Sunday, February 10, 2019

Top 25 Breakfast Sandwiches Of All Time

Seeking a quality breakfast sandwich but don't have time to compare all the "Best of the year" lists and use the search function? Does sifting through reviews only to constantly come across Reports From The Lab send you into fits of rage? This post is for you! I've compiled the top rated sandwiches and created a Best of All Time list.

**Obligatory Disclaimer**
I have stated this numerous times over the years but this is the ideal place to repeat it - these rankings are based not only on the sandwich itself but on my overall experience of the day. I stand by my ratings of the sandwiches, however, it would be wise of you to at least skim the full review of a sandwich prior to visiting an establishment so you get an idea of what I was talking about. I'm behooving you look beyond the rating to gather a full understanding of the sandwich you seek. Consider yourself behooved. You Won't Get Behooved Again.

5.00 - Xoco
4.99 - Sardine
4.91 - Bloom Bake Shop
4.90 - The Heights
4.90 - Bradbury's (Crepe)
4.80 - Porter
4.80 - Gotham Bagels
4.75 - Johnson Public House
4.71 - Crema Cafe
4.71 - Casetta Kitchen
4.70 - Crema Cafe
4.70 - La Taguara (Breakfast Arepa)
4.70 - Kingston Cafe
4.69 - Underground Butcher
4.69 - Off Broadway
4.67 - Graze
4.62 - Mint Mark
4.61 - Stella Blu Cafe (Panini)
4.60 - The Old Fashioned
4.58 - Gotham Bagels
4.57 - Tavernakaya (Buns)
4.50 - Players
4.50 - 4 & 20
4.48 - Stalzy's
4.44 - Short Stack
4.44 - Ancora Coffee

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This list is up to date as of February 10, 2019. It may be updated as new sandwiches find their way into the Hall of Fame but that will likely happen sporadically. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Whole Damn 2018 Year End List

As I started to compile my statistics and reports for this list I consulted my 2017 Year End List and noticed some of the same trends continued for 2018. Notably - overall sandwich consumption was down and the ratio of lab sandwiches is on the rise.

[Go ahead and skip the next two paragraphs if you're in a hurry or have a short attention span or hate lab sandwiches. They aren't the paragraphs you want but they may be the paragraphs you need.]

I still see the value in reporting on lab sandwiches even though they are frequently dismissed by readers when I'm out in the field discussing sandwiches. Without sounding too harsh I find those dismissals to be short-sighted and selfish. I understand readers want quick and easily digested information that can inform their daily life. (editors note - market research has determined that they want pictures and a rating and a single sentence review, AND THAT'S IT!) That information is here, at your fingertips, available whenever the notion strikes you. It is a tool and a weapon, at your disposal, that you are assumed to wield wisely. With this simple blog I feel I can confidently state that breakfast sandwich consumers in the Madison area are the single most informed breakfast sandwich eaters in the entire country. Perhaps the world. Perhaps the entire universe. That statement seems preposterous but I see no evidence to the contrary. (I haven't looked.)

My point is that there is a trove of information beyond the easily digestible review and that lab sandwiches can still inform your sandwich consumption. It is hoped that they will inspire you to create your own sandwiches when you aren't flitting about in the cliquey brunch circles that have developed in every major metropolitan market. At some point you will want to construct a breakfast sandwich in your own kitchen and if just a single morsel of my research helps with that than it has been worth it. I'd also like to point out that if you make breakfast sandwiches at home you can really take advantage of the "bottomless mimosa" fad that has swept the country. I'm not talking about "all you can drink" mimosas, I'm talking about drinking mimosas with your pants off.

Anyway, let's look back at 2018.

Breakfast sandwich consumption continues to trend downward while the quality of sandwiches consumed trended upwards:

2015 - 49
2016 - 31
2017 - 28 (42% lab sandwiches)
2018 - 22 (57% lab sandwiches)

Sandwich Rankings 2018
4.90 - The Heights
4.70 - Crema Cafe
4.62 - Mint Mark
4.48 - Stalzy's
3.12 - Lazy Jane's
2.19 - Kwik Trip

There were a lot of repeat visits in 2018 although often it was to review a different sandwich. Crema Cafe, Stalzy's, Player's, Cafe Hollander, Tip Top, Lazy Jane's and Kwik Trip had all been visited previously.

The average ranking for 2018 was 3.93 versus 3.18 of 2017. That number is skewed by the embarrassingly high number of visits to fast food vendors in 2017. I hope to keep those visits to a minimum in 2019 and beyond.

For further evidence that this blog continues to be a leader in the industry look no further than the Lab Report of June 20, 2018 - The Big MacMuffin. In this experiment we attempted to create a breakfast sandwich version of the iconic Big Mac Sandwich. While the experiment wasn't 100% successful it did yield positive results and on October 24 McDonald's announced their new "Triple Breakfast Stacks". These aren't specifically their breakfast version of the Big Mac but its close enough for me to feel that I should be getting residuals or at least a cushy role at McDonald's headquarters. Ancillary Vice-President of Breakfast Menu Diversification is the title I would like, thank you. First order of business is to get the crew in the test kitchen working on a bacon flavored milkshake. My attorney will be handling discussions from this point.

The Big MacMuffin was likely the most ambitious lab creation of the year but the most ridiculous experiment was probably the bacon-wrapped kosher franks. There was a sad attempt to use leftover chili-mac in a sandwich and it surprised nobody that leftover Honey-Baked Ham makes for a delicious breakfast sandwich.

Looking ahead I don't see a lot of change for 2019. We are well into the year and there are some new establishments that I have yet to visit. There are probably a few new joints that I don't even know about yet that will be discovered along the way. I can think of a few spots that are due for a repeat visit and there are places such as Crema Cafe that occasionally offer weekend sandwich specials that I hope to try. The Lab will continue to function in it's stated role and complaints from outside the organization will be ignored. 

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Friday, February 1, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #131 - Kingdom Restaurant aka We're Not In Philly Anymore

Sandwich: Hangover Sandwich
Location: Kingdom Restaurant
Date: January 19, 2019
Cost: $8.49

Kingdom Restaurant used to be located in a gas station on East Washington Avenue and have relocated to the Northside Town Center. That gas station was a magnet for shit heads so I don't blame them for finding a new spot

With the recent openings of Beef Butter BBQ, Bierock and now Kingdom, the North side has a few more food options. This has been long overdue.

I came across Kingdom by accident when I dropped some clothes off for alterations next door. I stopped in to see the menu and learned they had opened the previous day. Any sensible person would go right to the African section of the menu, that's what they're known for, but the "Hangover Sandwich" caught my eye (as did the chicken wings) and I knew that was probably a breakfast sandwich. My pants were to be ready for pickup the following Saturday so I made a plan to find out what this Hangover Sandwich was all about.

While I wasn't planning on arriving with a hangover, I also hadn't planned for several inches of snow necessitating two solid hours of snow blowing and shoveling on Saturday morning. This is to say that by the time I got to Kingdom I had picked up my freshly tailored slacks and I had a hearty appetite.

This may be one of my better menu photos which means nothing. I didn't ask if they'll throw a chicken egg on top of those gizzards to make a nice little breakfast plate. 

That's a hunka-hunka of a sandwich right there. Jeepers. 
The Sandwich - Hangover Sandwich. There isn't a description listed on the menu so I asked the guy at the counter who told me it's "a Philly cheesesteak with an egg on it". Oddly, that is the next item listed on the menu so either the layout of their menu is goofy or there is some confusion about what this sandwich is. It doesn't matter, I ordered it. There are no options available and it's part of the "Combo" menu which means it comes with fries and a drink, neither of which I wanted. That's a loaded plate for breakfast, although in this case I was beyond hungry and it was actually Noon by the time I got there, so I'm pushing the definition of breakfast here.

Disclaimer - I have never been to Philadelphia. I've never eaten a real Philly Cheesesteak and I don't have an opinion on the Geno's versus Pat's rivalry. This fills me with a deep shame that I'm unable to articulate in this space but please forgive me and know that one day I will go to Philadelphia, if only to eat cheesesteak sandwiches. There used to be a place called Big Red's here in Madison that served a tasty cheesesteak but they closed several years ago. 

Anyway, the sandwich. You can see it's an impressive pile of sandwich if a bit messy. The egg is sorta fried and plopped in there. They don't ask if you want the sandwich "wit" (with onions) and the cheese is Cheez Whiz. Perhaps if you specify you can get it without onions or peppers and another kind of cheese. The steak was tender and not grisly, which honestly I thought might be the case. It's a messy sandwich for sure, and actually could have been a bit messier with a little more cheese. The bread was sturdy enough to keep everything together while not being too dense. Everybody will tell you the key to the Philly cheesesteaks is the Amoroso's bread but sadly I can't weigh in on that. It seems the more I write about sandwiches the less I know about sandwiches.

The fries were OK but unnecessary. If not for the shoveling I may have avoided them altogether but I ate about half of them. 

The Result - 3.99 Harold Carmichaels out of 5 Harold Carmichaels. This rating might be a bit generous. On one hand this isn't at all what you expect when you think of a breakfast sandwich. On the other hand, it's a solid sandwich and if you know what you're getting it might fit the bill perfectly. I'll gave them points for creativity, I don't think anybody else around here is serving a breakfast sandwich like this. Overall, the sandwich wasn't quite as flavorful as I thought it would be - maybe that means it needs more grease and salt, which is probably a stupid thing to complain about, but I call it as I taste it. I do know that from what I remember of the Big Red's cheesesteaks I used to get, this wasn't as tasty, egg or not. It's probably not fair to compare a sandwich from fuzzy memories of 5 years ago but I'm doing it anyway. Packaging it as a "Combo" meal didn't work for me, it doesn't need those fries and I rarely want a soda. Serving it ala carte for $5.95 makes more sense to me. How does it fair against a hangover? I didn't find out, that's for your research team to dig into. I run a tight ship over here and have no time for the ramblings of bleary-eyed slackers. 

Kingdom seems like it's still finding it's footing in a restaurant space rather than as a takeout joint. Small things like not having water and ketchup out so patrons can help themselves lessen the experience. I'm hoping they can tighten it up and get enough traffic to stay open. I want to go back to try the chicken wings, fufu and benachin.