As the old adage goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and yet there are so many ways to screw it up. Enter the breakfast sandwich, a perfect specimen that combines a carb-y outer layer with cured meats, cheeses, fresh greens, and protein-dense eggs brimming with viscous yolks. As more and more restaurants embrace breakfast and brunch service, chefs are scorning the tired tenets of eggs benny and flapjacks in place of creative twists on the humble breakfast sandwich.
Here are eight standout examples that are incorporating everything from soy-glazed bacon and spicy feta butter to slow-roasted carnitas and sriracha yeast doughnuts.
1. The Gallows: Donut Breakfast Sandwich
Created by sous chef James Zilka, nicknamed the “brunch mad scientist” at The Gallows, the donut breakfast sandwich is a sensory tug-of-war. Zilka’s culinary yin and yang begins with a classic yeast doughnut in which an entire bottle of sriracha is kneaded into the dough. After being fried, the doughnuts are then coated in a sweet sriracha glaze, sliced in half, and toppped with caramelized onions, American cheese, a sunnyside-up egg, and house-made orange coriander breakfast sausage. “The doughnut has a nice sweet and spicy balance with James’ unique doughnut, the salty goodness of the sausage, and the richness of the egg yolk, which explodes when you bite into it,” says general manager Seth Yaffe. “It’s not a combination you see anywhere else really, but it certainly leaves you wanting more. The thing is gone before you even get a chance to put it down.”
1395 Washington St., Boston, 617-425-0200 or thegallowsboston.com.
2. La Brasa: Breakfast Sandwich
Chef Daniel Bojorquez’s new Somerville spot has only been open a month, but it’s already drawing plenty of buzz for its smoke-kissed creations like this porky Sunday offering. Bojorquez first cures a bone-in Berkshire pork shoulder in paprika, brown sugar, and salt, then slow roasts it for eight hours in La Brasa’s trademark wood-burning oven. The silky ribbons of swine are piled on top of a fresh Pain D’Avignon brioche bun with a fried egg, pea shoots, and a slab of Fiddlehead Tomme cheese from New Hampshire’s Boggy Meadow Farm. “I came up with it while I was roasting a whole pig one weekend,” Bojorquez says. “I stayed overnight [at La Brasa] watching it and in the morning I was looking for something to eat, so I pulled off some of the pork to make a sandwich for me and the staff. After trying it, I realized it would be a good way to introduce carnitas to our customers, something that’s a major focus here at the restaurant.”
124 Broadway, Somerville; 617-764-1412 or labrasasomerville.com.
3. 3 Little Figs: Feta and Egg Sandwich
This three-year-old Somerville bakery and café specializes in all manner of delicious desserts, sandwiches, and artisan-roasted coffees (Blue Bottle, Gracenote). It’s most popular breakfast offering is also a sentimental dish to owner Katie Rooney. “My mom is Greek, so she always made us scrambled eggs with feta cheese,” Rooney says. “She made it so often—that creamy, salty combination—that I didn’t realize you could even make eggs without feta until much later in my life.” At 3 Little Figs, Rooney scrambles organic Pete & Gerry’s eggs with a rich sheep’s milk feta, then piles it onto an Iggy’s brioche bun with tomato, arugula, and fresh Greek Herbs. Additional toppings include bacon and prosciutto from Zoe’s Meats.
278 Highland Ave, Somerville; 617-623-3447 or 3littlefigs.com.
4. Commonwealth: The Dirty Jersey
“Jersey is pretty much split into two schools, either you eat Taylor Ham or Trenton Pork Roll,” says Nookie Postal, chef and owner of Commonwealth in Cambridge. “People are crazy about one or the other, even though they’re pretty much the same thing with a different name. It doesn’t matter, I still won’t eat Trenton Pork Roll.” As an homage to his native hometown and a sandwich he made at his first job at Bagelicious in Ridgewood, Postal combines seared Taylor Ham (“Jersey Spam”), scrambled eggs, ketchup, and American cheese. “You don’t use some fancy cheese, which we have plenty of those here,” says Postal. “You need gooey, decadent American cheese. It just makes it.” On weekdays between 10 and 11 a.m., you can order Commonwealth’s Dirty Jersey on Stone & Skillet English muffins or on pastry chef Nick DeLuca’s freshly baked brioche buns during Marky Mark and the Funky Brunch, which takes place every Sunday between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Each order is served with a side of Postal’s duck fat home fries.
11 Broad Canal Way, Kendall Square, Cambridge; 617-945-7030 or commonwealthcambridge.com.
5. Cutty’s: Cutty’s Egg Sandwich on Pretzel Bagel
Two years into their always-busy existence, this 16-seat standout sandwich shop in Brookline invited all of its employees to chip in on making the perfect breakfast sandwich. “The funny about this sandwich is that we built it just like we used to do at America’s Test Kitchen,” says co-owner Charles Kelsey, who met his wife and business partner, Rachel, while working under Christopher Kimball. “We went through several iterations, just testing and testing, while everybody weighed in regarding the individual components.” The final product includes a base of airy Chip-In Farm eggs that have been whipped with cold chunks of Cabot 83 butter in a Vita-Prep machine. Each sandwich is then topped with two slices of Cabot sharp cheddar cheese and either a spicy sriracha ailoli, truffle ketchup, or a red-eye mayo. Additional toppings include bacon, ham, or Ramsey’s sautéed swiss chard, which he cooks down with plenty of garlic and a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Cutty’s breakfast sandwich is traditionally piled on top of an Iggy’s black pepper brioche, but on Fridays and Saturdays, you can try it with kitchen manager Mary Ting Hyatt’s crunchy “bagelsaurus” bagels, available in seven varieties.
284 Washington St., Brookline; 617-505-1844 or cuttyfoods.com.
6. Sofra Bakery: Egg Sandwich with Halloumi
Sofra, the Middle Eastern bakery in Cambridge, might be helmed by two of Boston’s most revered and accomplished chefs (Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick), but they’re beholden to a particular breakfast sandwich made with feta butter, bacon, and halloumi cheese. “One month we swapped out the sandwich for something else, and there was a giant uproar from our customers,” Kilpatrick says. “Seriously, it didn’t go over quietly, so we had to bring it back.” The key to Sofra’s addictive creation lies in the texture of the barely melted halloumi, the buttery brioche made in-house every morning, and Kilpatrick’s signature contribution: a sauce made from melted butter, feta cheese, and charred Hungarian wax peppers, for an extra kick that hits you in the back of the throat.
1 Belmont St., Cambridge; 617-661-3161 or sofrabakery.com.
7. Trina’s Starlite Lounge: Chicken on a Biscuit
Inspired by her Georgia undergrad years in America’s Bible Belt, where Waffle House and Chick-fil-A reign supreme, chef Suzi Maitland put her own gourmet twist on a fried chicken sandwich for the weekend brunch at Trina’s Starlite Lounge. “I love Chick-fil-A,” Maitland says. “Now don’t get me wrong, their political views are whacked, but I grew up on their breakfast chicken biscuit.” Maitland first brines chicken breasts overnight in pickle juice from Regal Pickle in Worcester, then batters them with a simple panko en glaze. After frying each breast, she then slathers them with American cheese, honey mustard sauce, and house-made sweet pickles. The golden chicken is sandwiched between crumbly drop biscuits, which, unlike its fast-food brethren, you have to eat with two hands and plenty of napkins.
3 Beacon St., Somerville; 617-576-0006 or trinastarlitelounge.com.
8. Myers + Chang: Breakfast Banh Mi
With sticky chicken wings, stomach-settling congee, and all kinds of fatty stuffed boas, Myers + Chang’s dim sum brunch is a welcome cure-all for fatigued SoWa Market shoppers and woozy South Enders. But one dish is a clear staff favorite at Myers + Chang, particularly after a long night of debauchery. Made on a Quinzani’s baguette, picked up fresh every morning, the breakfast banh mi is piled high with shredded pickled carrot and daikon, pickled jalapeños, cilantro sprigs, sriracha aioli, two oozing sunnyside-up eggs, and two slices of crispy bacon that’s been glazed in a sweet soy sauce. “We serve it open-faced so you can either get all up in there sandwich-wise or attack it with a knife and fork,” says executive chef Karen Akunowicz.
1145 Washington St., Boston; 617-542-5200 or myersandchang.com.
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