It’s a utility sandwich tasked with erasing last night’s mistakes while prepping the psyche for new mistakes to come—it’s bacon, egg and cheese on a roll and it is here to save your life, quickly, cheaply and with absolutely no frills.
In a rush, the hurried order comes together to form one word: baconeggandcheese, while the roll, usually a Kaiser, is so much of a given that it is rarely mentioned by customer or counterman. In fact, the roll’s only true responsibility here is to be at least vaguely fresh.
The bacon, egg and cheese (or BEC) is best found in its natural habitat, the local deli or corner bodega, and must cost absolutely no more than $5. Any amount higher and you are being ripped off by an eatery that thinks much too highly of itself. This is the people’s breakfast sandwich—and the people do not pay more than five bucks for a breakfast sandwich.
It’s a New York City/Long Island creation and, much like bagels and pizza, is at its best in the metro area where it was born.
As far as standards for a passable BEC, there aren’t many. In all honesty, one has to really try to screw up this sandwich. That being said, there are at least three parameters by which one can measure a proper BEC. First, the egg must not be dry and overcooked, and fried is definitely preferred over scrambled. And the best delis leave a touch of creaminess to the yolk, but not too much as this is, after all, a sandwich that is meant to be eaten on the go.
Second, the bacon. Nobody wants burned bacon that cracks and crumbles to bits with the first bite. The bacon should be cooked to medium, with some succulent fattiness interspersed throughout the overall crispiness. And the bacon should be evenly spread out across the sandwich. Nothing ruins a morning quite like the shock of finding the second half of your BEC to be almost devoid of bacon.
And finally, the cheese. When the sandwich is unfolded, stacked and viewed at the cross section, does the cheese “hold hands” across the fold of the roll? If the answer is “yes,” you have a gooey-cheesey top-notch BEC. If the answer is “no,” it’s a BEC nonetheless, so this is by no means a deal breaker.
Beyond ingredients, ranking the “best” BECs usually comes down to what is most convenient for the eater—and really, which deli happens to be on the way to work. With that and the aforementioned parameters in mind, my list of the best BECs comes down to four delis in Garden City, Plainview, Syosset and Mineola. It’s important to mention here that the sandwiches were all ordered as “baconeggandcheese” with no specifications given to the type of egg preparation.
Starting at the top of the list, Adelphi Delicatessen (351 Nassau Blvd.) in Garden City. This one aces all of the BEC standards: Fried egg with creamy center, crispy-but-not-too-crispy, evenly dispersed bacon and gooey cheese that “holds hands” when the halves are separated. A close second is Hanstedt Deli (438 Woodbury Rd.) in Plainview, which only falls short with its not-quite-as-creamy egg, but absolutely nails all other components.
Coming in at third is Village Heros (80 W. Jericho Tpke.) in Syosset. Quickly ordering “baconeggandcheese” without giving any specifics netted a scrambled egg, which was a tad overcooked. The cheese was not gooey, but where the sandwich stars is with the bacon, which was piled on and spread evenly. In the fourth place spot we find Mineola Park Deli (144 2nd St.), which yielded non-gooey cheese, a decent amount of bacon and fluffy, moist scrambled eggs.
There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of delis and bodegas and bagel stores offering this sandwich throughout Long Island and the greater metropolitan area. Not all BECs are created equal, but they do all equal a better morning. And in this uncertain world, can we really ask for anything more?