Huckleberry: Santa Monica, CA
The fried egg is still a little runny so be ready for a delicious mess upon first bite. It's layered with Niman Ranch bacon, Gruyere, a ton of arugula (nearly a salad's worth) and aioli on country bread ($9.50). While you're there, pick up a maple bacon biscuit, also made with that same sweet, salty, meaty Niman Ranch bacon on the sandwich.
1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401; (map); 310-451-2311
Hayes Street Grill at the Ferry Plaza Market: San Francisco, CA
Listed as one of Ed's 22 Sandwiches That Will Change Your Life, the scrambled eggs and bacon sandwich ($6.50) at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Market on Saturdays is indeed an excellent breakfast. Available from the Hayes Street Grill stand, it unites soft-scrambled eggs and just-crisp Hobbs bacon (plus tomatoes, in season) on a baguette from Acme Bread (with a location just inside in the Ferry Building Marketplace). Not a new combination, but with ingredients this excellent and well-prepared, it's a sandwich worth seeking out.
Eggs Travagnza Cart: NYC
Bad donuts, lousy coffee, and atrocious bagels are mainstays of many "breakfast" carts in Midtown Manhattan, but not this one. Eggs Travaganza clearly get points for the silly egg pun (har har) but they get even more points for making pancakes and outstanding breakfast sandwiches to order. The chorizo, egg, and cheese on a roll ($3) deserves a place in the pantheon of New York breakfast sandwiches. The chorizo gets a nice crust from the grill, the egg can be over easy if ordered, and who knew American cheese and chorizo were a marriage made in breakfast sandwich heaven?
NE Corner of 52nd Street and Park Avenue, New York NY 10022 (map); 917-657-0987
Scratch Bakery: Durham, NC
Phoebe Lawless is one of the finest pie bakers and pastry chefs, but we also feel compelled to rhapsodize about her fresh bread—which leads us to her fried bologna sandwich. The pink lunch meat is brought to new levels on a house-baked roll when smeared with coarse-ground mustard and sauteed onion relish.
111 Orange Street, Durham NC 27701 (map); 919-956-5200
Cochon Butcher: New Orleans, LA
You won't find this one ($10) on the normal menu. They only make it a couple of Sunday mornings each month (call first) and it's first-come first-inhale. Housemade biscuits are peeled open to make room for a big hunk of fried chicken, grilled onions and cheddar cheese. The chicken is raised on a farm in Covington, Louisiana. "In a few weeks we will have a new breed called freedom rangers or naked necks which are similar to the breeds they use in France," said Cochon chef-owner Donald Link. Bet you don't usually know that much about your breakfast chicken!
930 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans LA 70130 (map); 504-588-PORK
Xoco: Chicago, IL
It shouldn't surprise anyone who's eaten at Rick Bayless's Xoco that the Chorizo-Egg Torta ($7.50) is worth waking up early for. Soft scrambled eggs, ripe, buttery avocado, and two kinds of cheese (totally melted jack and salty, crumbly queso fresco) form the sandwich's creamy core. But they're all just there to highlight the mind-blowing chorizo, commingling with roasted poblanos, falling apart into a soft stew of cinnamon and vinegar-laced meat so good that I'm tempted to pull apart the sandwich and just eat it with a spoon.
This sandwich is only served until 10am, but latecomers, fear not; an egg-less chorizo torta appears on the lunch menu, too.
449 North Clark Street, Chicago IL 60654 (map); 312-334-3688
Mike & Patty's: Boston, MA
You might hear a bunch of the Bacon and Egg, Fancy ($7) ordered during your sitting at Mike and Patty's, and it's easy to see why. Eggs and thick-cut smoky bacon with creamy avocado, sharp cheddar, and red onion, all on a slightly sweet multi-grain bread with a spread of garlicky, barely spicy, bright orange mayo, which simply makes the sandwich. What's in it? "Garlic, cumin, cayenne... and secrets," says Mike.
12 Church Street, Boston MA 02116 (map); 617-423-3447
4505 Meats: San Francisco, CA
And while we're at the Ferry Plaza Market, we had to point out this one too (twas too tough to pick just one!). 4505 Meats makes maple sausage that's indecently juicy with a red pepper kick and tops it with melted cave-y Gruyere, and an egg cooked to a soft yolk are layered on a nicely sweet brioche roll that soaks up every drippy, fatty bit of commingling meat and egg and gooey cheese. A one-bite cure for a cold waterfront morning.
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco CA 94105 (map)
Dahlia Bakery: Seattle, WA
Chef-restaurateur Tom Douglas cares about breakfast. So much that he bakes his own English muffins—now that's dedication. Over at Dahlia, get the mellow, crannied muffin with sausage ($5). It's porky, juicy, and sweet with brown sugar, then layered with fully melted cheddar and a butter-fried egg.
Seatown Seatown: Seattle, WA
While we adore that English Muffin sandwich, Tom Douglas sorta one-upped himself at the recently opened Seatown Snack Bar at the Pike Place Market. There are nearly a dozen different breakfast sandwiches on the menu, which makes the decision much tougher. Get the one with sablefish and cream cheese (buttery, gently smoky fish, cured in house, with their own whipped cream cheese and fresh watercress) or "The Three Little Pigs" (pictured here) with porchetta, premium Kassler ham, and whipped lardo--that'd be pure pork fat. You can't talk us out of pork fat in the morning.
Meat Cheese Bread: Portland, OR
A bread pudding sandwich? We did a double take too. How could you not order that? Don't worry, we immediately did. The sandwich ($6.50) features a juicy, seared-until-just-crisp patty of Carlton Farms sausage nestled in a bed of crisp shaved fennel, stacked between two slices of sweet, currant-studded bread pudding. Gooey melted spicy cheddar weighs in on the savory side, but this knife-and-fork sandwich is nearly dessertlike. If you're a fan of maple syrup crossing over your plate into your breakfast meats, this is a must-order.
1406 Southeast Stark Street, Portland OR (map); 503-234-1700
Hominy Grill: Charleston, SC
Chef Robert Stehling's artfully spartan but homey Charleston cafe has a way of making Southern classics just the tiniest bit better--no surprise, from a James Beard Award-winning talent. In the mornings, when light streams in through the front windows, opt for the Big Nasty Biscuit ($7.25), a huge, buttery biscuit with a tender crumble and a soft, moist crumb, smothered in smoky sausage gravy and sandwiching a superb fried chicken breast.
207 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403 (map); 843-37-0930
Cafe Estelle: Philadelphia, PA
Located in the lobby of an out-of-the-way converted loft building, Cafe Estelle serves some of Philadelphia's best brunch. Nearly everything is made in-house from breads and pastries to breakfast meats cured and smoked on site. Although it's one of the simpler items on the menu, their breakfast sandwich brings together some of the best elements of Cafe Estelle has to offer. Local eggs are softly scrambled with little bits of house-made sausage, layered with a generous slice of melty gruyere, and plopped on top of a fluffy-chewy freshly baked bun (grilled and buttered, of course).
444 North 4th Street, Philadelphia PA 19123 (map); 215-925-5080
Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen: Chapel Hill, NC
It's a small drive-though-only joint—you can't miss the line of cars snaking around it. But don't fret, the line moves quickly. We were nervous the biscuits might be cold once we pulled up to the window, but they were just right--tall, tender, buttery golden, and still warm.
We tried four of the biscuit sandwiches: chicken ($3.19), country ham ($1.89), sausage ($1.89), and egg-and-cheese ($2.14). Encasing an expertly fried and well-seasoned piece of boneless white chicken meat, the chicken biscuit was our favorite. The country ham biscuit, not too salty and with the right amount of chew and porky goodness, came in a close second.
1305 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill NC 27514 (map); 919-933-1324
Scups in the Harbor: Boston, MA
How did the breakfast sandwich "The Rapture" at the beloved East Boston eatery Scups in the Harbour, get its name? Owners Wendy Saver and David Rockwell named it after all the customers who skip Sunday morning church just to come eat it. The bread is a locally baked white loaf that's grilled until lightly charred in spots, and gets a swipe of housemade sweet-tangy tomato jam. The eggs are scrambled with crushed chips and cook up as small, flaky, slightly chewy (in a good way) sheets. The bacon is optional—er, is bacon ever really an option? Especially when it's thick-cut cherrywood-smoked bacon? But part of what makes this sandwich so special is that the meat-free rendition is really just so good too.
265 Marginal Street, Boston MA 02128 (map); 617-569-7287
Joseph Leonard: NYC
Yes, this breakfast sandwich platter is $12, but it's more than a complete breakfast: a split buttery croissant, tangy, earthy manchego cheese, fresh local eggs, all served with a side order of brussels sprouts with Sriracha. Brussels sprouts for breakfast? You betcha.
170 Waverly Place, New York NY 10014 (map); 646-429-8383
Market Lunch at Eastern Market: Washington, DC
This one ($3.95) is on a fresh-baked biscuit with your choice of meat (sausage, ham or crispy bacon), a fried egg, cheese, and, the especially necessary part to feel like you swallowed a brick after—the thinly sliced fried potatoes. It will sit in your stomach all day; very recommended for hangover repair. Just be ready to wait in line for an hour on weekends.
158 Picket Street: Portland, ME
Who'd ever guess that really great bagels existed in Maine, not to mention from a dude who first learned bagel-making in Montana? Josh Potocki first opened this dock-side cafe in South Portland about eleven years ago. "There was nothing here for bagels. Well, Mister Bagel, but those suck." He's now making 30 dozen a day--and selling out of them, sometimes by noon. Get an Everything bagel, which has a few more things than your typical Everything (like fennel seed and sea salt) with egg, prosciutto and pesto.
158 Benjamin W, Pickett Street, South Portland ME 04106 (map); 207-799-8998
Three simple but perfect elements go into this one: roast pork and fried eggs on a ciabatta (oh, technically four if you count the greens). Slices of tender roast pork get topped with two perfectly cooked sunnyside-up eggs, served on a crispy yet pliant ciabatta roll with a few greens thrown on there for textural contrast. Porky, juicy, delicious. The mortadella and the egg salad sandwiches are no slouches, either.
2 Lexington Avenue, New York NY 10010 (map); 212-777-2410