The egg sandwich is, I would argue, the backbone of New York City.
It is what nourishes us, coming to us fast and cheap and delicious from street carts and bodegas alike. You can buy an egg sandwich in the wee hours of the morning, during a rushed lunch break from a stressful midtown job, at 4am after the club turns the lights on, or after a long, arduous shift. It is always there, always delicious, even in bodegas where the cats have clearly taken siege. In a city of $6 lattes, a mere $2.50 can deliver to us the world’s fluffiest rolls (seriously, where do these rolls come from? Note to self: embark on investigative journey to find the source of all the rolls), sandwiching ooey, gooey orange cheese intertwined with luscious scrambled eggs.
Ranking bodega/cart egg sammies is a fool’s errand. How could one person ever go to all of New York’s most cherished, ubiquitous local establishments and rank their near-identical products? I can’t and won’t. But here are the best of the best non-bodega egg & cheese sammies I have eaten in Brooklyn. [Disclaimer: I do not eat meat on purpose, so the bacon add-on is a beloved tradition I know not of. The following is for my vegetarian peers, who are always made second-class citizens in the canon of breakfast sandwich listicles.]
A few ground rules: I am literal about what constitutes a sandwich — there should be two pieces of bread and it should be intended to be eaten with your hands. Open-faced? Avo toast with an egg on top? Not here, bud. Breakfast burritos and tacos are phenomenal, but categories unto themselves. Arepas deserve medals the world over (thank god Brooklyn’s finally catching on), but won’t appear here (corn ain’t bread.) The following are coffeeshop/restaurant egg sandwiches that assume New Yorkers’ standard has been set by their neighborhood bodegas, and zhuzhes up this beloved classic in memorable ways.
Lincoln Station (Crown Heights/Prospect Heights)
I came here for the La Colombe coffee and free wifi, and I kept coming back for the egg sandwiches. Lincoln Station has a small menu of comfort-style food (fried broccoli is a side and I’m here for it), but what reins supreme are their two egg sandwiches (served before 4pm). The second, the Avocado and Egg Sandwich, served on a hearty, well-toasted multigrain bread lathered in their
savory jalapeno salsa, deserves a mention, and would undoubtedly be their best sandwich were it not for their tour de force: the Egg Sandwich. As a proper egg sandwich should be, it’s their cheapest entree on the menu. Instead of the classic scrambled egg, you get two fried eggs with runny yolks. The bread? Toasted brioche. Scrummy. It’s completed with melted cheddar cheese and their creamy salsa rosa. This is an indulgent sandwich with multiple sources of runniness (yolks, cheese, salsa.) The best egg sandwiches are deliciously mono-textured (it’s all about the chew), and this sandwich manages to add another dimension to that. There’s no crunch in sight, just sinful velvet — the brioche almost seems shillacked. It makes a damn mess (I’d advise cutting it in half before digging in) and will make you feel really full for a really long time. But it’s beautiful. Never change.
[Special mention: If you don’t venture south of Atlantic, Clinton Hill’s *Gordon Savory serves a similar sandwich (fried eggs and cheese + brioche), but with an herby aioli and a healthy bunch of basil. The sandwich lacks Lincoln Station’s love factor, but it’s a decent substitute. They serve Counter Culture coffee.]*
Court Street Grocers (Carroll Gardens/Red Hook/Greenwich Village)
This is a Brooklyn institution, so no shocker it’s on the list, but their egg sandwiches live up to all of the hype. The Breakfast Sandwich is the closest thing on this list to a bodega sandwich, only so much better. First of all, ciabatta rolls are great and for a while have been too closely aligned with the Cosis of the world, but they are the bomb! Easier to eat as sandwich bread than a baguette (softer crust = contents less likely to spill out from force), light and airy inside, a slight sour note. They’re great, and more egg sandwiches should be made with them. The soft-scrambled eggs and cheddar are luscious, and I love the addition of arugula; a light, peppery green to break up the greasiness of the egg and cheese. These sandwiches are also very generously portioned, and at $6, not shabby by NYC standards.
[Recommended viewing: Watch *“The Great British Baking Show” episode where they make ciabatta for appreciation of the form and for the British pronunciations (Series 1, Episode 3.)]*
Cafe Madeline(Ditmas Park)
I was always told to be wary of any restaurant with an extensive menu — the jack of all trades, master of none argument. Despite its overwhelming nature, Cafe Madeline is the clear exception to this rule. This Ditmas Park standby is a brunch must, and if you don’t live south of Prospect Park, I couldn’t more highly recommend making the trip.
Scan Cafe Madeline’s laminated, two-sided menu on XL-legal-sized paper (this excludes their extensive coffee and teas menu…seriously), and you’ll eventually find their egg sandwiches. By no means is this the only thing they make phenomenally well (the brekkie bowls deserve a post of their own, and their baked goods? Woah), but if an egg sandwich is what you crave, order their Cheddar Chive Biscuit Sandwich. When the vehicle for the egg sandwich is a flaky, buttery biscuit jam-packed with flavor and a slight kick at the end, you’re starting out strong. Betwixt a halved biscuit, they either fry or scramble an egg, melt some zingy Australian cheddar, and slather it all with sriracha mayo. A great second choice, if that sounds like a lot of spice and seasoning for you, is the Farmers Biscuit Sandwich, which comes on a buttermilk biscuit with a soft scrambled egg, cheddar, blistered tomatoes and sauteed kale. It’s equally delicious, and will leave you feeling slightly healthier. Honestly, you can’t go wrong at Cafe Madeline.
Restaurant Norman (Greenpoint)
I remember the moment I bit into this sandwich, I was met by the bittersweet sense that I had peaked. Never again would I first taste such sweet, sweet egg and cheese sandwich perfection. Their Egg and Cheese sandwich (to which you can add bacon, sausage, or smoked salmon) is f*ing delightful. The beauty lies in that there’s no schtick: it’s a classic egg and cheese, with every component done perfectly. A hearty sourdough roll, with a smooth, slightly over-baked crust and gloriously fluffy and flavorful inside starts us off. Then come the most perfectly slow-scrambled eggs you ever did see. Top it off with some molten cheddar with a mild bite, and you’re home free. That’s it. It’s simple, with nowhere to hide, and it hits it out of the park. Plus Restaurant Norman is a
great space in Greenpoint, minimally decorated in that super cool Scandi-meets-Brooklyn style; it’s casual, open, lets in tons of sunlight (ideal for the ‘gram), and has plenty of space to work while you casually order sandwich #2.
Ok, so this sandwich does not pass the affordability test. It’s $14 and bougie af, but a great option for brunch with the parents/getting your egg sammie on mere steps from the subway (Franklin C.) Hart’s is super cute, vaguely Mediterranean, and serves a vegetarian’s delight of a breakfast sandwich: their egg sandwich with fresh ricotta and roasted mushrooms. No bacon? No prob. I always know egg and cheese are delicious enough on their own, but the meat eaters tend to look at me with pitying eyes, as if I don’t know what I’m missing. This sandwich doesn’t have add-ons, it’s perfect as is, because the mushrooms are meaty and flavorful, and that fluffy, cold blast of creamy ricotta really seals the deal. If you’re looking for a classy egg sandwich for a seated brunch, this is the one.
[Let’s pour one out for Saltie’s, the late, hipster Williamsburg sandwich shop that served an egg & ricotta sandwich on focaccia. Your memory lives on in our dreams and on the menu at Hart’s.]
This is a deceptively new, old-school style Jewish deli (although it’s decidedly unkosher) with a delicious Egg & Cheese sandwich that you can order on three delicious bread styles: the challah roll (personal fave), rye bread (yummm), or a bagel (I’m partial to their sesame or poppy seed.) I am going to put forth a potentially controversial opinion: I do not think a bagel is a proper egg &
cheese sandwich vehicle — it’s a scene stealer and far too bready/chewy for the delicate balance of an egg and cheese sammie. However, if you must get your breakfast sandwich on a bagel, Frankel’s is a great option. If my word means anything, go for the challah roll to hold their bodega-style egg and cheese scramble — so good you could plotz! If you’re feeling extra veggie love (I always am), The Egg & Greens sandwich comes and goes from the menu but is almost always offered as a special. The sammie is rich and tasty, with an omelet of egg, swiss, mushrooms, leeks, spinach and salsa verde! You can grab either sandwich and snag a counter seat and people-watch down Manhattan Ave, or take it on the road with you to McCarren Park (or, more likely, back to bed to stave off your hangover.) Enjoy!
Downtown Manhattan Shoutouts:
Black Fox Coffee (FiDi)- The Original Scrambled Egg Sandwich (comes with pickles!)
High Street on Hudson (Meatpacking)- The Forager (oyster mushrooms and swiss!)
Miscelanea (East Village) — The Temi (oaxacan cheese and avocado on a torta!)
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Photo Credits: 1) Photo by Leti Kugler on Unsplash 2) Courtesy of Lincoln Station 3) Courtesy of Court St Grocers 4) Courtesy of Cafe Madeline 5) Courtesy of Rebecca Kobert 6) Courtesy of Hart’s 7) Courtesy of Frankel’s