you already know what they taste like. I don't have anything else to say about it. 

Epilogue - Now That I've completed this review let's compare past ratings of McDonald's items. This will be a lot of fun.

#17. March 29, 2015. Sausage, Egg McMuffin. 2.29
#66. September 16, 2016. Sausage, Egg Biscuit. 3.50
#83. February 2, 2017. Sausage, Egg McGriddle. 2.60
#95. June 18, 2017. Sausage, Egg McMuffin. 3.09

I don't know what it is that causes me to order sausage at McDonald's, I'm normally more of a bacon guy. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #94 - Kwik Trip aka You Be Trippin'

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant
Location: Kwik Trip, somewhere in the Fox River Valley
Date: June 17, 2017
Cost: $2.69

I'm not a fan of Kwik Trip for reasons unrelated to breakfast sandwiches and I wasn't even aware they had them. I probably could have surmised as much but I never go there and simply never consider them for anything. That's not entirely true, I used the free air hose at a location a few months ago.

As a passenger on a road trip we stopped for gas and whatnot at a Kwik Trip somewhere in the Fox River Valley and there I learned they have a plethora of breakfast sandwich options. I probably should have taken a photo of the entire hot case, which was teeming with sandwiches and possibly breakfast burritos, since the Kwik Trip web site sucks and doesn't list the menu options in a convenient manner.

The hot case has informative signs with all the info you need to make your sandwich decision. Their web site may be shit but their POP signage game is strong. 

You may be accustomed to my crappy photos but you'll have to accept a further drop off in quality here. This was taken standing outside the store near the propane tanks which is why there is not the normal "cross section" photo showing the sandwich innards. 
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant. Of the many variations of sandwich offered I went with a classic with a twist. I've been on a sausage kick lately but you may recall I have lamented the use of croissants for sandwiches in past reviews. I don't think they make for a proper vessel and they often are too squishy to maintain integrity. For a grab & go style sandwich a croissant is a risky choice as it may not prove to be road worthy. We're all about risks here, clearly, so I went with this one. The real choice I made, the actual hardest decision, was to only buy one sandwich. I was fully aware that I may not ever come back and I thought I might try two varieties so as to conduct maximum research. Ultimately I made the selfish decision to stick to a single sandwich as I had a full day ahead of me and didn't want to feel like a rat trapped in a grease trap.

So, anyway. The croissant was shaped almost in a square which makes for a better sandwich than a normal, elongated croissant. I suspect they bio-engineer them this way for sandwich purposes and I have to give them credit for that. The sausage was more bland than I expected. For any fast food restaurant or gas station I assume the sausage will be salty and grisly but this was on the bland side, which I guess is better than grisly. The cheese was American and was melty from being in the hot case. The egg was the typical non-yolky-we-dont-take-any-chances variety you get from all these kinds of places that don't like to have any fun and make their employees wear stupid polo shirts

The Result - 2.69 I Probably Wasn't Going To Come Back Regardlesses out of 5 I Probably Wasn't Going To Come Back Regardlesses. This sandwich cost $2.69 and was worth every penny, exactly. My overall impressions of the sandwich were "bland" and "squishy". I kind of enjoyed the squishiness. I think it helped the whole thing sorta melt in my mouth and slide down my gullet, which may not sound good to you but it worked on this morning while standing in the parking lot. The blandness was less impressive as blandness is in any type of food or endeavor. It was an OK sandwich, and for the price, perfectly acceptable if you're in a hurry and have low expectations. A guy like me, I have higher expectations.




Sunday, June 11, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #93 - Panera aka Fool Me Twice, Won't Get Fooled Again

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg & Cheese
Location: Panera Bread
Date: June 10, 2017
Cost: $4.29

I had an early appointment on the east side with plans to go out for breakfast immediately after. When I learned that my destination of choice would not open for another hour I had to come up with a new angle. The only place on the far east side that I could think of that I haven't reviewed is IHOP, and that didn't strike me as a particularly good option. Still, I pulled up their menu on my phone to see what their breakfast sandwich offerings are. Things weren't looking so good. The only breakfast sandwich listed is the Ham & Egg Melt and that gave me flashbacks to the awful Moons Over My Hammy sandwich from Denny's. That was enough to steer me away from IHOP.

Potbelly's has recently relocated and I know that they offer breakfast sandwiches at some of their locations, but this one was closed. It turns out none of the Madison locations offer breakfast. Then I saw Panera. I had already reviewed Panera in 2016 but figured I would order something different and there could still be sandwich enlightenment.

Sometimes if the top part is a little crooked it looks jaunty and cheeky but this time it just looks like somebody doesn't give a fuck about their work.

<sad trombone sound>
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg and Cheese. Generally I will order the bacon sandwich if a menu has options. I didn't look up my previous Panera review and assumed I would have ordered bacon, so I went with sausage this time. As I write this I am learning that I ordered sausage on my previous trip as well, so we have consistent data here for comparison. Or, we're just wasting our time. I have pulled up the link to the previous review but have not read it so as not to color my opinions today.

They don't offer choice of cheese or bread, which is odd considering "bread" is part of their name. They also don't offer additional toppings although they have them on hand. When you order a Sausage, Egg and Cheese sandwich that's exactly what you get. According to my receipt the cheese is a white cheddar. The bread is ciabatta.

The bread was nicely toasted and had an outer crunch I liked but things went downhill fast after that. The cheese was melted and gooey and was the overwhelming flavor here. The sausage may be the blandest sausage I've ever had. If you had told me later than it was a vegan-tempeh-fauxsage I would have believed you. There isn't much to say about the egg. Like all chain restaurants, it was cooked so as to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, which is to say there was no runny yolk. 

The Result - 2 Mistaken Repeat Reviews out of 5 Mistaken Repeat Reviews. I'm giving a point for the bread and a point for the cheese. This wasn't a terrible sandwich but it didn't have much going for it, it was mostly just bland. Everything about this visit was bland. The idea to go there was bland. All the people eating there were bland (SHIT! I was one of those people!) Next time I'll look at my old reviews so I don't wander down the same bland path. It's my own damn fault, hell, my previous review was named "I Think I'm Done With Chain Restaurants". If I had looked that up I might have just gone home instead of getting fooled again. Shame on me

Epilogue - Now that I have finished this review I went back to read about my first Panera experience. In both cases I used the word "sad" in a photo caption. Although this sandwich was assembled better I gave it a much lower rating. Reading the previous review the score of 3.5 seems way too generous. In the previous review I said the sausage wasn't too salty or grisly but didn't complain of the absence of flavor. In both cases I grumbled about the egg being overcooked for my tastes - nothing new about that, is there?






Monday, May 29, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #92 - La Taguara aka Oh, The Passion

Sandwich: Breakfast Arepa
Location: La Taguara
Date: May 28, 2017
Cost: $5.99

My love for La Taguara is deep and true but I had not yet been there for the brunch menu. It was only a matter of time.

They have two breakfast arepas, a vegetarian version and a normal version.

Breakfast Arepa

Our specialty hot bun made of ground white corn filled with scramble eggs, ham and your choice of white or cheddar cheese

I also had never tried their juices but it seemed like a nice paring with a breakfast sandwichpita pocket, arepa.

I ordered the papelon con limon (sugar cane with lime juice) but she warned me it was very sweet and gave me a taste. It was a bit too sweet for me so she suggested the jugo de parchita (passion fruit) and gave me a taste of that. Zoinks! That's the stuff. 

I only have one photo but it's a good one. I should have taken a photo of the juice. It was downright radiant. 
The Sandwich - Breakfast Arepa. The only option offered is white or cheddar cheese. White cheese seemed more traditional so I ordered that, but I have no idea if that is correct. I suspect cheddar would be excellent on this as well. It might even be better with the cheddar. The arepa arrives wrapped snugly in paper so all your tasty morsels don't fall out. It really is a beautiful sandwich - look at it! The bun is lightly grilled/toasted so it has a tiny bit of crunch, but remains a slightly chewy, in a good way. The ham is crisped and mixed in with the scrambled eggs with the cheese sprinkled on top. It's served with a creamy sauce on the side. I should have asked what it was but it's perfect for drizzling along the exposed edge. I think it's a thin sour cream.

The Result - 4.70 Passionate Pita Pockets out of 5 Passionate Pita Pockets. I loved this sandwich, which is not really a pita pocket cause it's not in a pita, but I couldn't resist the alliteration. Who cares? The salty ham mixed with the eggs and cheese is just about perfect. It is a little on the salty side, which was fine with me, and the sweet passion fruit juice was a nice balance to that. The arepa is a hearty offering for $5.99 and while the juice might seem a bit pricey at $2.49 it's served in a large glass without ice and is worth every penny.