Ranking The Very Best Fast Food Breakfast Sandwiches

best fast food breakfast sandwiches
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When my editor asked me to review fast food breakfast sandwiches, I accepted the piece immediately. I don’t really eat much fast food so it sounded like a fun thing to get paid for. A treat, if you will. An excuse to spend a week trying all the breakfast items I usually avoid. And how bad could the experience possibly be? Sure, my editor could be trying to fatten me up to push me into an oven and consume my charred, human-flavored corpse but I was at least 60% sure that wasn’t his plan.

I’m less sure now. Because you see, I was naive then. It never occurred to me that eating a fast food breakfast sandwich every morning for six days would cause me to slowly go mad. “It’s just a week of fatty sandwiches,” I thought. “No big deal,” I said.

How wrong I was. About everything.

The following is a tale of breakfast sandwiches and madness. Of the disgusting joy I began to take in the simple flavors of over-processed bread, terrible cheese, and meat of an unknown origin. God help me, I want another one right now. And I just had one five minutes ago. I can’t quit them.

In truth, this was a really gross week for me. But I did it for you. All for you. Learn from my folly and find a better breakfast place than the garbage food I put in my mouth this week. Please, it’s my only New Years wish. But if you do decide to venture out into the world for a quickie sandwich (or you’re in the airport and decide to eat instead of guzzling a 7am Sauvignon Blanc), follow my rankings to find the one that isn’t the most horrible.

Also, I gave scores but don’t bother adding them up. THEY MEAN NOTHING AND I RANKED THE SANDWICHES BASED ON MY HEART. Because this is what happens when breakfast sandwiches stop being polite and start getting real.

6. Carl’s Jr’s Ham Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich

Calories: 490
Look: 4
Smell: 4
Taste: 3

This is a case of a breakfast sandwich sounding much better than it was.

(Fun Fact: This is the point in the challenge where instead of just getting a sandwich I decided I should get the biscuits and gravy as a side dish. It’s also where I’m pretty sure my husband stopped respecting me as a reasonable human being. But I stand by my decision. The biscuits and gravy were the best part of a mediocre yet incredibly fattening meal and you do what you have to do to cope, people.)

I mean I love a good grilled cheese. But I wouldn’t order this again. The bread was huge. Just overpoweringly thick, and not at all buttery enough (I’m in the abyss now, lay off me). And the ham was just one thick piece of gross meat product. I just feel terribly sad that a pig had to sacrifice his life to be a part of that sandwich, honestly. I think I’m hovering back towards the idea of vegetarianism. Yep, that’s right. This sandwich wasted its meat so badly that I am genuinely considering giving it up entirely.

5. Chick-fil-A’s Chicken, Egg & Cheese Bagel

Calories: 480
Look: 5
Smell: 4
Taste: 4

This was the first sandwich I ate in this horrible experiment. In hindsight, it was really good. But at the time I was displeased by the American cheese, and the bland bagel. I was younger then. My world was full of whimsy.

First of all this is a good looking sandwich. The chicken is thick and delicious looking. And taste-wise, the chicken does not disappoint.

(Look, I know I should hate Chick-Fil-A but it’s so darn delicious. I said I rarely eat fast food, but that’s not entirely true. Every once in awhile I have to have a spicy chicken sandwich. So I go to Chick-Fil-A secretly, get it, and hide the bags immediately lest someone think I’m a bad person. Which I guess I am because I just can’t boycott it. It turns out my moral line ends with chicken.)

My biggest criticism of Chick-Fil-A’s breakfast menu is that the spicy chicken is mysteriously absent. As if they are unaware that it is the most delicious thing on the planet. So this sandwich is good. The chicken is juicy and tasty, the egg is fine. The cheese and bagel are poor choices, but what I learned this week is that I make a lot of poor choices (so I can’t really judge others).

Verdict: Not great but “broken shell of her former self” me would recommend it if you had to choose.

4. Taco Bell’s Grilled Breakfast Burrito

Calories: 350
Look: 4
Taste: 3
Smell: 2

If I had to use one word to describe this burrito it would be, “fine.” It’s not offensive in any way. Like it didn’t once make a racial slur towards me or call me fat, though I’m not sure it didn’t think it. (Yep I’m at the point in the story where I’m communicating with the sandwiches like the cook in Wet Hot American Summer).

My biggest problem with this burrito is that there isn’t much to it. It’s just egg, cheese, and bacon. Where’s the cilantro? Why isn’t there Pico De Gallo???? No, honestly: WHERE. IS. THE. GUAC??????????????????????????

So while I enjoyed this offering dipped in salsa, I can’t possibly rate it higher.

3. McDonald’s Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddles

Calories: 420
Look: 2
Smell: 2
Taste: 4

When I asked my coworkers which breakfast sandwich I had to try (as the quintessential fast food breakfast), it was unanimous. The McGriddle. Except it’s called a (plural) McGriddles. For a singular sandwich. Moving on.

I’m going to be the bigger person here and just ignore the fact that they put cheese on pancakes. I don’t have enough time or space to truly unpack that. So we’ll start by how genuinely disgusting this looks. It’s smushed pancakes with CHEESE (okay I had to say it one more time), an egg, and bacon. When I saw it I made a face similar to the face I assume I made when I saw a live birth video in middle school. Just imagine my face twisted in revulsion and horror.

I had gotten my husband a regular biscuit sandwich. I coveted it so hard. He would not trade. So there I sat, trembling, looking at my Frankenstein’s monster of a breakfast mashup. And I did not want to go to there. But I am nothing if not dedicated to my craft. So I tentatively brought it up towards my face. Then I took a whiff of breath through my nose. I should not have. It smelled sickly sweet, like a pile of maple syrup. It wasn’t what I was looking for in a sandwich. But I was in this too deep, and there was no going back. So I took a bite. And…

It was kind of delicious. Like a savory stuffed pancake. The pancake breading wasn’t nearly as sweet as it smelled. It was more like a slightly sweet bread, and it paired perfectly with the salty, crispy bacon. And once I realized that it wasn’t terrible. I really commited.

“This is so good,” I said over and over again while my husband gave me concerned looks. “You’re missing out,” I said with an insane glint in my eyes. “I’m going to get more of these. I love them,” I said (in a voice I imagine the narrator in 1984 used, when he’s finally completely broken and admits that he loves big brother).

“Who would have thought? This is delicious!” I said with a delighted giggle while my husband gaped at me. But it WAS great. And McDonald’s also makes the best hash browns. So, I have to admit: the arches is adept at preparing pretty decent, horrible breakfast food.

2. Burger King’s Croissan’wich

Calories: 340
Look: 5
Smell: 4
Taste: 4

I ate this sandwich today. Full disclosure: I also got the fried, french toast sticks to dip in a vat of syrup. Side question: What is wrong with me? Seriously someone call Jeff VanVonderen from Intervention STAT.

This was great. No, honestly. The croissant was very tasty and the ham was very salty and delish. And what monster doesn’t love French toast sticks? I realize that’s off topic but how have I never had those things before, and they really won me over.

French Toast Sticks
Calories: Nobody cares calorie police.

1. Starbucks’ Slow Roasted Ham, Swiss & Egg

The winner of my fast food walkabout is Starbucks’ Slow Roasted Ham, Swiss & Egg!

Calories: 450
Look: 5
Smell: 5
Taste: 5

This is just hand down delicious. The flaky, buttery croissant is perfect. The ham, thinly sliced, actually tastes like a gourmet treat and not the leftovers over of a failed spam experiment. The cheese is flavorful but doesn’t overpower the egg. I would eat this sandwich all the time. After all the sandwiches I tried– this is fine dining. AND IT WINS BEST BREAKFAST IN THE UNIVERSE.

Okay, I’m going to go eat some kale or something now. And water. I really need water.