Is there a more venerated New York sandwich than the bodega egg-on-a-roll, that whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts marvel and bedrock of urban culinary life? As you might expect with something so vital to the city’s lifeblood, the sandwich has become inspiration for countless chefs. And whether or not you consider tinkering with the original form a criminal act, as many do, you can’t deny that the best interpretations add something delectable to the category — be it Korean-spiced mayo, Jewish-style smoked meat, North African tomato sauce, or boutique-butcher beef fat. The common denominator: love and respect for the classic. Here are the 20 absolute best new-wave models.
2. Southside Coffee’s Southside
652 Sixth Ave., at 19th St., Greenwood Heights; 347-927-4870
Southside’s eponymous breakfast sandwich is two organic eggs scrambled in lots of butter, Heritage Meats ham, melted Cabot Cheddar, pickled red onions, and the clincher: a fiendishly good concoction consisting of maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and George Howell coffee grounds emulsified with oil and egg yolks into a super-savory substance called “breakfast mayo.” Pretty much the entire flavor spectrum of the American breakfast table on a toasted Balthazar Bakery brioche bun.
3. C&B Cafe’s Chorizo-and-Egg
178 E. 7th St., nr. Ave. B; 212-674-2985
At his breakfast-all-day café, former Daniel cook Ali Sahin scrambles eggs as punctiliously as some chefs bake soufflés. He’s no slouch at sausage-making either. His egg-and-chorizo on a puffy housemade roll is the best breakfast sandwich in the East Village. The housemade merguez with egg and Cheddar is the second-best.
4. Saltie’s Ship’s Biscuit
378 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Havemeyer St., Williamsburg; 718-387-4777
The eggs are cooked with ricotta, seemingly by some advanced scrambling technique yielding ultracreamy results, and barely contained within a split of excellent, sea-salted focaccia. That’s the Zen perfection of Saltie’s Ship’s Biscuit. No bells. No whistles. No meat.
5. The Breslin’s Oven-Baked 3-Cheese Sandwich
20 W. 29th St., nr. Broadway; 212-679-1939
Someone counted wrong. This April Bloomfield artery clogger actually consists of four cheeses: raclette, manchego, and montrachet layered between two slices of crusty filone, plus grated Parmesan packed onto the outside of the bread. When cooked in a pan then finished in the oven, the inside gets all oozy like a gourmet grilled cheese, while the exterior crisps up like a Friulian frico. Get it with optional house-cured ham and a runny-yolk huevo sunk into the middle of the sandwich, and you have a sort of supersized croque madame crossed with an off-the-charts egg-in-a-hole. Bonus tip: Not only can you order the same sandwich in the adjacent Ace Hotel lobby; there’s also a knockout lobby-exclusive bacon-egg-and-cheese on a butter-toasted English muffin. It comes in a little paper bag like a ShackBurger, so you can take it to go.
6. Daily Provisions’ Italian
103 E. 19th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 212-488-1505
What makes a breakfast sandwich Italian? For Carmen Quagliata, who took flavor inspiration from his grandma’s frittata, there’s the Cubanelle peppers, sautéed in basil and garlic; the raw spinach, tossed with a Pecorino-Parmesan mix and house “wake-up” sauce; the mozzarella and provolone melted onto the top and bottom insides of the toasted bun; and the ricotta in the dough itself. And then there’s the fried egg, its yolk just runny enough.
7. Eggslut’s Fairfax at Chefs Club Counter
62 Spring St., at Lafayette St.; 646-438-9172
The L.A. egg-sandwich purveyor has set up shop as a three-month pop-up at the casual spinoff of the revolving-celebrity-chef restaurant, Chefs Club, which means New Yorkers finally have access to chef Alvin Cailan’s signature Fairfax sandwich — a pile of chive-flecked eggs as masterfully scrambled as any we’ve ever seen, plus Cheddar, sriracha mayo, and sweet caramelized onion on a Maison Kayser roll.
8. Irving Farm’s Shakshuka on a Roll
135 E. 50th St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 646-649-3263
How do you translate the flavors of the North African skillet-eggs dish into a portable breakfast? If you’re Danielle Dillon, late of La Vara and currently charged with overhauling the menu of this coffee-shop chainlet, you transform the spiced tomato sauce into a condiment to slather on toasted ciabatta, change the runny-yolk eggs to chive-speckled soft-scrambled, and — taking a page from the Mexican torta — crown it all with a thatch of cilantro.
9. Estela’s Egg, Pancetta, and Avocado Sandwich
47 E. Houston St., nr. Mulberry St.; 212-219-7693
Ignacio Mattos’s brunch-only take on the breakfast sandwich: pancetta, smashed avocado, and a fried egg on a Bien Cuit poppy-seeded pastry made with almond cream and enough butter to fell an ox. It’s what a Burger King Croissan’wich dreams of becoming.
10. High Street on Hudson’s Bodega
637 Hudson St., at Horatio St.; 917-388-3944
Scrambled eggs, sweet malted sausage, and sharp Cheddar on a griddle-toasted sage-and-black-pepper biscuit that’s hot to the touch. As far as we know, no New York bodega has ever made a breakfast sandwich on a biscuit, but the owners are from Philly, so cut them some slack. Besides, one bite of this super-sandwich and you won’t give a hoot about authenticity.
11. Sunday in Brooklyn’s Egg & Sausage
348 Wythe Ave., at S. 2nd St., Williamsburg; 347-222-6722
The chef, Jaime Young, did time at New Nordic-inspired Atera, but he’s from Long Island, and his formative years were spent foraging the diners and delis of Nassau County, not the fields and fjords outside Copenhagen. His maple-syrup-enhanced sausage patty, scrambled eggs, crispy fried potato sticks, Cabot Cheddar, and gochujang aïoli on a Runner & Stone roll is an homage to the deli breakfast sandwiches of his youth, particularly one kitchen-sink colossus called “the Mess.” You’ll need a bib and a nap.
12. Make Sandwich’s Sausage, Egg, and Cheese
135 4th Ave. nr. 13th St.; 212-398-2602
Yes, it’s another sausage, egg, and cheese. But this one’s throwing curveballs like Bert Blyleven. There’s melted Cheddar plus pimento cheese slathered all over the butter-toasted brioche bun. There’s freshly grated ginger in the housemade breakfast sausage. And there’s gochujang in the housemade ketchup, which might redeem the condiment’s presence on this sandwich even for ketchup detractors and Heinz loyalists. All that and a perfectly fried egg.
13. Corner Slice’s Peppers & Eggs
600 Eleventh Ave., at 45th St.; 212-956-9339
Mike Bergemann grew up on a steady diet of Defonte’s titanic pepper-and-egg heros. His cheffy homage — egg-and-mozzarella frittata, piquillo and B&G hot peppers, and Fra’ Mani ham on a house-baked roll — is terrific, if more modestly sized for upscale-food-hall prowlers rather than Defonte’s workingman fressers. Still, says Bergemann, there’s a police detective who buys four of his sandwiches at a time. “When dudes in uniforms come in, it’s a good sign.”
14. Court Street Grocers’ Pork Roll
540 La Guardia Pl., nr. 3rd St.; 212-777-9292
Why cross the Hudson to cure a hangover when you can get two expertly scrambled eggs, American cheese, and New Jersey’s unofficial state meat, the bolognalike pork roll, on a toasted Martin’s potato bun at Court Street Grocers? Douse it with ketchup the way they do in Trenton.
15. White Gold’s Bacon, Egg, and Cheese
375 Amsterdam Ave., at 78th St.; 212-362-8731
White Gold’s spot-on BEC is a nice balance of high and low. The bun is classic poppy-seed kaiser from a Bronx bakery and the cheese good old American, but the bacon (or ham or sausage) is housemade. There’s some advanced bodega technique, too. They swipe the rolls with mayo before they toast them on the griddle, and use two slices of cheese: one between the folded-over broken-yolk fried egg, and one on top. And they fry the eggs in beef fat for an extra hit of flavor that makes all the difference.
16. Sadelle’s Classic Egg Sandwich
463 W. Broadway, nr. Prince St.; 212-254-3000
A crispy-edged fried egg with a runny yolk, mild melted Muenster, gobs of thick mayo, and good smoky strips of bacon on griddled challah. Essentially, it’s a BEC dressed up like a grilled cheese, and a textbook model of the synergistic egg-sandwich school.
17. Upland’s Roasted Porchetta + Egg Sandwich
345 Park Ave. S., entrance on 26th St.; 212-686-1006
Two of the greatest sandwiches of all time meet with predictably stellar results. The porchetta has an ideal ratio of crisp crackling to succulent meat; the egg is fried to a T. There’s a smattering of the pickled Basque peppers called guindilla for zip, and fries on the side. Lunch and brunch only.
18. Murray’s Cheese’s Breakfast Melt
254 Bleecker St., nr. Leroy St.; 212-243-3289
Your basic drippy, greasy, hangover-soothing egg sandwich elevated by top-notch ingredients: a farmstead egg, Nueske’s bacon, and a brash young Fontina that melts like Velveeta.
19. Shopsin’s Egg and Cheese and Scrapple
120 Essex St., at Delancey St.; 917-907-4506
The brightest mathematical minds couldn’t tell you how many possible egg-sandwich combinations there are on Kenny Shopsin’s menu. Our favorite combo at press time: scrambled eggs with American cheese and a nice slab of crispy pan-fried scrapple on a soft ciabatta roll, served with approximately five arugula leaves on the side for health. Wash it down with an Orange Julius.
20. Lena’s Egg, Cheese, and Serrano Ham
1 W. Eighth St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-979-2315
What began three years ago as a Basque-macaron shop has morphed into a French café with a bit of a following for its breakfast sandwiches: impossibly soft and creamy scrambled eggs, seasoned with an aggressive blast of freshly ground black pepper and served on warm ciabatta. Get yours with serrano ham and idiazabal cheese, and eat it at one of the TV-dinner tables that bring to mind the school-desk-style seats at the late great Prime Burger.