Sunday, March 29, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #17 - McDonald's aka It Was Bound To Happen

Sandwich: Sausage McMuffin with Egg
Location: McDonald's, East Washington Ave.
Date: March 29, 2015
Cost: $3.29

I had big plans to hit a new place in town but realized it isn't open on Sundays. My backup plan hit the same snag and then I was chasing a crazy idea of venturing outside the Madison city limits for a breakfast sandwich. Just a few blocks from my house I abruptly changed plans yet again and took a hard right into the McDonald's parking lot. Even on an overcast day with freezing rain the beacon light of the golden arches shines brightly. Such is the nature of America today.

The coming of this day was inevitable. A review of breakfast sandwiches by its very nature must include some variation of the McMuffin. It is likely the first breakfast sandwich I ever had outside the home and is probably the best selling breakfast sandwich of all time. I did a quick search for statistics to back up that statement but didn't come up with anything. To be honest I didn't look for very long so I guess I don't care all that much.

I have no idea how long it's been since I ate one of these, at least a decade, I suspect.
I almost went for the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit but I felt the need to actually say "McMuffin".
That Steak & Egg McMuffin frightens me. 

McMuffin in it's natural habitat - the dashboard of a pickup truck.

That egg looks like a cartoon drawing.
The Sandwich - Sausage McMuffin with Egg. I didn't realize that the classic Egg McMuffin has Canadian bacon on it. I would have guessed sausage - apparently I have not been keeping up on the McDonald's menu. Right off the bat you can see that part of my muffin is missing (2nd photo). It wasn't broken off and in the wrapper with the rest of the sandwich, it was just gone. Not really acceptable. They might want to review their quality control procedures is all I'm saying. The muffin wasn't effectively toasted and was only vaguely warm to the touch. The sausage wasn't too bad, I've had worse. Salty, obviously, but not excessively so, and no hard grisly bits (gross). The cheese was nicely melted but didn't have much flavor. The egg is apparently an actual chicken egg, USDA Grade A. Legit. It's cooked so as not to be a mess that squirts onto you lap which renders it into a lightly chewy mass.

The Result - 2.29 Ray Krocs out of 5 Ray Krocs. This sandwich isn't bad but it isn't very good either. For the non-discerning breakfasteer on the go this might do just fine. I gave it a 2.29 because thats how much I think it should cost. I'm probably starting to sound like a cheap bastard cause that's only $1 less than what I paid, but percentage-wise, it's significant. It doesn't really matter, it may well be another decade before I eat one of these again. By then they'll probably cost $4.95.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Diversions - 12 Must-Eat Breakfast Sandwiches Across America via Serious Eats

Damn, that is one impressive list. I'd eat every last one of those. Note that two of them are chorizo based. You might recall an earlier review in which I was skeptical of ordering a chorizo breakfast sandwich but the salty, fatty goodness melted away my concerns.

If two of the 12 must-eat breakfast sandwiches in America are chorizo focused I guess its more of a trend than I thought.

Diversions - This Drivel Now On Twitter @BunBreakfast

If Twitter is a more efficient way for you to receive updates on breakfast sandwiches you now have that option.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #16 - Tip Top Tavern aka Breakfast Sandwiches Aren't Just For Breakfast

Sandwich: The Rooster
Location: Tip Top Tavern
Date: March 22, 2015
Cost: $8.95

The Tip Top Tavern was an early entry on the list as it's in my neighborhood and an easy walk from my house. I'd eaten there a couple of times and knew the food was solid but I hadn't been there for breakfast.

Sunday morning I found myself in a similar state as the day that hatched the idea for this blog and eventually lead to the proclamation that 2015 is the Year Of The Breakfast Sandwich. I had gone to bed way too late, not gotten much sleep and I was incredibly hungry. Still, I didn't make it to The Tip Top until shortly after Noon.

I don't know if the brunch crowd dies down late or if it was a slow day, but there were plenty of bar stools available as well as a few tables. It wasn't dead, but I'm glad it wasn't crowded cause I wasn't in the mood for background chatter. Mellow jazz set the mood, I think I heard some Birth Of The Cool, and I was feeling alright.

If there is a downside to this mission it's that even if there is a really good sounding special or something on the menu looks like it needs to be tried, the mission wins out (at least it has thus far).

The Rooster is part of the regular menu so you can get a breakfast sandwich whenever the kitchen is open. I considered that perhaps that somehow negates it being a breakfast sandwich but that thought was discarded. I was probably over thinking it.

Related to none of this is that whenever I see the phrase "The Rooster" written anywhere it always reminds me of a hilarious David Sedaris story.

That there is a menu.

A side of chips. Not sure how I feel about that but I like those toasty marks on the bread.

There is potential here.
The Sandwich - I ordered The Rooster. It's the only breakfast sandwich on the menu and there are no options available so it was a simple choice. I'm not sure I could have handled multiple decisions on this day anyway. The sandwich felt a little light but that may have been because I was really hungry. I think I ate the first half of it in 4 bites and it went down easy and tasty. The bacon and ample red onion went together really well. The egg was perfectly fried and the tomato wasn't as sad as you might expect this time of year. The romaine lettuce leaf didn't add much except as a reminder that it was doing something healthy. The Tip Top Special Sauce is probably mayonnaise based and maybe has a little hot sauce in it. I don't know, it's good though, and makes the sandwich a little sloppy. Some sloppiness in a sandwich is a good thing and the sourdough bread was up to the task of keeping it together. The kettle chips were good but chips as a side always seem like a cop-out. I ate them all anyway, but I'm generally a member of the clean plate club so I'm not sure that says much. The wedge of orange was like a little dessert, unless you count the snit of PBR that came with the bloody mary.

The Result - 3.99 snits out of 5 snits. This was a difficult one to put a number rating on. By now it should be obvious that these number ratings don't mean a whole lot. They are affected by things such as the atmosphere and vibe of the place and circumstances surrounding the eating of the sandwich. Add points for good music, subtract points for a side of chips. This was a really good sandwich but I just couldn't put it above 4, I think the price was part of that. $8.95 deserves more than a side of chips. I'm really hung up on those chips, I'm not sure why. Anyway, it's just a number. You gotta read between the lines, maaaaaan, and consider how this sandwich could maybe fit into your life. That's what it's all about, isn't it? It is nice to know that if you have a craving for a breakfast sandwich at 8 pm you can get The Rooster. You can't kill the rooster.

Note - I had this all written and then lost most of it so I had to rewrite it quickly. Now I'm in a hurry so I may have to come back later and fix typos or grammar. Usually my sister emails me to tell what needs to be fixed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #15 - Mermaid Cafe aka Return of the Classics

Sandwich: Classic Sandwich
Location: Mermaid Cafe
Date: March 17, 2015
Cost: $6

After a string of subpar if not downright awful sandwiches I was due to get back to a solid, local, establishment who I knew could bring the flavor.

How long has Mermaid Cafe been quietly turning out excellent food? At least 10 years I would guess, but I'm bad at this kind of thing. It could be anywhere from 7 to 16 years, I'd believe either. It doesn't matter. The space is always comfortable, the food is always good and I just like the general vibe of the place. I should go there more often.

They were one of the first places on the breakfast sandwich list although I'm not sure I'd ever had one there.

I thought the place would be crowded on Sunday but I think I was late enough that everybody had already eaten and gone up to the square for the silly Saint Patrick's Day parade. We should probably talk about dying the Yahara River green, or we could move Saint Patrick's Day to late May and it will already be green.

They have two breakfast sandwiches on the menu but I was weak with hunger and I could only focus enough to see one on the menu:

Classic Sandwich
Eggs, bacon or sausage, and your choice of cheese on focaccia.

They also have:

Oh Mighty Isis
Cult breakfast favorite with eggs, cheddar, tomato & avocado slathered with coconut curry aioli.

I honestly didn't see it, the Classic is at the top of the chalkboard menu and that is as far as I got. I would have been tempted to join the Mighty Isis cult (in light of recent world events that sounds really weird), perhaps, even if it appears to be made up mostly of vegetarians.

Is that a panini?


Dense, but not heavy
The Sandwich - I ordered the Classic with bacon. They offered swiss or cheddar cheese, and I think they had American as well but I'm not positive. On this day they had mild and sharp cheddar but she said they don't always have the sharp cheddar. I think it is worth an inquiry if you're there, but I'm a sharp cheddar kind of a guy, and that's what I ordered. I didn't know it was going to be a panini, that was a pleasant surprise. Panini is an Italian word for "George Foreman Grill", not many Americans know that. The grilled focaccia had a nice crunch to it and the eggs were still fluffy, even after grilling. Cheddar cheese is the right choice here although I could see Swiss holding its own. The bacon was solid. I'll bet the sausage is good too and I'd be tempted to try it. The focaccia could definitely stand up to more "stuff" if that is a route Mermaid would let you explore. I don't know if they would let you add avocado or onion or tomato, but this sandwich could take it.

The Result - 4 out of 5 Mermaids recommend this breakfast sandwich for their patients (?) who eat breakfast sandwiches. This sandwich is a rock solid 4. It's just a slight variation on a classic breakfast sandwich and it's done right. I'm not sure I have anything else to say about it. I also had a delicious hot chocolate with a hint of cinnamon in it. That might be the last hot chocolate of the season for me. Now I'm getting reflective and pensive.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #14 - Cracker Barrel aka Cheaters Never Win

Sandwich: Egg Sandwich + Sausage n' Biscuit = The Cheaters Combo
Location: Cracker Barrel
Date: March 13, 2015
Cost: $4.49 + $2.29 = $6.78

It's easy to hate Cracker Barrel. They're all located about a five-iron shot from an Interstate Highway so right off the bat you're already in the most homogenized area of whatever town or city you are in. When you walk in you aren't greeted with the smell of bacon or syrup or anything that you might eat, instead you're hit square in the face with some horrible potpourri stank. You have to wind your way through the "Old Country Store", past the overpriced candy, hideous faux-homey trinkets and other assorted nonsense, just to put your name on the list for a table.

Rather than continue to complain about Cracker Barrel I'm going to list two things I like about it. The rocking chairs on the fake porch. I like the rocking chairs, except they're all locked together with industrial grade cable which really destroys the old-timey feel I think they're going for. I also like some of the music CD's they sell. You might find Merl Haggard, George Jones or Ralph Stanley but those will be right next to something like "Blake Shelton Raps Gaelic Favorites".

One last thing - I was once on a road trip and stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Indiana or Kentucky, I think, and the chalkboard outside said "Vegetable of the Day: Mac 'n Cheese". The cheese crop must have been really good that year.

Perusing the Cracker Barrel online menu isn't as easy as it could be because it's subdivided into categories like "Wholesome Fixin's" and "Pancakes n' Such". Eventually I found "Egg Sandwich" listed under "Everyday Favorites":

Egg Sandwich - Two Eggs cooked to order, served on our own Sourdough Bread with Fried Apples or Hashbrown Casserole.

That seemed a little lacking, but then I found "Sausage n' Biscuit" on the "Sides" menu and hit upon the idea of combining the two to make something more like a real breakfast sandwich. This might be cheating or at the very least bending the rules, but I went with it.


Construction Zone. Danger - Hard Arteries Area

Finished Product
The Sandwich - I ordered the Egg Sandwich with the Hashbrown Casserole side. I was taking it to go so I ordered the egg over medium-well so it wouldn't be a mess. I also ordered the Sausage n' Biscuit so I could create a Franken-sandwich.

You can't tell from the photo but the Sausage n' Biscuit is about the size of a White Castle burger. The sausage patty is maybe the circumference of an old US Silver Dollar. The flavor doesn't make up for the size, I can tell you that. At $2.29 it's an absolute rip off. 

If you read the description of the Egg Sandwich on the Cracker Barrel site you know they don't mention it coming with mayo and sad tomatoes. Well, it does. Occasionally mayonnaise angers me and this was one of those times. 

At this point I was kind of pissed off about the whole thing and decided to pile everything on the sandwich including the Hashbrown Casserole, which as far as I can tell is potato, cheese and onion. I'm pretty sure this arrives at each Cracker Barrel location frozen in huge bags or glopped into 55 gallon drums. You can see from the photo that I took the sausage patty off the biscuit, cut it in half and added it to the sandwich, along with a load of the Hashbrown Casserole. 

Once I had it all together I thought maybe I had something good going on. Not really. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't good. Nothing really had a distinct flavor. The sausage didn't add anything. I think I mostly tasted the Hashbrown Casserole and that wasn't even that good. Oniony. Something added an unpleasant sweetness, maybe the bread? Was the mayo really a High Fructose Aioli? The egg was cooked exactly as ordered, I'll give them that. 

As if that wasn't bad enough, when I was done eating it left an aftertaste that wasn't working for me. Luckily I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in my desk. 

The Result - 1.99 rocking chairs out of 5 rocking chairs. It wasn't awful (although I think my description made it sound that way). I ate the whole thing, but the total price tag of $6.78 drove down the score. That may be my fault for trying to combine items into a better sandwich. I tried to cheat the system and I got burned. The Egg Sandwich on it's own may have fared better, but look at that photo, does it look like a $4.49 sandwich? Not for this reporter. 

You may be wondering what happened to the biscuit after I removed the sausage patty. I didn't know what to do with it so I put sexy eyes on it and named her Betty Mae Biscuit. 
Betty Mae Biscuit
She's going to the Sandwich Prom with Mayor McCheese! He doesn't mind her under bite, he thinks it's cute.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Diversions - Latvian Breakfast

A few weeks ago Lindsay Christians of The Cap Times published a short piece about this blog in the Recent Obsessions section of the paper. That was a pleasant surprise.

Immediately after that piece ran the blog had page views from Russia, Singapore and Latvia, among other places. That surprised me until I considered that the University of Wisconsin annually churns out thousands of graduate students who disperse across the globe to study the "ancient mating habits of whatever", or possibly something related to sandwiches. Those ex-pats probably like to keep in touch with the pulse of Madison. This theory seems to hold more water than the idea that somebody in Singapore is so bored they are seeking out random musings on breakfast sandwiches.

The hit from Latvia was the most surprising. Everything I know about Latvia I learned watching Seinfeld. I felt some research was in order, and by that I mean I would spend upwards of a minute searching for information about breakfast in Latvia.

Wikipedia really came through for me on Latvian Breakfast. "Typical Latvian breakfast usually consists of open sandwiches with toppings made of vegetables, fish, eggs or cheese." Breakfast Sandwiches. Its a worldwide phenomenon.

I feel like I've learned something here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #13 - HyVee aka A Sandwich From The Corral

Sandwich: Muffin Melt
Location: HyVee (Madison East)
Date: March 4, 2015
Cost: $2.79

HyVee was a very recent addition to the list. I probably stop at the salad bar two or three times a week on my way into work. Just about two weeks ago it occurred to me that they offer breakfast items and when I checked I found several sandwiches on the menu. Well, how about that?

The east side location is in transition right now and the normal dining area is closed for remodeling, I guess to make it more like the west side location with a bar (I hope I never find myself sitting at that bar). While this construction happens they have moved tables out around the salad bar and put up some decorative fencing shit and essentially corralled in the entire area between produce and the deli counter. I don't like it. I'm trying to make a nice salad and bored people are sipping coffee and their dead eyes are gazing at my shoes and it bothers me for some reason. I realize this is my problem, not theirs. It's still a problem, albeit, temporary. I love the HyVee salad bar, without it my lunchtime routine would be in a serious state of flux, but I want it back to its normal state.

But we're here to talk about breakfast sandwiches, not my opinions on grocery stores and their denizens. First, a dumb joke I think I just made up.

Q: Where do fraternity brothers shop?
A: The Brocery store.

OK, then.
Note the breakfast deli stack vegetarian option. Also, why is this menu written like an ee cummings poem?
It got a little jostled on my way to work.

There is potential here.
The sandwich - I ordered the Muffin Melt with bacon although I briefly considered the sausage. Ham? It will be a tepid day in Hades before I order HyVee Ham. Timing is everything and there was no line and the dude didn't look busy. I ordered, took my spin around the salad bar, paid for everything and then only had to wait a minute before the sandwich was ready. Hot off the griddle, literally. He wrapped it in foil and I was on my way. It was still warm when I got to work although the bacon had load-shifted. The egg was a little creamy and the cheese was melty yet not squishing out all over the place. The bacon was solidly crispy. The muffin was adequate at keeping it all in place and a nice change from bread. It balanced out in all the right ways. Tasty! I had somewhat low expectations, probably residual attitude about the corral, but this sandwich was an attitude adjuster!

The result - 3.99 corrals out of 5 corrals. $2.79 is a good deal for this sandwich and I think I lucked out with my cook this day. He looked like a man who takes pride in his sandwiches, I could see it in his eyes. The Texas Two Hand might be a solid choice if you like to load up on calories early in the day. I might try it at some point. There isn't anything fancy on the menu, but if you have to stop at HyVee in the morning one of these could lift your spirits.

Bonus story! Sunday morning my refrigerator was teeming with breakfast items - bacon, eggs, soy chorizo (go ahead and heap derision upon me for that), red pepper, broccoli rabe and so forth. I chose to make a scramble instead of a sandwich because I know nobody cares to read about the breakfast sandwiches I make. That's understandable. I went into the lab but you'll get no reports on the experiment with the exception of this - the soy chorizo was actually pretty good. I did cook the bacon first and then cooked the soy chorizo in some of the bacon fat so I'm sure that helped, but it was good chorizo. Nice spice flavor, not too cinnamony, not greasy, no pig anuses, etc. If you aren't too embarrassed to buy it you might give it a shot.

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