The deli where I worked sat conveniently between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway, two of the bigger east-west thoroughfares on Southern Long Island, so on Saturday mornings in the summer we’d always get hit with a wave of beachgoers stocking up on provisions for a day of laying about.
At some point early in my tenure there I somehow stumbled my way into Saturday-morning griddle responsibilities, a duty no one else ever wanted but I didn’t mind. I was usually operating on only a few hours’ sleep, tops, and in no mood to plaster on a sunny face to greet customers.
Plus I found some odd satisfaction those foggy mornings in managing that surface, plotting out space for each piece of bacon, ham and sausage and every egg, keeping track of everything happening at once, aiming to get the timing of everything just right. It was vaguely like playing Tetris, only there was way more pork involved.
The other employees wrote orders on paper slips and folded them into a clip above the griddle, and I churned out egg sandwiches for hours. Once I got real comfortable with it I’d privately try to keep tabs on trends: The only consistent one I found was that there was a greater variance in meats earlier in the day and a greater variance in condiments as we approached noon.
Then I’d look up and it’d be around 11:30, the rush would be over, and there’d inevitably be a sandwich left hanging around that someone ordered and neglected to pick up. Breakfast.
The sandwich: Two eggs, bacon and cheese with ketchup and hot sauce from Pop’s Deli in Hawthorne, N.Y.
The construction: Two eggs, bacon and cheese with ketchup and hot sauce, on a poppy-seed roll. They scramble your eggs at Pop’s unless you specifically request otherwise, which is fine by me.
At DeBono’s, where I worked, I just want to note, we had little check-off boxes on those paper slips for over easy, over medium, over hard, scrambled and whites only, so we always gave people that choice. And I don’t want to boast, but I like to think I was deadly accurate in my griddle duties. Honestly, I’ve said this before: That’s the only job I’ve ever been confident I was awesome at. You may think I’m a decent sports and sandwich blogger, but you have no idea. I was such a great deli man.
Important background information: Those Saturday-morning left-behinds helped me develop an appreciation for pretty much every type of breakfast sandwich conceivable. I was grossed out at first that people eat mayo on egg sandwiches, but then when I tried it, not so bad. Same goes for salami, actually. But all the sampling worked to hone my current taste in breakfast sandwich, and especially helped me recognize the awesome power of hot sauce and eggs. I don’t think I ever realized how great hot sauce is until I worked at the deli. I liked spicy foods, but I didn’t know you could just add hot sauce to so many things and make them better.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Like a bacon egg and cheese from Pop’s. Oh, I guess now’s a good time to mention that I get a bacon, egg and cheese from Pop’s pretty much every weekend, since it’s an excellent local deli around the corner from my house. It’s an unpretentious, friendly place — a lot like DeBono’s actually — the type of deli that feels familiar as soon as you walk in.
And same goes for the bacon, egg and cheese, really: No surprises here. Crispy, well-done bacon off the griddle, fluffy eggs folded over to cover the roll, melted yellow American cheese. Hard to go wrong with any of that, to be honest. Just don’t mess it up. They don’t.
This particular sandwich, to be honest, was not the best I’ve had from Pop’s as it didn’t boast quite the right balance of ketchup and hot sauce, though I will admit that’s a tough thing to get right. The last thing you want is your egg sandwich swimming in ketchup, and the folks at Pop’s usually nail it with the appropriate gentle touch, but on this one I could hardly taste the tomatoey sweetness the ketchup adds. There was probably the right amount of hot sauce, come to think of it, it just wasn’t mixing with ketchup the way I like. But I nitpick.
Wait, why doesn’t someone market a ketchup/hot sauce hybrid? Like mustardayonnaise, but for ketchup and hot sauce? I’d buy that. I mean, I guess the problem is I’d still want to keep individual ketchup and hot sauce bottles in my fridge for the times when I only need one in isolation, but it could really save me some time for situations involving eggs. Get on it, science.
(Update, 11:55 a.m.: According to just about everyone on Twitter, both Heinz and Tabasco already make that. I guess I’ll have to try it.)
What it’s worth: One of the craziest things about egg sandwiches is how much food you get for the money. And that’s almost a universal deli thing. You know you’re someplace too fancy when your egg sandwich is expensive. This thing costs like $3 or something and comes with coffee. And I’m still full now, and it’s like three hours later. Lots of protein in there. It’s awesome to convince yourself that bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches are good for you.
How it rates: I’m struggling with this one. Russ from work keeps criticizing me for rating every sandwich too favorably. But how do I hate on a bacon, egg and cheese? I mean, it’s just a bacon, egg and cheese, on one hand, but on the other, this sandwich is a classic! I can’t reasonably give this sandwich less than an 85 out of 100. A consistent performer, underrated by many, consistent in its performance, and a cult hero to the enlightened few. The John Olerud of sandwiches.