The Burlington Breakfast Sandwich Bonanza Part I
7 down, 17,883 to go
I’ve been sittin’ here thinkin’
Listenin’ to my radio
Well I’ve been sittin’ here thinkin’
Listenin’ to my radio
Well I’ve been sittin’ here all week
Now I’ve gotta get up and go
My preference for afternoon and evening sandwiches well documented, I would like to now shift focus to a perhaps more superlative sandwich, the morning sandwich.
What follows are some of my favorites within driving distance of yours truly. I’ve tried to include those that are wonderful and/or weird because, uh, duh (and one that is neither weird nor obviously wonderful, don’t worry I’ll explain later).
Quality Bake Shop - Essex Junction
Honestly, the impetus for this whole dealio was a social media post from my buddy Ken:
I love Vermont, but could someone please make a decent egg sandwich? To get into the nitty gritty… start with a good fresh-baked Kaiser roll. Not a baguette, croissant, brioche or any other bougey thing like that. Cook the eggs just enough, when you make the sandwich, not ahead of time! I if I want that I’ll get an egg McMuffin at Mickey D’s. And ideally it’s just American cheese and (optionally) bacon. Simple, good, and sadly impossible to find In Vermont.
Great fucken q, Ken.
There’s a few rad sammies that follow but I’ll go on record that the QBS entry is the nearest I’ve found to Ken’s platonic ideal. First, the sandwich: assembled on a blazing flattop by a jovial dudebro behind the counter, the bread is made in house (I mean, “Bake Shop” so obvs). Two spatula-scrambled eggs, American cheese, a generous hunk of butter smeared across the roll and voila – nothing fussy, nothing fancy. You want a reliable egg and cheese sandwich, here’s your reliable egg and cheese sandwich. Check and mate.
Secondly, this place gets a pile of ticks in the weirdo box. I mean if we were in, I dunno, Shipshewana, Indiana this would probably pass for another day at the office. You’ve got your 5 septuagenarians holding court at the bulbous end of the counter. A take-no-shit server who addresses every customer by name. Drop ceiling tiles circa 1955, ditto the wood paneling and undulating linoleum. Fluorescent fixtures tie the room together in a stark nuclear glow. I mean, where even are we? Who are these people? How does she know literally EVERYONE’S name?!
I’m super down with this place. Ken, I bet you’ll love it too.
The Cafe Hot - Burlington
… and on the other side of the spectrum, here’s these dudes. Real deal brothers fresh from NYC took over the Mirabelle’s space to bring a Bushwick-ian window service vibe to Main St. “Seeded Milkbun” is new concept for me but I’m definitely not mad about it. Who knew I wanted milk in my bun? A little pricey but everything works and in an off-axis way that you’ve got to cheer for. Witness: they invented something called a Bonut (biscuit + donut) and named one of them The Nicolas Sage? I’m here for all that whackadoo energy thank you. Fantastically constructed, this is a solid downtown option. Super rooting for this joint and looking forward to their future inventions…
Morning Light Bakery - Winooski
An authentic Chinese bakery in Vermont, the second least diverse state in America? And they totally nail everything they do? Sign me up, bigtime.
While technically not a sandwich, the egg tart here crushes and is totally breakfast. Also, I wanna throw as much love to this corner of Winooski as I possibly can. Get all the things here- pork belly bao, pineapple buns, bubble tea, “wife cake” (!!)- I’ve been through half of the menu and never once lost.
My letter to Santa asks for a hundred more businesses like this from the minds and bodies of new Americans and those bringing vibes from outside our borders. So appreciated, welcomed and needed.
Blank Page Cafe at Bread & Butter Farm - South Burlington
As long as I’m being effusive…
Bread & Butter Farm is pure magic, full stop. We’ve been entrenched with these dudes since we moved down the road a decade ago and a visit never fails to elicit a “I’m so glad this exists!” Mike Proia has slowly been expanding his Blank Page Cafe here on campus over the past few years and rolled out Breakfast Taco Fridays last summer. Everything is as local and organic as it comes- Vermont eggs, tortillas, and cheese while the fixins have probably has traveled all of 100 yards. I mean, you get to eat on a legit farm and everyone is super nice and it’s a straight-up bucolic postcard landscape and there’s kids running around you’re eating the earth and you can visit the pig that may one day be in your taco which is sort of weird but honestly is probably wonderful when you really think about it because, you know, the pig is pretty happy just walk over to the barn, you’ll see.
Handy’s Lunch - Burlington
Local Institution, schmocal shminstitution. I’ve been to enough of these to know their value is frequently rooted in misplaced nostalgia or, god forbid, “quirkiness” rather than legit weirdo bonafides. For that reason, Handy’s (est. 1945) never particularly intrigued me even though my handful of visits have been totally solid. On the due diligence tip, I recently sat at the horseshoe counter (definitely rad btw) and asked if they could substitute gyros for bacon on the McHandy egg sandwich.
“I don’t see why not!”
Well, that’s one way to this dude’s heart. Also, that idea turned out to be genius which they immediately recognized: “We should put this on the menu!”
Do that! Let’s make history!
*score based on an off-menu item I totally invented and also happens to rule
Aviation Deli and Fine Foods - Burlington
A shockingly solid option in the midst of a food desert, this is my first stop when flying anywhere before noon. Foil wrapped, heat lamp, grab-n-go style, it’s a bit of a head fake as deliciousness does not often spring from these waters. The sammy inventory moves fast so you never quite know what you’ll find but I always cross my fingers for the Wee Little Johnny (three cheers for the inclusion of a crispy hash brown) and my fav the Sassy Chicken Wrap which made me a new fan of the chicken/egg combo (aka “Alexa, play Mother & Child Reunion”). Super fast, super cheap, super convenient, super tasty.
Cafe St Paul - Burlington
Saving this one for last as it’s not totally weird nor totally wonderful but deserves a mention as it sort of threw me for a loop. Hidden away in a basement space in a generic development downtown, I only stumbled on this when nothing else was open on a grey Monday morning. Everything here feels brand new (the super kind chef/owner said he opened during Covid) and not particularly inspired from a storytelling perspective. I obviously love a good story so it’s not totally shocking I missed this place.
That said! Breakfast sandwich vibes: the price was right ($8), the ingredients fresh and assembled with care. I ate it and I dug it and sometimes that’s all you need. As we say in the music: don’t bore us, get to the chorus.
Ken, give this one a shot. You may be surprised. I was.
We did it! Go eat these and you’ll be happy! Tell me more if you wanna, according to this life expectancy calculator I have 17,890 breakfasts left before I die…
Thank you for reading love you bye,