Sunday, August 11, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #140 - Bassett Street Brunch Club aka Doy!

Sandwich: Bagel Breakfast Sandwich w/bacon
Location: Bassett Street Brunch Club
Date: August 10, 2019
Cost: $12.45, with mixed greens or potatoes.

There has been a casual goal of revisiting locations in 2019 to see if they have have spruced up their menus or upped their game, or, just to try a different sandwich. That hasn't been happening much but I have made it back to Kwik Trip, Gotham Bagels and McDonald's. Let's be honest here, Kwik Trip and McDonald's barely count. They're just slinging out grab-n-go sandwiches instead creating something made to order. They could be making their sandwiches with love, it's not impossible, but their modus operandi is efficiency and volume.

I knew I wanted to get back to Bassett Street Brunch Club for a few reasons. #A, I was aware that they had changed the menu and the breakfast sandwich was now different than the one I had waaaaay back at Breakfast Sandwich #5. #B, the Horchata Latte - steamed horchata poured through espresso. People have a specific reactions when I tell them about this drink, they either insist they need it immediately or they are nonplussed at my enthusiasm. #C, due to the location of B.S.B.C, it's really only convenient to visit via bicycle, and early in the day at that. When I'm on a sandwich mission I don't have the patience to stand in line and I'm not going to drive downtown and try to find somewhere to park my car. That's dumb. I was awake early and it was pleasant biking weather and I felt that my mission was clear.

Today was the day for the repeat visit. It was obvious. It was in my daily sandwich horoscope - "Bacon has just entered the house of Virgo and with chicken egg in retrograde there is no better time for runny yolk to make it's presence felt. Remember that when emotions get oozy a simple piece of toasted bread can provide the balance needed to focus on the present." Doy.

I forgot to take a photo of the menu cause I was distracted by the Horchata Latte. Who cares? Here is the description:

Bagel Breakfast Sandwich

I don't know what happened with this photo but it looks like I took it using a drone or something. (I didn't.)

As far as my generally crappy photos go, this one is pretty good. I feel like I really Leibovitzed this one. 
The Sandwich - Bagel Breakfast Sandwich. I added the bacon. Doy. I didn't bike all the way down there to not have bacon. Plus, my sandwich horoscope was pretty clear about bacon. First impression - the bagel was way under toasted if it was toasted at all. It may have just been sitting in a warm room. I admit it rankled me a bit. Second impression -  I wish that egg would have been runny. Third impression - the avocado was perfectly ripe and I've said it before but more breakfast sandwiches should have avocado. The avocado and the pesto aioli teamed up to give this a wonderful creamy texture that played well off the salty bacon. The pesto aioli was understated in a good way and the cheddar wasn't particularly forefront either. But here is how it fell short of it's potential - cook that egg over-medium so the yolk is runny, toast the bagel to a crispy outer layer and let the diner wallow in the slopification of it all. Here's an extra napkin. Of all the bagels the "everything" bagel seems to benefit most from toasting. I think it's the sesame seeds.

The Result - 3.59 Doys out of 5 Doys. It's a tasty sandwich but we don't grade potential here, we grade results. It had room for improvement, especially at the $12.45 price point. That's a bit pricey but avocados are like bitcoins right now, you never know how much they're going to cost. Maybe that's part of it. The mixed greens help, I've stated my love of mixed greens with a sandwich numerous times and these were zippy and tangy and exactly what you think they were. Still, it's just some mixed greens. I'm probably starting to sound like a cheapskate. 

They still have the robot theme going on here and I still don't understand it but I do like it. 

Now that I've completed this review it's safe to check my notes from the previous review. Hmmm, very similar comments on the greens and the robots. I also sound like a cheapskate in that review but it was a different sandwich. I did rank this one higher but I think know my rankings have been increasing in general since 2015. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #139 - McDonald's (yet again) aka I Am One With The Billions

Sandwich: Sausage McMuffin with Egg
Location: McDonald's South Towne Mall
Date: August 3, 2019
Cost: $3.18 (I think?)

Let's get a couple of things out of the way right off the bat. I've reviewed McDonald's entirely too often - #17#66#83#95 and #97 are the results of my trips through the Golden Arches. Then I tried to create a breakfast sandwich version of the The Big Mac that was somewhat successful and then about 4 months later McDonald's launched their Triple Breakfast Stacks which I swore I would never review. This was partly because it sounds like way too much saturated fat and calories and partly because these overloaded sandwiches usually get all the proportions wrong. If the proportions are off everything gets thrown out of whack. It doesn't work. Have you had a Kit Kat Big Kat? No bueno. It's a gimmick and I don't appreciate it. 

But then I woke up on this Saturday morning with a long day ahead of me and I thought "If not now, when?". Gimmicks be damned! It was decided I would take a plunge into the stacks and see how I emerged on the other side. Hold my feet, I'm going in!

Here's the thing - the Triple Stacks weren't shown the drive-thru menu. I inquired and she said they didn't have them. I was staring at the speaker so I couldn't see her eyes to tell if she was lying to me. (Hold on a minute. How long will it be before the drive-thru ordering system is a video screen with a generically attractive AI "person" taking your order and suggesting you try the new Mcberry McSwirly McSlush? I'll take the under on that. It's probably already happening in Japan. I'm not going to look it up.) My order was changed to the classic Sausage McMuffin with Egg but I was feeling uneasy and perplexed. Were they only offered at some locations? That doesn't make sense, it was a national campaign.

As far as I can tell (with minimal research), the Triple Breakfast Stacks were discontinued without warning or fanfare. We're probably all better off for it but now I regret my choice to avoid it. Dereliction of duty? Perhaps. None of you were going to eat one anyway, or were you? Did you? Please submit your reports. 
I was holding this in my hand in the car so please excuse the extra shitty quality of the photo. 

Now this is a nice photo. This is a throwback to the time we made homemade Big Macs, except I bought the buns from McDonalds. They even toasted them for me and put them in the fun little boxes. 

The Sandwich - Sausage McMuffin with Egg. You know what this is. What can I say about the Sausage McMuffin that you don't already know deep in your heart and hippocampus? Nothing. This was one done right. The cheese was all melty and the egg was the predictable puck and the sausage tasted exactly as expected which was the main reason I ordered this. 

The Result - 4.0 Billions and Billions Served out of 5 Billions and Billions Served. What can I say? I really enjoyed this. It fit perfectly with my morning which McDonalds had nothing to do with but yet they benefited from my great mood. Lucky them. I wasn't even upset that I didn't get to have a Triple Breakfast Stack. In fact, I'm elated. Happy Trails, Triple Breakfast Stack, we hardly knew ya'.

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #138 - Pasture and Plenty aka The Best Laid Plans

Sandwich: Ed Sammy
Location: Pasture and Plenty
Date: July 27, 2019
Cost: $10

Waking up to a perfect Saturday morning in July is a clear sign from the Sandwich Gods that that one needs to jump on their bicycle and seek a sandwich to sate the soul.  

The plan was to visit Pasture and Plenty, a somewhat newish place on the near west side that I hadn't done much research on but I knew had a vegetarian breakfast sandwich that includes red pepper jam. That sounded like reason enough to pedal over there and it was just far enough away to offset my carbo-footprint. A vegetarian breakfast sandwich? Am I going to start talking about carbohydrates and the waxy built up of cholesterol? What have I become? This is bullshit. 

As I pedaled I started considering my options. I briefly became hung up on getting a horchata latte from Bassett Street Brunch Club so I could try their Bagel Breakfast Sandwich which was not on the menu when I visited for Sandwich #5. The horchata latte was soon pushed from my thoughts by the idea of visiting Bradbury's. It's been too long since I've stopped there and the pull to change my mission was strong. No. Although this year started with the idea of revisiting some of the early sandwich locations there have been new and enticing offerings that I've felt compelled to visit so the redux reviews will have to wait. My thoughts came full circle and I stayed on my path to Pasture and Plenty. 

And then I saw the Daily Goodness board and decided I'd rather have the Ed Sammy than the vegetarian offering that is a regular on the menu.

Bring on the greens. I'll take a side of greens over potatoes just about every time. Also, check out that crusty crown on the sandwich!

Things are about to get sloppy.

The Sandwich - Ed Sammy. Ultimately, my plan to try their regular sandwich failed as I chose the special. As soon as it came out I felt I had made the right choice - it was a beautiful little specimen nestled with a pile of verdant greens I wasn't expecting. The beer cheese roll had a firm and crusty exterior that almost crumbled when I cut it. I was concerned it would be a bit dry but the yolk, corn aioli and heirloom tomato more than made up for that. The bacon was crispy, maybe a hair crispier than I normally like it, but the salty flavor swirled together with the overall savoriness and although the roll tried like heck to contain the sloppiness it couldn't - but I'm not holding that against it. I welcomed the slop, embraced the slop and became one with the slop. We have the napkin technology to deal with this. Also, this is the time of year you want tomato on your sandwich, in fact, I'll go so far as to proclaim that all sandwiches should have fresh tomato on them for the next several weeks.

The Result - 4.25 Savory Slops out of 5 Savory Slops. This was a fantastic sandwich but I think you already figured that out. I suppose I docked it a few points for the bacon and slightly too crusty exterior of the roll. That's nitpicking but that's what we do here and those things really don't detract much from the enjoyment of the sandwich but they have to be mentioned. I haven't taken any time to get into the overall experience but I love the bright and open space that they have here. It's much larger than I thought it would be. The Saturday morning play list was appropriate as well, Avalon and The Passenger set the mood for sandwich consumption - at least they do for this reporter. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #137 - Ancora Coffee aka For Four Fjords

Sandwich: The Number Four
Location: Ancora Coffee, King St.
Date: July 13, 2019
Cost: $8

You might recall that back in May when I was out for Breakfast Sandwich #135 I stopped at Ancora Coffee for a beverage and noted their breakfast sandwich list. That info was tucked away for future reference and accessed on this fine morning when I had time to bike down there before the Art Fair on the Square hordes started mucking up the scene.

On my initial visit in May I was smitten with the Sausage Jalapeño sandwich but an astute reader commented that The Number Four deserved consideration.

I'm here to serve the people and I saw this choice as a win/win situation.

I almost didn't see it as a choice at all - while biking down there I considered ordering both sandwiches. Part of my reasoning was that I was biking and therefore burning calories, admittedly only a fraction of the caloric explosion that two breakfast sandwiches would introduce into my framework. The thought was discarded when I accepted the realization that two breakfast sandwiches would surely cast me into a state of bloated torpor and that sounded yuckier than the joy of eating the two sandwiches.

They have options. There was also a special that involved blueberries but I was too focused on The Number Four.

The sandwich arrives in cross section mode.
The Sandwich - The Number Four. I keep saying "The Number Four" and I'm starting to feel like I'm on Sesame Street. No options are offered when you order but it's worth noting that while this sandwich comes with scrambled chicken egg some of the other sandwiches come with a fried egg. You could probably get a fried egg if that's your thing but more on that later. You might think that the chipotle aioli/cherry chutney/pepperjack cheese trifecta would make this a spicy little number but it does not. It has a touch of heat but the flavors blend well with the cherry chutney taking the helm. The chutney also has nice tamarind note that comes out with each bite. The bacon was crispier than I like it and even though I knew the eggs were going to be scrambled and therefore without a runny yolk that did disappoint me a bit. I think this sandwich could handle a runny yolk but it would be a messy little humdinger. The chutney gives this plenty of moisture and the cheese and aioli help with the viscosity. The English muffin did a valiant job of holding things together but it could only do so much and this was one of those fun sandwiches where chunks of egg squish out the other side when you're biting it. This is a not a complaint, it's a public service announcement.

The Result - 4.44 Number Fours out of 5 Number Fours. The bacon/cherry chutney pairing is what makes this sandwich but you probably already figured that out. It's a fantastic little sandwich but the overly crisped bacon kept it form pushing the stratosphere of the ratings. Bacon crispiness is a personal preference but I like to quibble with these highly ranked sandwiches, otherwise, what's the point? I'm not going to talk about the egg anymore, you know where I stand. I'm also not going to say the number "four" for awhile, or even words that sound like "four", such as "Ford" and "fjord". But I can say this - I am going to get back there for the Sausage Jalapeño one of these days. 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #136 - Not a Lab Sandwich aka Which Came First, The Sandwich Or The Wrap?

Sandwich: Chicken Thigh, Chicken Egg, Buffalo Wing Monterey Jack, Avocado, Red Onion, Multigrain Wrap.
Date: July 4, 2019 

It's likely that most of you are not scientists or sandwichologists. Still, many of you are probably familiar with how laboratory testing works - you have constants and controls and you have variables that you are testing. This can be applied to sandwich construction as we've seen in previous posts.

This sandwich (actually a wrap but we're calling it a sandwich) was nothing but wild variables. It was closer to free jazz outfreakage than my normal lab work.

I thought I had items to make a breakfast sandwich. And I did, kind of. I had eggs and cheese. The lone English muffin was well past it's prime and I had polished off the last of the bacon earlier in the week. The only protein I had was leftover chicken thigh and the only decent bread-like material was a multigrain wrap. There were options for cheese but I already sensed this was going off the rails so I went with the last of the StoneRidge Buffalo Wing Monterey Jack. (Those folks at StoneRidge are doing some fine work and deserve your attention if you aren't familiar.) I scrounged for an avocado and red onion and felt like I had the makings for a decent sandwich. 

There was the question of how to cook the chicken eggs. I came *this* close to making them with a runny yolk just to see what would happen. That would have been foolish. No reasonable person would put an egg with a runny yolk into a wrap, but reasonable people don't have sandwich blogs. What would Ornette Coleman do? I settled for the responsible choice and scrambled the eggs. 

Don't worry, there is a layer of melted cheese under all that goodness. That's Cholula hot sauce.  

Aww man, I used those fancy toothpicks with the colored curly thingys and then I cropped it off cause I got excited about the gooey cheese and avocado.
The Sandwich - I think we've covered that to the extent that it needs covering. 

The Result - The flavors came together really well but it didn't taste like a breakfast sandwich and wasn't actually a sandwich and truth be told it wasn't breakfast either. I sat down to eat this at 12:10 so it was really lunch, which is where wraps belong. A wrap doesn't feel like breakfast. But let's get back to the flavor. I think the reason it didn't taste like a breakfast sandwich was the lack of fat and salt that bacon or sausage provide. So, it was a healthy breakfast sandwich that wasn't a sandwich. This was more like a breakfast burrito than a sandwich. It doesn't even belong here but it's too late now. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #135 - Caracas Empanadas aka Are You Ready For Indoctrination?

Sandwich: Breakfast Empanada
Location: Caracas Empanadas
Date: May 11, 2019
Cost: $3

A trip to the Capitol Square for the Farmers Market means you will have breakfast options out the wazoo and even if you narrow it down to sandwiches you'll still have some tough choices to make. My initial thought was to hit Gotham Bagels again, but I just went there in March and they are already in the Top 25 from both visits. 

We stopped an Ancora Coffee so I would have a coffee to occupy my attention while shuffling around the square at a pace more suited to an octogenarian. As tempting as the Sausage Jalapeño Egg Sandwich was, I had to keep moving. I tucked that morsel away in case I needed a post-shuffle sandwich. That sandwich sounds worthy of a focused return trip so don't be surprised if it shows up here in the coming weeks.

Just as we prepared to join the masses I saw the Caracas Empanadas cart at the corner of King and Main Streets. Wrap that potential in pastry dough and fry it cause I'm interested!

The Caracas Empanadas cart doesn't have a proper web site but I did snap a photo of the menu board, for once.

There they are, nestled side by each. The sauce on the left is the guasacaca sauce that everyone is going bonkers over if you look up the Yelp reviews. It's also really fun to say guasacaca.  On the right is the pique sauce which I preferred.

At the heart of the matter are chicken eggs. 

The Sandwich - Breakfast Empanada. These are premade and ready to go so there are no options. Organic scrambled eggs, Nueske's bacon and cheese. I didn't know about the cult following the guasacaca sauce has until I started doing research for this review but it's a real thing. I tried both sauces and ended up using more of the pique. It's a habanero sauce listed as a medium heat but it's a bit deceptive. It starts off mild, builds quickly and then trails off. I thought it paired with the eggs perfectly but there is something about chicken eggs and hot sauce that really works for me. It's downright magical but go ahead and get all looney for the guasacaca if that's your scene, man. The eggs are scrambled and fluffy and are the predominant flavor here, other than the fried dough. The bacon and cheese get a bit lost among everything else. I'm not even sure what cheese was in here, it was probably a white cheese?

The Result - 3.8 Sauce Cults out of 5 Sauce Cults. This was wonderfully delicious little pocket of flavor and for $3 it's a damn good deal. It's enough to give you some fuel for the market but leaves for room for additional snacking, which is important. The dough held a bit too much of the fried grease flavor and that kept me from falling in love with. I also would have liked more bacon and cheese but for $3 this is a nice little grab and go sandwich. No, an empanada is not a sandwich. Nobody cares.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #134 - Faircrest Bakery & Cafe aka These Are Words With A "D" This Time

Sandwich: Croissandwich
Location: Faircrest Bakery & Cafe
Date: April 30, 2019
Cost: $6.99

I don't know how you're supposed to spell croissandwich. Burger King removes the "d" and puts an apostrophe in there which seems a bit highfalutin for a place that serves ultra-crappy breakfast sandwiches and managed to plague a neighborhood with rats due to their shoddy dumpster and refuse handling practices. Gross. I'm not even sure why Burger King is messing around with croissants, they haven't earned that privilege. 

Faircrest Bakery & Cafe (web site down at time of publication - Ed.) is in that cute little strip mall on Mineral Point Road just west of Cuna Mutual. They spell croissandwich with a "d" but I'm still uncomfortable with the word. I just don't care for it but that's my problem and I'm not going to hold it against the sandwich.

On this Tuesday morning I happened to be in the area and stopped in to see if they could serve me a breakfast sandwich. Worst case scenario is I come away with a muffin or a scone. My sandwich senses were right on - they have a breakfast sandwich croissandwich on the menu!

This is a terrible photo even by my standards.

Turkey sausage wrapped in a blanket of chicken egg.
The Sandwich - Croissandwich. It's the only breakfast sandwich on the menu and the only option they offer is bacon or "all natural" turkey sausage. It occurred to me that I'd never had turkey sausage on a breakfast sandwich and that was an opportunity I couldn't pass up even though it felt a little weird. I'm not sure what the "all natural" part is - no nitrates added, maybe? I'm not going to get all FDA on this and do any research so I'll just go with my assumption. From the first bite I did not regret getting the sausage - it was fantastic. I immediately wondered why turkey sausage isn't offered on more breakfast sandwiches. The only cheese choice is cheddar but it worked well with the turkey sausage and there was just enough to give the sandwich a bit of goo factor since they don't serve the egg runny. I've complained about croissants used for sandwiches in the past - they often don't hold up. In this case it worked well and was a nice squishy bread choice. I assume they make the croissants on site, they are a bakery after all. I ordered this to go and while I didn't go far the foil wrapping may have caused the sandwich to steam itself a bit, which did not detract from my enjoyment and may have even enhanced it.

The Result - 4.15 These Are Words With A "D" This Time out of 5 These Are Words With A "D" This Time. This was a very good breakfast sandwich. It was made to order, but only took a couple of minutes, and held up after a short drive. Turkey sausage deserves your consideration when offered and I feel like I should say this even though it's dumb - it tasted just like sausage! Anyway, this is a simple, tasty and filling sandwich. At $6.99 it's a touch on the pricey side but it's a quality sandwich served by a local, independently owned business that is worthy of our support. I've had enough of Panera, thanks, but no thanks. From what I've read about Faircrest Bakery while researching this review I'd like to try some of their baked goods but I'm not sure when I'll be back in the area. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Lab Sandwiches Submitted For Peer Review

Several weeks ago I compiled a list of the Top 25 Breakfast Sandwiches of All Time with the thought that the list would be the most useful, if not the most popular, post on this site.

Today we examine the yang to that yin - a compilation of all of the Lab Reports filed up to this date. It is well established that nobody cares about lab sandwiches but that's because we live in a society that doesn't value science. In The Lab STEM stands for Sausage, Toast, Eggs and Muffins and we don't shy away from exploring hard data even if the reports end up being the opposite of click bait.

Another complaint about the Lab Reports is that there are too many of them. We now have the numbers to evaluate that statement rather than accept it at face value. Of 133 sandwiches 27 of them were Lab Sandwiches. That breaks down to 20.3% of sandwich reports coming from the lab which strikes me as a near perfect ratio. We aim to educate here and Lab Reports are part of making the readers of this blog the most informed breakfast sandwich consumers on the planet. We apologize for nothing.

This is not a cooking blog.

#2 - The Debut Lab Sandwich. Bacon
#3 - Vegetarian
#4 - Leftover Chicken Wings
#10 - Bacon, Avocado, Red Pepper, Onion, Spinach
#72 - Bacon, Kale & Swiss Cheese
#74, #75, #76 - New Toaster Oven
#77, #78 - More New Toaster Oven Madness
#79 - A Two Cheezer Jobber
#82 - Steak, Arugula, Blue Cheese
#87 - Bacon, Pimento Cheese
#89, #90 - Nueske's Ham, first attempt at Mason jar lid "puck" egg
#91 - Farm Fresh Eggs, Double Decker
#105 - Thanksgiving Leftovers
#106 - Summer Sausage
#107 - Mac 'n Cheese
#108 - Leftover Honeybaked Ham
#113 - Biscuits
#115 - Cheese Spread, Soft Scramble Eggs
#120 - The Big MacMuffin
#123 - Bacon Wrapped Kosher Hot Dog
#125 - Sourdough Bread
#126 - Chili Mac, New Egg Cooking Rings, Failure
#128 - Leftover Thanksgiving Dressing

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #133 - Java Cat aka The Cat Came Back

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg & Cheese on English Muffin w/Boom Boom Sauce
Location: Java Cat
Date: March 23, 2019
Cost: $4.80

How many times have I driven past Java Cat and not checked to see what the breakfast sandwich situation is? Many, is the answer. A few of those times I ended up just down the road at Crema Cafe and that's never a wasted journey.

Java Cat offers you some options to build your own sandwich - bacon or sausage (that's standard) but the real choice is in the sandwich delivery vessel - bagel, English muffin, brioche bun, croissant or french toast. I eliminated french toast right off the bat, it gave me a flashback to the McGriddle and that didn't go well at all. This particular day was feeling like a classic sandwich day so I went the sausage and English muffin. Why mess around?

This photo is not particularly exciting, I'm aware of that.

How about if I rotate the plate a tiny bit? More exciting? No? There is value in these photos though - you can see the red pepper and evidence of Boom Boom sauce. Also, I would say that English muffin is toasted perfectly but the egg is cooked beyond the threshold of my preference. That's the way it goes sometimes, it's a jungle out there.

The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg & Cheese on English Muffin. I already covered this a bit, BUT WAIT! There's more! The menu board said you can "Add Boom Boom Sauce and red peppers for $.55". I ordered mine with Boom Boom Sauce before I even asked what it was. It turns out it's a chipotle sauce. That works for me. Java Cat offers several bread choices but they don't offer variations on how to cook your egg and they don't serve it with a runny yolk. This is where the Boom Boom Sauce really pays off, adding a pleasant viscosity that wouldn't otherwise be there. It could have handled a runny yolk although it probably would have gotten a bit messy. The sausage and American cheese were standard breakfast sandwich fare, in a good way. It all blends together into a classic breakfast sandwich taste that you know and love.

The Result - 4.00 Cat Sandwiches out of 5 Cat Sandwiches. It's a solid sandwich and perfect if you want to grab a cup of coffee and a bite before you go off to do whatever it is you do after you eat a sandwich. I ate mine on the premises but the grab and go factor is there. I'll likely come back to the Java Cat and try a bacon sandwich one of these days. I also recommend the hot chocolate although it was probably my last of the season. It's time to move into iced coffee season.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #132 - Gotham Bagels aka Time To Revisit The Classics

Sandwich: Spicy Italian Sausage, Egg & Cheddar
Location: Gotham Bagels
Date: March 9, 2019
Cost: $6.25?

This trip to Gotham was an impulsive Saturday morning decision and it turns out I hadn't had a breakfast sandwich there since October of 2015. That's just silly. I know I loved that sandwich and perhaps it's a clear indication that it's time to circle back around to some of the Top 25 Breakfast Sandwiches of all time to see if they're still changing lives. 

It arrives wrapped and snug in it's paper cocoon.

I didn't take a photo of it unwrapped but you know what an everything bagel looks like, right? Besides, look at that tantalizing sandwich! If it could talk it would say something like "Hello, I'm here to make everything wonderful".
The Sandwich - Spicy Italian Sausage, Egg & Cheddar. It's not listed on their online menu and I didn't take a photo of the menu so I'm not sure of the price. I remember it was 6 something.

No options are offered when you order other than you select the type of bagel you want. I went all in with the everything bagel (the "doughnut with sprinkles" for adults). This is going to sound crazy but I ordered it to go. I didn't know it would be wrapped in two layers of paper, perfect for transport, and it also didn't occur to me that if you're going to get a breakfast sandwich "to go", a hearty bagel is the perfect vehicle for it. A biscuit? No way is a decent biscuit going to handle a journey of more than a few feet. It's unfair to ask a biscuit to do that - you might as well ask your cat to wash the windows. Most of the time you can't even get a biscuit from your plate to your mouth without some type of crumbling incident. I'm getting off into the weeds here, I don't want to sound like I hate biscuits.

The sandwich was a thing of beauty when unwrapped. Perfectly sliced with a little melty cheese sneaking out the edges it forced me to pause and absorb it's visage. The bagel really shines here, dense enough to keep everything in check but not too doughy or heavy. In fact, the egg could have been yolkier and this would have still held up. I wish the egg HAD been yolkier but the sandwich wasn't lacking the ooze factor, I'm just saying it wouldn't have hurt if it was. The sausage is the real star of the show though - they says it's spicy and it really is. Not a little bit spicy but with some real kick. I'll often add hot sauce to my breakfast sandwich if it's available but this is easily the spiciest breakfast sandwich I've gotten straight out of the kitchen. How refreshing. The cheddar cheese and egg balance and compliment the heat a bit and the whole thing comes together quite perfectly.

The Result - 4.8 Revisitations out of 5 Revisitations. I don't know why it took me so long to get back to Gotham. Looking back at my review from October of 2015 I wrote that I'd definitely be back to try the Spicy Italian Sausage Sandwich. I was not consciously aware of that on this day but maybe it lingered somewhere in my mind for over 3 years. This sandwich earned a spot in the All Time Top 25 and I think it really is an indication that I need to roll through some of the top sandwich locations again. You know, for research.

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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. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #130 - Kwik Trip aka Squishilicious

Sandwich: Bacon, Egg & Cheese Croissant
Location: Kwik Trip, Buckeye Rd., Madison
Date: January 13, 2019
Cost: $2.69

This was my third documented stop at Kwik Trip and it was unplanned. The first visit (#94) was a surprise stop in the Fox River Valley and the next (#114) was a bit more deliberate. 

This was another off-the-cuff sandwich - I had errands to run on Sunday morning and needed something to shush my belly for a couple of hours. The Buckeye Road Kwik Trip was on the route and since I only had time for a grab 'n go type sandwich it fit the bill.

I didn't remember what I had reviewed previously and didn't bother to look it up. I only knew I wanted bacon and that would guide my choice.

Same POP signage and price point as 2017 (although that was a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant).

This isn't a bad photo considering I was holding it in my hand in the car. 
The Sandwich - Bacon, Egg & Cheese Croissant. Although I feel a croissant is not the ideal vehicle for a breakfast sandwich my only goal was to have bacon and this was the option available. There are no surprises with this sandwich - the egg isn't runny, the cheese is a slice of American, there isn't enough bacon - it's exactly what you'd expect it to be. It was a bit squishier than anticipated. The soft croissant set the tone and even the bacon didn't offer much resistance. I felt like I could have smooshed the entire sandwich into a golfball-sized cud and spent the rest of the morning driving around town with a wad of salty flavor in my cheek, Holstein style. I did not do that. I did, however, eat the entire sandwich in about a minute. The hunger had taken over at this point and I wasn't thinking clearly.

The Result - 3.68 Squishilicious out of 5 Squishilicious. This sandwich was alright especially considering the price. I'm rating this based on my reaction at the time and the level of my hunger really swings the odds in the favor of the sandwich. I think a stale graham cracker with a schmear of lard might have come in with a 2.7 rating. I will say that I was still hungry after eating this but I think that says more about my condition than the size of the sandwich. After eating this I had to head across town and while driving I hatched the plan to double-dip and have ANOTHER breakfast sandwich, this time at Chik-fil-A. That plan was abandoned when I realized it was Sunday and Chik-fil-A is closed on Sundays in an effort to combat the obesity problem we face in this country. Just kidding, they don't care about your health, they just want you to go to church. You can pray for your health while you are there. 

Now that I've finished here I went back to see what I rated the previous Kwik Trip sandwiches. 

#94 - 2.69. I also commented on the squishiness.
#114 - 2.19. I didn't bother to read the review but that's a poor score. 

I guess the takeaway here is to be really hungry when you pick one of these up.