Slideshow: Taste Test: The Best Fast-Food Breakfast Sandwiches

White Castle's Sausage, Egg, Cheese on Slider Bun ($2.25)
White Castle's Sausage, Egg, Cheese on Slider Bun ($2.25)
Finding a fast-foodery that will crack a real egg is rare so this won points from the beginning. You can see the yellow and white parts! With the real browning around the edges! It's so real! The freshly-fried egg goes onto one of the slider buns, with your choice of meat.

The sausage is well-salted, but not in a whoa, settle down, kind of way. The bacon had the right crispity-pliant balance.

Our only complaint? The buns. They could have been toasted and buttered, but then again, we gobbled it down too fast to care.

White Castle's Sausage, Egg, Cheese on Wheat Bread ($2.25)
White Castle's Sausage, Egg, Cheese on Wheat Bread ($2.25)
But if we had to choose between breads, we'd definitely go with White Castle's slider buns. The wheat bread here is "eh, limp and lame with a dry taste," said one taster. It's vaguely wheat-looking but not wheat-tasting. It's really just a brown, dull starch square. But hey, we'd rather have a breakfast sandwich with a just-fried egg on mediocre bread than one with a pre-made egg sponge on just about anything else.

So you still win, White Castle.

Wawa's Ham and Cheese Ciabatta Melt ($4.29)
Wawa's Ham and Cheese Ciabatta Melt ($4.29)
It's massive. Stuffed with scrambled eggs, deli ham, and Swiss cheese, this is no yogurt and granola breakfast. The roll was lightly toasted and by far the best bread out of all the Wawa breakfast sandwiches we tried. Though pretty big for ciabatta, they overstuff it so the ratio is balanced.

There's as much meat in there as in the regular non-breakfast hoagies! And the eggs taste so eggy. Cheese is melted into the scramble, as well as on top. Judging by all the signage hype in the store, this is Wawa's signature breakfast sandwich.

Starbucks's Sausage, Egg, Cheddar, on English Muffin ($3.63)
Starbucks's Sausage, Egg, Cheddar, on English Muffin ($3.63)
Hey, this is pretty good. "A better version of the McMuffin" said one taster, but nearly twice as pricey. Could use a little ketchup, but other than that, solid.

The sage-y sausage doesn't taste overly processed, the cheddar melted nicely, and the muffin has good and crispy nooks and crannies.

Note: Starbucks's egg loaf-thing can be inconsistent. On one it was fluffy with mini air pockets, the other was like a block of tofu.

Panera's Bacon, Egg, Cheese on a Bagel ($3.69)
Panera's Bacon, Egg, Cheese on a Bagel ($3.69)
If you stop and think too hard about Panera's bagel, well, just don't. It doesn't taste like much but in the context of this sandwich, it sort of works (and was better than their ciabatta option). It's pressed, giving what could be a big chewingmonster a flatter, crispier edge instead. The bacon inside had a nice smoky, salty taste—alright, maybe a little too salty, and we like our salt. The sharp cheddar was the sharpest of any breakfast sandwich cheese we tried. So much that it kind of overpowered the rest of the sandwich.

If you like your breakfast sandwiches more like a grilled cheese with a side of breakfast, than here you go. We all agreed we'd buy it.

Cosi's Squagel with Bacon, Egg, Cheddar, and Tomato ($3.49)
Cosi's Squagel with Bacon, Egg, Cheddar, and Tomato ($3.49)
With a name like "squagel," you kind of have to root for this one. Sadly, we were a tad underwhelmed. It's a novel idea (a square bagel!) but it's too chewy for a breakfast sandwich and if you're not careful, the egg will "slidle" (that was an Adam Kuban original).

Note: these are both normal bagel issues too. Most of us agreed that, structurally, the squagel had potential, but tasted bland. Next time we want to try the Everything squagel. The sandwich also comes with a tomato which, odds are, will be soggy and pink, so skip that part. But the bacon had good flavor.

Starbucks's Bacon, Egg Frittata, and Cheddar on Artisan Roll ($3.54)
Starbucks's Bacon, Egg Frittata, and Cheddar on Artisan Roll ($3.54)
We were also big fans of this one. Ditto everything that was said about the ham version. The bacon replacement was reasonably crispy and had good flavor.
McDonald's McGriddle with Bacon, Egg, Cheese ($3.82)
McDonald's McGriddle with Bacon, Egg, Cheese ($3.82)
"You got the McGriddle with sau-sage?!" McGriddle enthusiast Adam looked offended (and there might have been an eye roll) when I first strolled in with the sausage version. I learned my lesson and came back with the bacon. Geez, what was I thinking!

Meat aside, there's something about using pancakes as the sandwich buns that's just a big yay. They taste syrup-drenched but not soggy. And you know when you're at McDonalds ordering your breakfast sandwich, but look over and see someone with the pancakes? And you kind of want both? The McGriddle answers all of your prayers. Plus it factors in the genius salty-sweet duo.

Dunkin' Donuts's Sausage, Egg, Cheese on Croissant ($2.79)
Dunkin' Donuts's Sausage, Egg, Cheese on Croissant ($2.79)
We didn't love this one, but after so many vile croissants, it's worth noting that this one was edible. Buttery and flaky, this croissant is plenty tasty on its own. In fact, that might be a better situation. The sausage has a weird after-taste and the egg is a bit rubbery, but the croissant, we finished that.
Jack in the Box's Supreme Croissant ($2.59)
Jack in the Box's Supreme Croissant ($2.59)
Even though the croissant was squashed, this was the tastiest and most satisfying of the three Jack in the Box sandwiches we tried (Breakfast Jack, you let us down, man!). The fillings were well-incorporated in the sweet, buttery croissant. And it was flavor-packed from the savory bacon and ham.

[Photograph: Jon Liu]

Wawa's Shorti Philly Steak and Cheese Breakfast Hoagie ($4.29)
Wawa's Shorti Philly Steak and Cheese Breakfast Hoagie ($4.29)
This 6-incher is a breakfast take on the Philadelphia classic. Scrambled eggs, steak, fried onions and copious amounts of American cheese—it's definitely filling and I can't imagine ordering a full-size 10-inch version (they're available in the same sizes as the non-breakfast hoagies: junior, shorti, and classic).

The meat and bread weren't much to write home about. The overly soft roll seemed a little weak for such a jam-packed sandwich, especially when you're in walking distance of a real cheesesteak stand. But not bad.

Breakfast cheesesteaks aren't unheard of at Philadelphia's many food carts and this was as good as most of those.

[Photograph: Hawk Krall]

Dunkin' Donuts Egg White Flatbread ($4.05)
Dunkin' Donuts Egg White Flatbread ($4.05)
I have been known to order the Dunkin Donuts Turkey Sausage flatbreads, on occasion. Once upon a time, "on occasion" has meant "several meals each week." But since they raised the price, I cut back. Apparently, in my mind, this thing is worth my $3.26 but not my $4.05.

If you eat them within three minutes of their appearance from the reheating oven—which is the only time they should be eaten—the flatbread is pliant and wholesome-tasting and just a little crispy, the cheese is totally melted, and the turkey sausage egg patty is... well, if not particularly eggy, then salty and moist and reasonably tasty. (Wait ten minutes and you have cardboard flanking a cold salty sponge.)

But more to the point, I like the things because the calorie-to-satiety ratio is far and away better than that of most fast food. Most other breakfast sandwiches out there run you double the calories and aren't much more satisfying. For four bucks and under three hundred calories, I get a sizable, melty cheese sandwich that fills me up and keeps me going. Is this healthy in any context other than the fast food? Of course not. But if I'm in a place with unfamiliar food options, or in a food court, or in a Manhattan food dead zone in need of a protein fix, fast, I can rely on Dunkin'.

Carey Jones