Taste-testing Federal Donuts’ new breakfast sandwich

Cherry pepper relish adds a Philadelphia twist to bacon, egg and cheese.

The Federal Donuts breakfast sandwich

The Federal Donuts breakfast sandwich

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
danya

A hot soft pretzel might be the most Philly way to eat breakfast on the go, but the classic combo of bacon, egg and cheese also gets plenty of love. And as of this week, there’s a new local contender in the game:

Federal Donuts has introduced a breakfast sandwich.

Made with scrambled eggs, bacon, Cooper Sharp cheese and cherry pepper relish on a Martin’s potato roll, it’s the first new menu item for the CookNSolo mini-chain in several years — and the development process was intense.

“Just before the new year,” said FedNuts chef Matt Fein, asked how long ago he started recipe testing. “Ate so many eggs and so much bacon.”

How does his final offering measure up? We stopped by to try it out.

Perhaps the most notable thing is what happens after you eat it. Compared to a Wawa Sizzli or Sausage McMuffin, this dish feels downright healthy. Though it’s packed with plenty of savory decadence, it doesn’t cover your fingertips with grease. It’s certainly a potential hangover cure, but it’d also work fine as pre-race fuel for the Broad Street Run.

According to Fein, part of that’s because of how the eggs are prepared. Scrambled, seasoned with kosher salt, steamed and cut into squares, they’re quick-fried for about a minute to order.

“The steamed egg doesn’t absorb the oil like you might expect from frying,” Fein explained. “The frying action does this cool thing to the egg and makes it puff and adds a bit of caramelization to the outside.”

Check out that caramelization on the egg

Check out that caramelization on the egg

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

The caramelization gives some crunch to each bite — which is welcome, since the one thing BEC fans might miss in this incarnation is the usual heft of the bread. When used in Federal’s fried chicken sandwich, the pillowy potato rolls work great, but they’re super soft compared to a breakfast sandwich’s regular Kaiser or English muffin.

They do, however, “stand up very well to the egg,” Fein said, unlike the donuts, which were considered for a hot second before being found “too fragile” to work.

Cherry pepper relish makes this sandwich work

Cherry pepper relish makes this sandwich work

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

What’s missing in texture is made up for by the flavor zing of the cherry pepper relish. Though it’s not canon on BECs, cherry pepper is a common sandwich add-on in Philadelphia — see the condiment bar outside Pat’s Steaks — and the housemade relish here is a welcome addition.

Available from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at all Federal Donuts’ locations (South Philly, University City, West Poplar, Center City, South Street, Whole Foods), the sandwich goes for $6.

That means you’ll pay about double what a Sizzli costs, but depending on the state of your wallet, avoiding the grease-bomb feeling might be worth it. Plus, for the first two weeks (March 4-18) the FedNuts sandwich comes with a free small coffee.

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