I was going to use this intro space to write about the weird, Zen-like joy I found in manning the grill for the pre-beach weekend morning rush at the deli back in the day, but then I searched this site and realized that I wrote about that exact topic when reviewing a bacon, egg and cheese nearly a full decade ago.
So instead I’ll just give a brief shoutout to the flat-top griddle for being basically the most useful cooking implement for food I want to eat. I don’t understand why they’re not standard on consumer stovetops. I have a big stove, by NYC standards, with four round burners around the side and a long burner in the middle that seems to be designed to heat a long, rectangular griddle. Why not just build that griddle in to the stove? Some quick googling informs me that this is already a thing, but it’s not a thing I have. I’m so sick of needing to own my own, separate griddle, which isn’t as big as it could be if it were just built into the stove.
The sandwiches: I was craving an egg sandwich, but my go-to street cart around the corner has been gone since mid-March. So I made myself a sausage, egg and cheese.
It struck me while I was making it that one big advantage of the bacon, egg and cheese over the sausage, egg and cheese is the crunch from the bacon, so I crumbled up some tortilla chips and threw them on top. I’m trying things out here.
The day after I made that sandwich, I bought a bacon, egg and cheese with ketchup from a bagel place a block from my apartment. Here’s what it looked like:
The construction: For my sandwich, I used another one of the excellent FreshDirect pretzel rolls, two eggs, two slices of American cheese, a sausage patty, ketchup and mayo. I recognize that mayo on an egg sandwich sounds disgusting, but the deli job — where, by the end of the breakfast rush, there would invariably be one ordered-but-unclaimed sandwich, which I would then eat — introduced me to all sorts of egg-sandwich topping options. Sometimes I get a weird hankering for mayo on there. Don’t judge me.
The bagel place’s sandwich had two eggs, bacon, cheese and ketchup on a roll. It looks a lot like a bacon, egg and cheese you might get at any decent deli in the New York City area.
Important background information: People who don’t live in New York mock New Yorkers for insisting we have the best pizza and the best egg sandwiches because the inherent excellence of this city’s pizza and egg-sandwich scenes is difficult for outsiders to understand. It’s not that the standard slice of New York pizza is much better — or better at all — than the best pizza in any other city. It’s the ubiquity of good pizza that rules.
If someone coming to visit asks me for a pizza recommendation, I almost never give specifics. There are exemplary slices of New York pizza out there, but I don’t think they’re really worth going far out of the way for, as they’re not way better than the best slice of pizza in any given neighborhood. If you are in New York City and you’re anywhere south of Van Cortlandt Park, north of, say, Greenwood Cemetery and west of LaGuardia Airport, you’re within walking distance of really good pizza (and the only reason I exclude the further reaches of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens is that you’re not always within walking distance of stores). That’s simply not the case in other cities.
And you can say, “hey, wait, you’re just talking about population density,” and that’s definitely part of it. But I think the prevalence of pizza parlors here leads to higher standards, and the bottom line is that I can think of eight really good, reasonably priced pizza places within a half-mile radius of my home. Be honest: Can you? If you answered yes, you live in New York City.
This post is about egg sandwiches, but it’s a similar concept. You can live in D.C. and go to some weirdly corporate, disarmingly large brunch spot and get yourself a bougey-ass applewood-smoked bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on free-range brioche with microgreens, but you can’t roll out of bed hungover and stumble in your flip-flops down to the corner bodega, bark out, “baconeggandcheese, saltpepperketchup” and know you’re going to get an incredible sandwich for, like, four dollars.
What they look like:
How it tastes: Look at my beautiful my sausage, egg and cheese! Look at that cheese, lovingly melted over the perfectly over-easy eggs, with their deep yellow yolks ready to burst and spill out all over the plate, to be sopped up by the hearty pretzel roll. That’s a hand-formed patty, folks, and organic ketchup.
And it’s great! The eggs are gooey, the cheese melty, sausage peppery and porky and good, and the pretzel rolls, I keep telling you, are fantastic. The crunched up tortilla chips do nothing for it, but it’s a really good sandwich.
It’s just not as good as the rather pedestrian-looking bacon, egg and cheese from a rather pedestrian bagel place. There’s actual science to the notion that sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them for you, and that’s probably a factor. Plus, bacon is bacon, and shouldn’t be overlooked — even if sausage is obviously fabulous, too.
But there’s just a synergy to the classic, New York deli-style egg sandwich that I’ve never seen recreated elsewhere, not by myself at home or by chefs at fancy restaurants. It’s just this crunchy, salty, cheesy, greasy, ketchupy perfection, and nothing else in the world tastes quite like it.
It seems like this whole pandemic thing is inspiring a lot of people to leave the New York area, and I get it. But good luck finding a credible bacon, egg and cheese, suckers.
Hall of Fame? A definite no for mine. The bagel-shop bacon, egg and cheese is not, on its own, a Hall of Fame sandwich, but bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches in general should definitely earn some sort of lifetime-achievement entry into the Sandwich Hall of Fame.