The Breakfast Sandwich is a true paragon on the sandwich kingdom.
Nothing quite beats sitting down for the standard North American restaurant breakfast. It’s usually pretty cheap, and you get to answer a bunch of fun questions straight away. AND when you and the person you’re dining with give the same answers to those fun questions of taste, you feel a wonderful moment of kindred respect, and that you are really and truly not alone in the world.
For the record, my answers are almost always: “over easy, sausage. rye toast”.
Sometimes there’s a hash brown question, but you probably won’t finish those anyway. There was a great place I used to live near in Toronto that had a “salad or hash brown” option which I often took advantage of. Not because I really wanted a salad, but because it reminded me of that Beck song where he sings “she’s cooking salaaaad for breakfast, she’s got tofu the size of Texas…”
I do hate however that Ontarians call breakfast out “brunch”.
There are also people who include pancakes in their “traditional” breakfast, and to those people I say: “go back to Denny’s, or Ihop or whatever weird sugar infused chain breakfast hell you came from! ……Just kidding, I like you, but I disagree that pancakes should be a part of this” (we’ll get to the McGriddle later)
Times being as they are, the sit-down breakfast just is not particularly available these days, and even when it was, your average person has no time for that frivolity on a regular weekday. And blessed be for those times and for these that we still have the readily available to-go version almost everywhere. The Noble Breakfast sandwich.
Quite obviously people have been eating a meal soon after they’ve woken up, ever since folks have been waking up and had food nearby. I’m quite sure also, that at sometime in early history, someone put bread, eggs, meat and cheese together and enjoyed it. The English breakfast regularly included bacon and eggs beginning in the 18th century, and some fat lord somewhere or other must have given it a try
The real emergence of the breakfast sandwich popularity however, came after the American civil war, when folks regularly began enjoying ham and egg sandwiches. In 1897, the first recipe for a “breakfast sandwich” appeared in a cookbook and there you have it.
That’s kind of where it stopped for a while though. They existed, and people ate them sometimes. They didn’t become a staple morning go-to for the wider world until 75 years later.
Though Jack In The Box apparently had and egg and croissant menu item as early as 1969, it was the release of the Egg McMuffin in 1972 that turned the breakfast sandwich tide. Apparently a McDonald’s franchiser Herb Peterson was trying to make some new version of eggs benedict, but he cocked it up and broke the yolk, so he just cooked it anyway and put some cheese on top instead of hollandaise and topped it with other half of the english muffin.
Apparently Ray Kroc found out about it, loved it, and made it the signature item of its new nationwide breakfast.
Sure enough, this seems to be around the time that bodegas around New York start serving up ready to go BEC (bacon egg and cheese) sandwiches, and regional variants start showing up everywhere.
Next thing you know, your mom is microwaving eggs in a coffee cup and serving up her own poor facsimile she calls the ‘McJudy’.
Undoubtedly, the traditional breakfast sandwich is egg, cheese, and some variation of salty pork on an english muffin. Fight me on this if you want, but the english muffin is the defined traditional vessel. It’s size is near perfect for an average one egg sandwich, and its structure is sturdy enough to maintain integrity, even with an especially runny yolk.
The pork product remains variable. Bacon may be standard, but it is not defined to one specific kind of bacon.
Canadian? Back bacon? Peameal? (those are all kind of the same), Maple smoked? Thick cut? Applewood? Microwaveable? Turkey? (Ok, that might be a stretch)
That’s why I define traditional to “salty pork product”. Yes, it’s usually either strip bacon or back bacon (ham, if you’re a philistine). But just like actual sitdown breakfast, sausage is also always an option. Plus I don’t want to discount the fine folks of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, their traditions of using Pork Roll (Taylor ham if you’re from north jersey) and Scrapple on their breakfast sandwiches. More on them later.
Really, the traditional breakfast sandwich should mirror the traditional breakfast. Egg, salty pork, and toast. For portability sake, toast is usually upgraded to something more robust.
As a Canadian, when I think of the traditional breakfast sandwich, I tend to think of Tim Horton’s. Like ‘em or not, they have it all figured out. Much like the traditional sit down breakfast, the choices are all there. The egg is fairly non-negotiable, but it’s still your choice of meat(bacon, sausage, beyond sausage, or no meat) and bread (english muffin, biscuit, bagel or wrap). Also their hash browns are just as god as McDonald’s, and that’s saying something.
I typically go for the sausage and the english muffin. I’ll put it on an everything bagel if I’m really hungry, or the biscuit if I want to commit suicide via heartburn. The Beyond sausage is also really good, but I think they got rid of it here out west because farmers got mad or something.
I’ve had a BEC in NYC, and it was delightful. On a roll, I believe it was. I’ve also had the chicken breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s on McGriddles and….. Well if you’ve not got anything ice to say I suppose you shouldn’t say anything. The chicken is fine. It’s McGriddles that can go suck rocks.
Whoops, I said it. I very much dislike McGriddles. I hope you like them though. If YOU don’t, I have no idea how they can possibly justify their existence.
Lox and Smear
When we talk about food in the western hemisphere, New York is always a good place to start. I’ve already mentioned breakfast bagels in the Tim Hortons context, but when you think about it, a real, original ‘breakfast bagel’ would definitely not include a salty pork product.
Bagels were of course introduced to North America by Jewish immigrants, and pork is far from kosher. Instead, the real breakfast bagel is thought to have come about sometime in the 1960’s. It’s typically an open-faced sandwich with cream cheese, Thin slices of lox (cold smoked salmon) with capers and red onion.
It is by far the best non-egg breakfast sandwich option out there, and sometimes it’s the best all around breakfast option. Not always so easy with a hangover though.
Though it was invented in New York, it’s typically better on a superior bagel, ie: a Montreal Bagel.
(I’m sorry, as a Canadian I am required by law to take that shot whenever it is available)
Pork roll is a term for a processed meat product from the mid atlantic states. In North Jersey, it’s usually called Taylor Ham. However, as a lifelong Ween fan whose first song he ever learned to play on the guitar was ‘Pork Roll Egg and Cheese’, I’m going to have to side with what I know to be the more popular nomenclature. If any one from north jersey reads this and disagrees, please contact me directly and I will apologise.
As the song goes “Ma if you please pass me the pork roll egg and cheese, if you please on the kaiser bun”. This sandwich typically fries up the pork roll, and adds American cheese, and a fried egg on…you guessed it. A kaiser bun.
Now I have never had pork roll, I have only ever sung about it. Someday when we can travel again. I will come to New Jersey, and I will try it. In the meantime. I’ll just use bologna. That’s what the newfoundlanders do, and there’s nothing weird about them, is there?
Another mid atlantic entry, this is almost exactly as it sounds. It’s a pork loaf, made from pork scraps bound with cornmeal, oats spices and stuff like that. I’ve also never had scrapple, but I resolve to do so one of these days when I am able.
To me it looks like a more wholesome version of spam. I’m sure I’m not too far off. If I am. Pennsylvania folk, please contact me directly and I will apologize.
Anyway, if the pork roll is the egg mcmuffin, Scrapple breakfast sandwiches look more like the sausage mcmuffin. Just scrap (haha) the english muffin. From my research it appears that sometimes a scrapple breakfast sandwich is on a bun, but more often it seems to be on toasted bread.
In the southern United states, and at Tim Horton’s, you can get your breakfast sandwich on a biscuit. I feel heavier just thinking about.
I’d imagine there’s some version that includes southern gravy, but what I do know is that there are versions that include country ham AND Bacon. And the south shall rise again, but not until after a bit of a nap I would think.
Now we get into some contentious territory. Out west we bring the tortilla into it all. Is a breakfast burrito a sandwich?
A burrito is part of the larger order of sandwiches, but branches on into the non-traditional family in the wrap genus. It’s all very complex, but for the purpose of regional breakfast carb enclosed portables, we will still talk about it.
Honestly, one of the best thighs about a breakfast burrito is the sauce. Too many breakfast sandwiches out there are too dry. They rely on the melty cheese and the egg to provide all the moisture content, and its just not always enough.
Throw a bit of green salsa in there though? Now we’re talking.
I’ve seen salsa and hot sauces thrown on other breakfast sandwiches before, but then it is normally labeled as “southwest” or something like that. The reality is, as robust as some of the vessels are, they don’t have the containment power of a tortilla, and that is where the breakfast burrito is able to shine the brightest.
Possibly the opposite of the wrap as far as containment. You don’t see many of these around these days. At least not as to-go options.
Croissants are delicious, but they are also a time-consuming and involved pastry if they’re being done right. And if they’re being done right, they probably shouldn’t be messed with by shoving egg and cheese and meat in there.
I guess that’s the problem. If it’s worth making a sandwich out of, it’s probably not a great croissant to begin with. Still delicious, but you can’t help but winder if maybe you should have put the sandwich in a different vessel and had the croissant on the side.
Insta-jam and other sweet crap.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people on social media posting their own homemade breakfast sandwiches. They use all the standard ingredients, but of course have some added personal flair. The new trend however seems to be adding a bunch of jam in there.
Look, I get it, I’m getting older and the closer and closer I ungracefully limp through to the end of my 30’s , the further away from “with it” I get. Maybe I’m already an old fuddy duddy, but jesus christ you kids, don’t put jam on your breakfast sandwich. Have toast on the side with jam if you want jam. What are ya? Counting carbs? Then what are ya doing making a sandwich in the first place? Just have breakfast?
I’m sorry, I don’t have many strong opinions, but I just don’t care for all these jammy sandwiches in my feed. Might as well go back to tide pods if you’re gonna keep this up you bunch of terrific weirdos.
Still, I can’t help but recognize that the McGriddles came out in my generation, and are somehow very well liked. If you want pancakes, have hot pancakes. Don’t make a sandwich out of cold pancakes. The toast is for the sandwich. Christ almighty
I recently tired a new McGriddle to make sure I still held this opinion. I even tried one with something new and unusual for breakfast. Fried chicken.
I like the idea of chicken for breakfast. I like the idea of chicken and waffles. I’ve had it and its great. I just eat them each separately because that’s what I prefer. That said, if McGriddles had a waffle like texture this may have been halfway good. With pancakes, it was not. It was weird and dry and kind of spicy but not in a great way and it was between two tepid kind of sticky pancakes.
Boo I say! Boooooo!
……but if you like it, please feel free to ignore me. Also, please direct me to really good chicken breakfast sandwiches. That’s all I want.
The Un sung Hero
Very recently I discovered a new favourtie kind of breakfast sandwich and it really surprised me.
I was recently in a discussion with my friend about the use of ketchup in sandwich bread. I personally find it to be an abomination. Its flavour is too strong, its colour is too red and it soaks through the bread to easily. I said it was a buns only condiment.
My friend replied “what about for fried egg sandwiches?” i sill said no way. Buns only.
They he gave me his recipe and I said I would try it.
Friends, this was not an abomination, but actually a revelation.
You know what the most irritating part of making breakfast sandwiches at home is?
Its the time commitment to making the park product., frying or baking the bacon takes a lot longer than the frying of an egg. Its also a fair expensive thing.
This sandwich doesn’t need it. You don’t even miss it. Its phenomenal.
White sandwich bread, grilled with 2 friend eggs, ketchup, cheese, and red onion.
I am going to eventually open a restaurant and sell this and make upwards of hundreds of dollars.
This is also the only ever acceptable use of ketchup on sandwich bread.