A breakfast sandwich can be pretty uninspired. Just saying it elicits ambivalence—rather inauspicious given its all-in-one role in the lives of the mobile and busy. Its various incarnations tend not to stray from a fried egg, cheese, and sliced deli meat piled into a biscuit or bun. Compared to buttermilk pancakes and three egg omelettes, it generates far fewer conversations. Not when fast food chains have dominated our imagination of the breakfast sandwich.
Bret Thompson's Market Café version at first blush makes few waves. In name, both sandwich and café are unassuming. Except Thompson, who also owns milkshake emporium Milk, is known to dabble with classics. That both outposts of Market Café are located in noted Fashion District spaces Cooper Building and L.A. Mart Design Center would be another clue.
Here is a breakfast sandwich ($6.75) that breaks expectations even as it tows on the side of convention. The usual cast is all there, just in upgraded versions with better accessories. Eggs are scrambled in a thin layer, then folded and topped by aged cheddar cheese. A choice of turkey, baked ham, or bacon comes next. There is an ostensibly odd appearance of arugula leaves and sliced tomatoes, but any doubts tamp down upon bite.
It's what follows after that pulls the sandwich above many around town, beginning with a secret sauce. Thompson's is a pale orange wonder, slightly tangy and speckled with what appears to be minced pickles. Composed between bread more brioche than ciabatta (despite menu description), the union of the disparate bunch is arranged by critical seconds with the hot press. While a slight crunch on the ciabatta has developed, everything in between has warmed through enough to complement one another.
Market Café may take at least five minutes more than a chain to construct each sandwich from scratch, but a sandwich well-designed is always well worth the wait.
1933 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (map)
About the author: With all due respect to Reyner Banham, Christine Chiao finds eating has become the preferred way to "read Los Angeles in the original" for Angelenos and visitors alike. Her coverage on what feeds the city has been published in L.A. Weekly, KCET Food, and Tasting Table L.A. Follow her on Twitter @chrstnchiao.