National Egg Day, which fell on June 3, got me thinking. As a holiday it appeals to two types of people: chicken farmers and food writers. A member of the latter tribe, I was happy to celebrate it—if only because it’s a good excuse to revisit one of everybody’s favorite local culinary traditions: the Long Island egg sandwich (or the #ELIEggSand, as it’s known around here; show us your pics!).
Egg sandwiches are—in terms of ingredients—fairly unremarkable. Even with room for variance, they’re mostly just eggs, bacon and cheese. But like all the best things—people, places, and culinary concoctions among them—they’re so much larger than the sum of their parts. Everyone seems to have a Long Island egg sandwich tradition. Here’s mine.
Every Sunday, my father and I would wake up before my mother and brother, pile into his station wagon, and head straight to Setauket’s Se-Port Deli. We’d listen to talk radio as we wound our way up 25A, bound by the secrets we’d tell each other along the way and our shared love of breakfast. We’d order the same thing every time, even as Se-Port expanded its menu to include sandwiches that seemed straight from our hungriest dreams.
“All right, what’s it gonna be?” the man behind the counter would invariably say, leading my father to poke me, reminding me of my cue.
“We’ll have two egg sandwiches, please,” I’d say. “Just bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll.”
And just like that, “egg sandwich” became something of a sacred phrase in my growing vocabulary. It meant Sunday mornings with my father and driving from Se-Port to Port Jefferson to eat beside the water together in his car. It meant sharing the butts of the sandwiches with seagulls and, when we were feeling generous, bringing home two extra sandwiches for my brother and my mom.
After I got older and started to travel I learned “egg sandwich” (at least as we understand it) is unique to Long Island.
So, ahead of National Egg Day, I decided to revisit Se-Port Deli to find out what makes our sandwiches so special. Is it the bread, the eggs, the bacon, or the cheese? Is it something in the water?
“It’s all about the ratios,” Wisam Dakwar, owner of Se-Port, tells me. The ideal ratio? Two parts egg to one part bacon and one part cheese.. “Bread is mostly the same everywhere. People want a lot of egg on their sandwich and that’s why they come to Se-Port. Our sandwiches are huge.”
Huge, also, is Se-Port’s selection. Its menu has well over 70 sandwiches, among them, The Se-Port Bomber (three eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, and cheese stuffed between French toast topped with butter and syrup) and my fiancé’s favorite The Boone (hot chicken cutlets, melted American cheese, bacon and Russian dressing on a roll).
But me? I’m here for the egg sandwich.
“Well, if you only want the egg sandwich,” says Dakwar, “it’s really just about the ratio: egg to bacon to cheese. The quality of each ingredient is important, but it’s mostly about the ratio.”
I thank Dakwar for his time and order an egg sandwich to go. I drive up to Port Jefferson and park beside the water, my only soundtrack the sound of the seagulls outside my cracked-open windows and the calm murmur of the talk radio streaming from my car.
I take a bite of the sandwich. I chew its bread, bacon, egg, and cheese. Suddenly it’s Sunday morning again and I’m with my father. I smile at the Sound beyond my windshield and inhale its salty breeze.
What do you think makes Long Island egg sandwiches so special? And who do you think makes them best? Let us know in the comments below! [Egg sandwich photo courtesy of FeastSnitch.]