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Consider the Egg Sandwich

Newkirk’s brings simplicity back to a grab-and-go breakfast staple.

 

When it comes to the humble breakfast sandwich, San Francisco isn’t much prone to modesty. Not when the most heralded versions come piled high with meticulously slow-roasted meats; eggs with a pedigree, either golden-yolked or folded into an omelet; microgreens (so many microgreens); and melted cheeses of indeterminate European origin. These are sit-down breakfast sandwiches—knife-and-fork breakfast sandwiches. They’ll probably cost you $12 or $14, and, let’s not kid ourselves, they can be pretty great.

But fancy breakfast wasn’t what Ryan Blumenthal had in mind when he opened Newkirk’s, a subway-tile-lined sandwich spot on Potrero Avenue across from S.F. General, in October. Blumenthal, the longtime manager at the Mission district watering hole Gestalt Haus, says he had a hard time finding a paper-wrapped breakfast that didn’t have all those bells and whistles. “I couldn’t just get a fried-egg sandwich,” he says.

Specifically, Blumenthal craved the kind of simple bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich he’d eaten all the time while growing up on the East Coast—particularly on trips to New York to visit his grandmother, whose maiden name was Newkirk. Any East Coast transplant knows this sandwich well: crispy bacon, a well-seasoned egg, and melted cheese on a soft roll, picked up in a New York minute on the way to the office from any corner bodega, bagel shop, or street cart. The only adornment might be a squirt of ketchup or hot sauce. And God forgive you if you ask for anything other than American cheese.

That sandwich, the BEC ($7), is the centerpiece of Newkirk’s breakfast menu. But Blumenthal has been in San Francisco long enough to embrace a few West Coast embellishments—a vegetarian-friendly sandwich with avocado, tomato, cream cheese, and black olives, for instance. And thermos coffee from Ritual. And a hot sauce lineup that includes four fermented, housemade varieties.

What stands out, though, is how spare and restrained the whole operation is. For now, the breakfast menu consists of just five fried-egg sandwiches. The most expensive—the Horse on the Roof, a breakfast cheesesteak of sorts named after the 60-pound fiberglass horse that Blumenthal installed above the restaurant just because—will run you $10. Otherwise, you’re out the door for $5 to $7.

That’s not to say that there isn’t an artfulness to making a simple BEC the right way. Start with the bread: a soft, custom-baked poppy-seed kaiser roll that’s served well buttered. Add to that Blumenthal’s (correct) opinion that a fried egg is the only kind of egg that’s appropriate for a breakfast sandwich, which means that all of the breakfast sandwiches come with an egg (or two) fried in butter to order—not outrageously runny, but slightly creamy in the center, somewhere between over medium and over hard, in order to maximize portability. The bacon is fried in large batches until it crisps in its own fat.

And—this part is key—the cheese, which is American unless you’re foolish enough to ask for something else, melts overtop just right, so that egg and cheese meld into a cohesive, fortifying whole. Think of it: Thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers start each day off just this way. San Franciscans could do well to give it a shot.
1002 Potrero Ave. (Near 22nd St.), 415-962-7695

 

Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco 

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