Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Whole Damn 2015 Year End List

I ate a whole shit ton of breakfast sandwiches in 2015. If I had been on the ball, or if I was some kind of journalist, I would have reached my goal of 52 sandwiches early and published my Year In Review in mid December like every other year end list. That didn't happen.

Still, it really was the Year Of The Breakfast Sandwich (YOBS). The streets and cafes crackled with the energy of a dozen dropped chicken eggs and everywhere I went people wanted to talk about bacon. Locally, Isthmus Dining Guide published a feature article on breakfast sandwiches and right around the same time the New York Times wrote of bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. Even Epicurious realized that 2015 was YOBS.

And now it's January of 2016. So, as it is, The Year Of The Breakfast Sandwich is toast. It's a wrap. There is nothing left but crumbs.

Even so, it will not be forgotten. It will always live on in our hearts (and arteries).

Let's take a look back and try to make some sense of the jumbled mess of my reviews.

There was the thought of only listing my top 10 or 15 of the year but that would have left out some damn fine sandwiches and I wanted to see how it all sorted out anyway. When rating sandwiches I rarely went back to compare to previous rankings lest I get caught up in a vortex of my own making. As a result, this is the first time I've compared the sandwiches in this way. I call it Analytical Sandwich Metrics.

When I stack them up like this I see inconsistencies that I'm not happy with. I see sandwiches listed lower and higher than I think they should be, based on my recollections. Without going back to compare reviews I'll just assume they are that way for a reason although I do think there was a ranking curve that revealed itself over the course of the year. I'm not going to plot out a timeline of the reviews and rankings (that would be Advanced Analytical Sandwich Metrics) but I believe that, generally speaking, my rankings were more generous early and late in the year, and a little tighter in the middle. An inverted bell curve. I think a few places I visited in the summer received lower marks than they would have at other times. Shit happens.

I see other patterns I don't like, such as that wishy-washy clod between 3.91 and 4.03. I guess that's how it all shook out but it looks weird to me.

View the rankings with a grain of salt. A lot of information hides behind the numbers - cost, personal biases, sides included with sandwich, how my day was going, or went, after I ate the sandwich. You really need to read the full review or eat the sandwich to get to the greasy good stuff, the intangibles.

Here are a few stats that might lend some focus to the project:

$292.73 - Total amount spent on breakfast sandwiches, not including tax, tip, coffee, bloody mary, antacid, breath mints.
$6.65 - Average cost of sandwiches reviewed.
3.59 - Average ranking of sandwiches reviewed.

Having said all that, here is the full list with links to the corresponding review:

4.90 - Bradbury's (Hey! That's not a sandwich - I call fowl!)
4.71 - Crema Cafe
4.69 - Underground Butcher
4.67 - Graze
4.58 - Gotham Bagels
4.50 - 4 & 20
4.44 - Short Stack
4.32 - Oliver's Public House
4.32 - Rolling Pin Bake Shop
4.31 - Rosie's Coffee Bar & Bakery
4.28 - Mickey's Tavern
4.27 - The Coopers Tavern
4.18 - MacTaggart's
4.03 - Marigold Kitchen
4.01 - Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery
4.00 - La Brioche
4.00 - Mermaid Cafe
3.99 - HyVee
3.99 - Stalzy's Deli
3.99 - Tip Top Tavern
3.97 - Manna Cafe
3.95 - Pinkus McBride
3.92 - Gooseberry On The Square
3.91 - Madison Sourdough Co.
3.84 - Le Petite Croissant
3.79 - The Old Fashioned
3.75 - Taco Bell
3.70 - DLUX
3.65 - Cafe Hollander
3.62 - Bagels Forever
3.42 - Plaka Taverna
3.25 - PDQ
3.03 - Avenue Club
3.00 - Bassett Street Brunch Club
3.00 - The Egg & I
2.98 - Subway
2.95 - Einstein Bagels
2.29 - McDonald's
2.19 - Hardee's
1.99 - Cracker Barrel
1.97 - Burger King
1.56 - Sonic
1.27 - Dunkin Donuts
1.00 - A Vending Machine at Work

The following are homemade jobbers. (Nobody cares but they're listed here as they provide a frame of reference and insight into the overall process. These were not included in the statistics listed above although they were reviewed.) I have no idea how I gave sandwiches that I made such high rankings but I suspect it was born out of the convenience of not having to leave the house. They were tasty sandwiches.

4.33 - Review #10
4.15 - Review #4
3.65 - Review #3
Pass (Pass/Fail) - Review #2

Note that, as the numbers go, I never found the perfect sandwich. I carried that "5.00" around all year, hoping to whip it out with fanfare, but it wasn't meant to be. That is likely the result of a flawed rating system, or possibly unrealistic expectations. In retrospect it might be that the perfect breakfast sandwich was the very first sandwich I had on New Years Day, the sandwich that inspired this grisly journey. I meant to go back and give The Buzzy a proper review on New Years Day, 2016, but I couldn't get that together.

So, what will happen in 2016?

I still haven't made it to a few spots that were on the list from day one. That alone is reason enough to forge ahead with more sandwich reviews, albeit with somewhat less fervor than previously displayed. I had two guest reviewers tentatively lined up for 2015 but we could never get it nailed down. Mostly we didn't try very hard but now we have an entire year ahead of us so anything is possible. Ideally there will be more than two guest reviewers so maybe some of you readers with sandwich cred will step up. I'd like to get some kind of breakfast sandwich t-shirt made, although I'm not quite sure what that would be. I have some rough ideas but finding the time to pursue this might be hard. I had an idea for a March Madness Sweet Sixteen style sandwich bracket in which YOU would choose which sandwich advances by some sort of voting system. That seems rife for abuse and it would require readers to eat the sandwiches before voting and it would take weeks to be handled properly. I think that's too much work and I don't trust you people. I might expand out to reviewing other non-sandwich breakfast options, unique items that don't appear on every menu in town. There are options. I can tell you what probably won't happen - it's very unlikely that I will start reviewing other food items in a similar manner. The breakfast sandwich is unique in that there are several quick options you can get on a weekday morning and eat in your car or at your desk. That's what they are supposed to do. You can't do that with cheeseburgers and burritos, for example. 

What do you think? (I fully expect the most common response to this will be variations of "shut up", "quit", etc.)