For New Yorkers, there’s nothing better — or more convenient — than a bacon, egg and cheese. It’s the perfect breakfast to grab on the way into work, or as a snack on the way home from a wild night out. Whenever and wherever you want it, you can find it, in the thousands of delis and bodegas that populate the five boroughs. Whether you eat it on the train or on your couch, the combination of greasy bacon, fried eggs and American cheese satiate our stomachs and satisfy our wallets.
But even this humble breakfast sandwich evolves, as cafes and restaurants try their hands at elevating the original with their own twists. Don’t expect to see anything as basic as American cheese at these seven spots in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Hanoi House is introducing New Yorkers to the Vietnamese version of a breakfast sandwich with its $14 pork belly baguette, a take on the traditional Vietnamese street food, bành mí. They’re not serving bodega bacon at this tiny East Village spot: instead, a French baguette is stuffed with honey roasted pork belly and all the fixings of the traditional Vietnamese sandwich: spicy aioli, picked vegetables, cilantro and jalapeños. A fried egg tops it all off. While not a breakfast on the go, grab a table or a seat at the bar overlooking the bustling kitchen, and have your coffee served tableside: Hanoi House’s $5 Vietnamese coffee is brewed fresh and poured hot, or over ice, with condensed milk. (119 St. Marks Place)
At Southside Coffee, a no-frills corner cafe in Brooklyn’s South Slope neighborhood, chef/co-owners Daniel Rojo and Amber Sather stack their menu with $9 breakfast sandwiches to appeal to all types. Traditionalists can order the Old School: bacon, egg and cheese on a brioche bun or biscuit. Or go New School, which swaps out cheese for a pile of miso-tahini kale and hot sauce on top of eggs and bacon. If breakfast tradition means nothing to you, go whole-hog with the Southside Sandwich, where ham, eggs and cheddar are topped with their signature “breakfast mayo,” a concoction of homemade mayo mixed with maple syrup, Dijon mustard and coffee grounds. (654 6th Ave.)
Sunday in Brooklyn
The sausage and egg breakfast sandwich at this three-story Williamsburg restaurant has all the elements of a diner breakfast plate, except it’s stuffed between a toasted and buttered sesame brioche bun. The indulgent $16 sandwich is prepared in the restaurant’s open kitchen, and has scrambled eggs and house-made sausage, topped with a mountain of crispy fried potato strings. Cheddar cheese and an aioli made with gochujang, a Korean chili oil, finish it off. You will need a nap, or at least another espresso, after demolishing it. Note: Sunday in Brooklyn has a full espresso bar and take-out window if you’d rather hightail it back to bed post-brunch. (348 Wythe Ave.)
Shopsin’s wins by a landslide when it comes to the sheer variety of options on its massive, eight-page menu: There’s an A-Z list of breakfast platters, a menu-section called Pancake Land, 10 types of potato sides, and countless other options. This New York mainstay has been in business since 1973, first as a grocery store in the West Village and then as a diner, eventually moving into Essex Market on the Lower East Side. Original owner Kenny Shopsin was an outsized character, writing books, starring in documentaries and running the kitchen of his namesake spot. He passed away in 2018, and his children have kept the menu stacked with wild concoctions like the $26 Mo’ Jemima, 3 pancakes stuffed with poached eggs, bacon and macaroni and cheese. Yes, you could get a classic egg and cheese on a roll, but Shopsin’s is having fun with breakfast…you should too. (88 Essex St.)
Eggs are the centerpiece of the menu at Egg Shop, and the menu at the SoHo and Williamsburg locations features 10 different breakfast sandwiches, including a few classics, like the Egg Shop BEC, made with a runny egg, Vermont white cheddar cheese and bacon. Homemade tomato jam and pickled jalapeños elevate the $11 sandwich out of bodega territory. The sausage, egg and cheese uses spicy maple sausage from Brooklyn butcher shop The Meat Hook, with scrambled eggs and cheddar. The $13.50 Pepper Boy sandwich takes an even more gourmet twist to the classic BEC, with scrambled eggs and bacon, gruyère cheese and caramelized onion aioli on a toasted brioche bun. There’s a sandwich — and avocado toast — for everyone at the trendy eatery, and a full menu of cocktails and natural wines to wash it all down. (151 Elizabeth St. in NoLIta, 138 N. 8th St. in Williamsburg)
Located on the lower level of The Met Breuer museum, Flora Bar is taking its own artistic license with the classic BEC. The description on the menu is understated, listed as “Egg and cheese sandwich with tomato chutney,” but this is as far from a bodega creation as you could imagine. A thick slab of caciocavallo cheese is breaded and deep fried, then topped with a runny egg, before being slathered with miso mayo and tomato chutney. The opulent creation has a decidedly Upper East Side price tag of $21, but those looking for an elegant excuse to dig in before a day of museum hopping will find it at Flora. (945 Madison Ave.)
Orchard Grocer caters to meat-free New Yorkers by cooking and selling only vegan foods and ingredients out of its small storefront on the Lower East Side. In addition to vegan groceries, OG has an extensive menu of breakfast sandwiches, including their vegan-friendly BEC, called The Bowery, made with a turmeric-tofu "egg," tempeh bacon and vegan provolone. The $8 sandwich is served on a roll with regular or spicy mayo. Fans of another New York classic — bagel and lox — can fulfill their vegan fantasies with The Edith, a bagel with house-made cashew cream cheese and carrot lox, topped with capers and chives. (78 Orchard St.)