As New York City shivers into winter while we enjoy the sun, it gets easier to forget the things that make that metropolis so quaint: the Broadway shows, a through-the-roof walkability score, and the prevalence of bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches served from one of the city’s countless bodegas. Such sandwiches are the inspiration behind Egg Pals, a new breakfast pop-up by Brack DeFries and Chris Morgan.
“I’ve always found it hard to find a good, quick egg sandwich here,” DeFries said, “And a lot of people, especially since we started doing this, told us that too.” He’s not wrong. Despite an abundance of food in the Bay Area – and with some deeply flavorful specimens on the other side of the bridge at Devil’s Teeth and Sutter Street Cafe — the strictly egg-and-cheese sandwich, ideally consumed after a night of drinking or a morning jog, isn’t as popular here as it is on the other coast. But that’s about to change.
DeFries and Morgan met while bartending and managing bars in the East Bay’s tight-knit service-industry community. After Morgan spent some time in upstate New York helping a friend open a diner, where egg sandwich preparation was part of the gig, he and DeFries, who had long thought of working together to add food to their mixology backgrounds, decided to hone in on the art of the egg and cheese sandwich.
“Right now we’re just trying to keep it simple, aiming for that bodega-style sandwich,” DeFries said. Sunday will be Egg Pals’s third pop-up featuring their signature sandwiches, made with Starter Bakery’s brioche buns, bacon from Golden Gate Meat Company and American cheese, a crucial component of their take on the classic sandwich. “The melting quality of the American cheese mixes with the yolk and it kind of becomes this amazing rich sauce,” he said. Each sandwich comes topped with herb mayo, as well as red onions pickled in a garlic and jalapeno brine.
In addition to the meat offering, Egg Palls will serve a vegetarian version that replaces the meat with roasted delicata squash. DeFries and Morgan will also fry up salty tater tots (“we’re calling them breakfast dots but they’re just some nice crispy fried tater tots tossed in little spice mix,” DeFries said) served with a side of Blowhole Hot Sauce-infused mayo for dipping. Also on offer are their palate cleansers, a crisp medley of thinly sliced watermelon, sungold tomatoes and mint drizzled with balsamic, an ideal addition for cutting through the richness of the sandwiches and tots.
Meaty sandwiches will cost $11, veggie sandwiches $10 and palate cleansers $6. DeFries said of the price point, “Our goal is to keep the price as low as we can without sacrificing quality. We want to make it accessible in an ever expensive world.”
Sunday’s pop-up will happen at Rockridge’s Ramen Shop, which is an interesting fit for breakfast sandwiches; Ramen Shop is the very cool, critically-lauded ramen place founded by a couple of Chez Panisse folks nine years ago. The pairing makes sense: Morgan is pals with one of the owners, while DeFries tended bar at the College Avenue hotspot before making his mark as the inaugural bar manager at nearby Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya.
Egg Pals’s pop-up will sling sandwiches side by side with Molly’s Refresher, who will be on hard to offers tea service ranging from simple pots of oolong or pu’er to sparkling tea refreshers (for example, this black tea soda made with a syrup of golden black tea and brown sugar, topped with Topo Chico, and dolloped with a scoop of whipped vanilla bean cream looks phenomenal). Word to the wise: Don’t bypass Molly’s after getting your hands on Egg Pals’s hot, gold-foil wrapped sandwich.
Finally, a word about the logo, which normally I don’t care a fig about but I feel merits mention: The anthropomorphized pair of chummy eggs, a deceptively simple line drawing by Oakland singer-songwriter Madeline Kenney, is downright joyous and brought a smile to even my sour puss. Coincidence or not, it perfectly sums up Egg Pals’s belief in a quality, sparsely elegant breakfast menu.
Featured image: An Egg Pals BEC, tater tots and watermelon palate cleanser. Credit: Mariya Nazarova