Breakfast Between Bread, Vol. 2 (the quest for the best breakfast sandwich in Pittsburgh)

After seeking out Pittsburgh’s breakfast sandwich, the search continues…here’s a look at five additional local options.

by David Neimanis
September 23, 2020

In the first iteration of Breakfast Between Bread, I was on a quest to find something that doesn’t quite exist between these rivers; a bodega egg sandwich. During the process however, many great sandwiches were unearthed, filling a caloric void for that day-setting, early morning bite.

The focus was on simple, sub-ten dollar sandwiches. I wasn’t interested in seasonal vegetables, artisanal breads, or housemade aioli. While in pursuit of something that isn’t part of Pittsburgh’s cultural fabric, I glossed over some great options. This time the walls of my box have been dissolved, giving notice to a different tier of breakfast sandwiches—hell, some of them might even be kind of healthy.

Mediterra Cafe

“The Juice Bomb” // $9.00

“The Juice Bomb” from Mediterra Cafe. Photo: David Neimanis

Tucked away in the fairytale-like scene of Sewickley, lies a fresh, juicy breakfast sandwich that feels as fictional as its surroundings. Mediterra is on a level of its own when it comes to bread baking, and that holds true for their English muffin. The muffin’s spongy texture prevents the sandwich from running down your hands by absorbing the sandwich’s liquid content. Though the real magic is the muffin’s ultra thin crust that creates a sturdy barrier, preventing the sandwich from getting soggy.

The liquid content referred to is not the typical runny egg yolk or bacon grease either. While presumably changing with the season, this very sandwich holds together two fried eggs, super fresh heirloom tomatoes, aged cheddar, arugula, and zhoug.

Zough?

Zough is an herbed sauce of Yemenite origin, though popular throughout much of the Middle East. Mediterra Cafe’s zough is made up of a blend of cilantro, parsley, garlic, almonds, pickled peppers, and rice wine vinegar. It’s sharp acidity waltzes with the fattiness of the aged cheddar in a dance so sweet you’ll forget that you just drove 30 minutes for a breakfast sandwich.

I added bacon to mine for an extra $2, and while totally unnecessary, it was very much welcomed with open jaws.

📺 WATCH: Breakfast for Dinner and Global Eats
Did you know that we have a few great TV shows all about Pittsburgh food?
Looking for more breakfast inspired eats? Check out this episode of Plate It, Pittsburgh! to see two local chefs compete to create the best Pittsburgh breakfast inspired dinner. If you are interested in meeting some of the Pittsburgh chefs who are bringing international eats to Pittsburgh plates, tune into the “Global Flavors” episode of What’s On The Menu.

Bitter Ends Luncheonette

“The Veg” // $10 to $13-ish?

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2HMWmGh0eF/

Bitter Ends does what it wants, and that’s what makes it beautiful. Incredible vegetables, slow fermented breads, imaginative donuts, assorted quirky mugs to house mediocre coffee—there’s really nothing not to love.

Unless you wake up early and pay close attention to their Instagram page, you’ll have to maintain tempered expectations for what you’ll get upon arrival. Fortunately whatever they’re slinging that day is sure to be a hit.

While the classic Bitter Ends breakfast sandwich with housemade sausage is a treat, the true star is the veggie hoagie with an added egg. A fresh baguette housing a sloppy amalgamation of fresh veggies soaked in vinegar, giving off a pickledish zing, accompanied by a super runny egg. Don’t eat this in motion. Eat this directly above a plate that will offer residence to a sweet, acidic pool of vegetable juices and egg yolk, and sop it up with your morning baguette.

The restaurant’s already restricted hours and menu have both become significantly more restricted during the pandemic, so if you’re looking to grab a sandwich, follow them on Instagram and keep a close ear to the ground.

Vegetables are good for the body, breakfast sandwiches are good for the soul. Why not have both?

Wise County Biscuits

“The Southern Charmer” // $7.00

When loaded with a slew of options from city ham to chow chow, and pimento cheese to everything in between, it’s best to ask for advice from those slinging the sandwiches—this motto served me well with Wise County Biscuits.

I was served up a flaky, fluffy, buttery biscuit loaded with a fried egg, braised greens, and a pretty bacon jam. For a simple, handheld treat, this thing has dimension. The bacon jam offers a fatty, sweet, sour adhesion that couples well with the juicy bitterness of the southern inspired braised greens, and over medium fried egg. There’s no lack of moisture in this sandwich, but that serves as no challenge for the biscuit’s talent for soaking it all up, preventing any major mess. Wise County excels at doing a comfort breakfast sandwich, but with high quality parts at a very reasonable price.

Biscuits are dope. This is no exception.

Find the mobile, Appalachia inspired operation at the Bloomfield Saturday Market and the Squirrel Hill Farmer’s Market. Get there early—they might run out quick. View the Wise County Biscuits schedule here.

The Speckled Egg

“The Cruncher” // $9.00 (with bacon)

This sandwich is elite. The Speckled Egg has successfully dialed in a sandwich with really high quality ingredients, and doing so without reinventing the wheel.

What appears at first to be something of a sloppy mess, quickly turns out to be a sandwich with solid architectural design. The soft onion and poppy bun have no trouble taking control of the perfectly cooked broken-yolk fried eggs, thick cut bacon, house sauce, adhesive layers of aioli and American cheese, and the crunch of Boston lettuce.

Lettuce?

Yes, lettuce. Perhaps a contextually controversial ingredient, the crunch of the lettuce provides a clean freshness to balance the sandwich’s fatty goodness. The conversation between the bacon, lettuce, and aioli might even transport you to a welcomed memory of throwing down a club sandwich or a BLT at a random diner on a roadtrip of the past.

Make the trek downtown for this soft, fresh, and fatty delight.

Market Street Grocery

“The Small & Mighty” // $5.00

Wait. Is that…is that…a bodega egg sandwich?!

Basically!

The charming little Market Street Grocery is more or less a bodega—just with really high quality products. If you had a little too much fun the night before and now find yourself in need of a quick, cheap, greasy, fatty cure—look no further.

If the folks down on Market Street are willing to make you a breakfast sandwich, what you’ll get is something with zero frills or sex appeal, but that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for sustenance!

In between gently toasted Mancini’s Italian white bread, kissed by a touch of heat, lays the essential geological layers of a classic breakfast sandwich. A fried egg made right behind the counter, crispy bacon, and some melted, gooey American cheese. That’s it.

For five bucks, this is the closest you’ll find to a classic bodega egg sandwich. Such sweet relief.

Pittsburgh may not be a breakfast sandwich city, but it sure has many great options. It’s important to take what a city gives you, rather than trying to force the results of something that isn’t a part of the culture. No matter where this world takes you, there will always be some variety of grease, fat, carbs, and protein to power you through a rough morning. Pittsburgh is no different.

David Neimanis is a cultural producer and writer from Buffalo, NY. After spending years on the road as a traveling musician, Neimanis migrated to Pittsburgh, PA where he now spends his time writing about food, culture, and the ways in which makers, artists, and entrepreneurs build and shape communities. Neimanis is also the Partner Experience Manager at 412 Food Rescue. In his spare time you can find him making pizza or foraging for funky bottles of wine.

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