Breakfast stacks up at Rachel's Bagels and Burritos (which also makes great biscuits). Photograph by Amber Fouts.
The formula is simple—an egg or two, maybe some cheese. Possibly sausage or bacon. All inside some sort of bread, that isn’t usually just bread. Seattle’s breakfast sandwich titans turn to biscuits, bagels, and all manner of english muffins. Even the occasional pretzel challah roll or Japanese-style melonpan. It’s hard to improve on simplicity, but some arugula or a hash brown patty can be a welcome flex. Behold, the steaming-hot, paper-wrapped promise of Seattle’s very best breakfast sandwiches.
Unwrap the red-and-white checkered paper: A blast of hot air transports you from Seattle waterfront to Manhattan morning commute. The trusty english muffin sandwich is a no-nonsense breakfast staple. But once it cools, the nuance kicks in. Every Friday, Andrew Gregory clears enough headspace—and oven space—to make maybe two dozen english muffins at his tucked-away slice shop. He carpets the surface with sesame seeds, toasts the dickens out of each one, then stuffs it with egg and bacon or an emphatic patty of housemade sausage. The result is just like Post Alley’s pizza specials: limited edition and low-key cheffy.
The town has a few qualified biscuit specialists, but this frill-free coffee shop nails two vital skill sets: biscuits tall as a beehive and rippling with butter, and fillings sandwiched inside that are clever enough to hold their own amid all those fluffy carbs. The Spanish Fly—manchego cheese, arugula, peppery aioli, and egg yolk drizzling down folds of prosciutto—will impress you with its nuance, but also slay that hangover.
A food truck dedicated to breakfast sandwiches? The brilliance of this idea is matched only by that of Sunny Up’s sandwiches, made with square telera rolls—the kind used for Mexican tortas. Italian seasoning gives new dimension to the Sausage Patti Smith. The vegetarian Frida Avokahlo actually makes kale seem decadent. The Mia Ham, the Nina Smoked Salmone, the Ruth Tater Ginsburg all pack an impressive amount of culinary intrigue. The only thing better than the femtastic sandwich names: those harissa-dusted hash browns.
Baker Melissa Johnson channeled the humble bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches of her Long Island childhood. But surely her neighborhood deli wasn’t spreading eggs in a pan to cook thin as a crepe, then folding the delicate results into a housemade poppyseed roll with American cheese and bacon, should you want it (you should want it). The steamy filling softens the roll a tic, making this a rare sandwich that gets better as it travels.
The bicycle shop–slash–cafe could coast (argh, no pun intended) on the inherent Seattle-ness of bike chain repairs and vegan avocado toast under one roof. Instead, the newly expanded cafe presents vegetables as an act of indulgence. The house breakfast sandwich (like most dishes here) comes in vegetarian, vegan, and “bursting with sausage” versions; ciabatta is a sophisticated changeup from biscuits and english muffins. If morning feels a little early for sophistication, consider the Hot Mess, a Midwestern tater tot casserole masquerading as a sandwich.
Imagine the fast-food breakfast of carefree youth, rebuilt with grown-up ingredients: local eggs, nitrate-free bacon, english muffins from Rudi’s. But the local burger chainlet, now seven locations strong in Renee Erickson’s capable hands, achieves breakfast greatness you only dream of at a drive-thru: An extra-crunchy hash brown patty tucked inside the sandwich. How did this not become standard decades ago?
The former Admiral Cafe—now bright pink, still full of plants—puts Fruity Pebbles inside waffles and coconut LaCroix in its sparkling americanos. It also uses its waffles to underpin a big-personality breakfast sandwich: scrambled egg so thick you might as well call it a patty, approximately three pigs’ worth of smoked ham, a melted layer of muenster, pickled onion. (Eat it fast, before those waffles lose their texture.)
How can a tiny spot with an even tinier menu cut such an imposing figure on our breakfast landscape? It starts with an egg and Beecher’s Flagship cheddar, seemingly innocuous inside a righteously toasted english muffin. But green onion punches up the egg, pickled daikon forges an unlikely alliance with country ham from the famous Benton’s in Tennessee. Like the rest of B-Side’s menu, it remixes flavors across continents, then finishes things off with exceptional hot sauce.
Can one of the town’s best new breakfast sandwiches really be that simple? The version at this new Portage Bay bakery, housed in a former motorboat repair shop, is all about adding dimension to the essentials. Japanese-style melonpan buns sport a crisp cookie cap and an unexpected whisper of cardamom. American cheese tops the fried egg, doing its patriotic duty to help this artful sandwich channel its inner McDonald’s breakfast.
A straightforward cafe keeps its house breakfast sandwich simple—egg, slab of cheddar, the crunchiest bacon. Because really, it’s just a framing device for a swaggering knot of challah pretzel bun. Each one comes studded with salt and sporting the sturdy softness of the women in a Dove ad campaign. Even better—it’s available all day.
A delightful byproduct of Seattle’s bagel boom: All these great bagel sandwiches. When the former Pork Chop and Co. went all in on its bagel and burrito alter ego, it enshrined a breakfast sandwich lineup that traipses through all the food groups. Roasted pork loin with hummus; scrambled egg with kale and mushrooms; slabs of roasted delicata with prosciutto and truffle cream cheese. The combos reveal this place’s restaurant roots, but the skill level on the bagels out the bakers as accomplished dough nerds. Yes, the burritos are also great, but the duo of biscuit sandwiches deserve your attention.
Capitol Hill, Denny Regrade
Who knew a bagel shop by the name of Rubinstein—that serves dynamite matzah ball soup—would turn to chorizo for its fan-favorite breakfast sandwich? The morning lineup of bagel-based creations sticks mostly to classics (egg and cheese, lox, a play on avocado toast) with one piquant exception. A hefty chorizo patty ratchets up its spice level with chipotle schmear, then gilds it with a fried egg. The staff is a font of advice for modifying the sandwich lineup to suit your tastes.
The english muffins that anchor Tom Douglas’s enduring breakfast sandwiches are puffier, more free-form than the usual tightly scripted rounds. The new Serious Pie–Dahlia Bakery hybrid still fills them with grown-up takes on breakfast flavors: perfectly fried egg, lots of arugula, lots of spice in the aioli. T-Doug’s Serious Biscuit menu gets a lot of love (and you can still order those at Serious Takeout in Ballard) but these classic sandwiches stand the test of time.