[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
4.71 - Casetta Kitchen
4.70 - Crema Cafe
4.62 - Mint Mark
4.60 - The Old Fashioned
4.48 - Stalzy's
4.18 - Player's Sports Bar
3.97 - Tip Top Tavern
3.33 - Cafe Hollander
3.12 - Lazy Jane's
3.11 - Willy Street Co-op (North)
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.