As an unabashed lover of food carts and street cuisine I feel it is not out of line to complain about the quality of food at the typical breakfast bagel and coffee carts that are ubiquitous in many New York neighborhoods. Bad donuts, lousy coffee, and atrocious bagels are the mainstays of such carts, and the only edible items at these carts are egg sandwiches. How bad can a freshly made bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich be?
Maybe that's why I was so taken by a breakfast cart that a few months ago appeared on the corner of 62nd Street and Broadway on Saturday mornings right near the health club where I play squash. The first things I noticed were the whimsical graphics on the cart's signage, and the spelling mistakes on those graphics touting the homemade pancakes. Who makes made-from-scratch pancakes at a food cart?
I struck up a conversation with the brother and sister team who (wo)man the cart, Maribel and Arturo Macedo. Arturo had come to New York City from Puebla, Mexico, 15 years ago and worked at a Greek coffee shop on 57th Street and Lexington before setting out on the egg-trepreneurial path six years ago.
It turns out that their regular Monday-through-Friday spot was the northeast corner of 52nd Street and Park Avenue, smack in the middle of masters-of-the-universe financial power breakfast, let's-spend-$20-for-cantaloupe-and-dry-toast territory.
I started conjuring up images of bankers in yellow ties and pinstriped suits, or in power pumps and pantsuits, lining up post–financial tsunami for Eggs Travaganza's fine, fine pancakes and even better, chorizo, egg, and American cheese sandwich. Could Eggs Travaganza be supplanting the Loews Regency Hotel as the power-breakfast spot of choice for chastened bankers on Park Avenue? I had to find out.
Robyn and I met there at 9:15 one morning. Maribel and Arturo had already been serving serious eaters since 4 a.m., but we never would have known it from their demeanor. They treated everyone who ordered even a cup of coffee like they were hedge-fund billionaires.
We ordered the breakfast special of pancakes, eggs, and bacon; a chorizo, egg, and cheese sandwich; an egg, pepper, onion, tomato, and chorizo breakfast wrap; a grilled cheese and chorizo sandwich; and a BLT.
The pancakes ($4.99) were light and tender, the eggs were deftly fried over easy, and the bacon was just the way I like it—pliant but cooked all the way through. It was a fine lumberjack special done up Mexican-style. Next time I would order it with chorizo instead. The grilled cheese and chorizo sandwich ($3.25) had crunchy nubs of chorizo, melted American cheese slices on seven-grain bread, the only kind of bread Eggs Travaganza serves (Arturo says that's what the customers want in the neighborhood).
The chorizo, egg, and cheese on a roll ($3) deserves a place in the pantheon of New York breakfast sandwiches. The chorizo gets a nice crust from the grill, the egg can be over easy if ordered, and who knew American cheese and chorizo were a marriage made in breakfast sandwich heaven? Starbucks, take note: Hire Arturo and Maribel as your breakfast consultants.
My create-your-own breakfast wrap ($4) featured grilled onions, peppers, and tomatoes along with chorizo and eggs all tucked neatly into a tomato tortilla. The BLT ($3.50) could have used a little bit more bacon and a little less iceberg lettuce, but for $3.50 I can't complain.
I was going to order a yogurt smoothie until Arturo warned me off of it. I ordered a banana milkshake ($3 for a small; $4 for a large) instead. It tasted like a banana had been sliced into a glass of cold milk.
We were there for an hour or so and we watched many tie and suit-clad men and women be greeted by name as they queued up for their coffee and sandwiches. To a person, they offered us unsolicited testimonials for Maribel, Arturo, and Eggs Travaganza.
Brad Long of Wachovia (now Wells Fargo), decked out in a power yellow tie, talked about them in banker terms: "You can't get better value food and coffee anywhere on Park Avenue."
Mary Lodico, also from Wachovia-Wells Fargo, echoed Long's comments: "These people are the best. They're always fun and cheerful, even when it's raining or freezing. And the coffee is always perfect, better than Starbucks. They make my life a happy place when I come here. We all need places like Eggs Travaganza in our lives."
Maribel and Arturo might have trouble spelling but they have no problem pleasing the tough-minded bankers who melt like American cheese on the grill in their presence. I would advise all bailed out bankers to abandon their posts at the Loews Regency and take their places on line at Eggs Travaganza. For the price of one breakfast at the hotel they'll be able to eat for two weeks.
NE Corner of 52nd Street and Park Avenue, New York NY 10022 (map); 917-657-0987
Service: Efficient and ridiculously friendly
Compare It To: Loews Regency Hotel
Must-Haves: Pancakes; egg, chorizo, and American cheese on a roll; grilled chorizo and cheese sandwich on 7 grain bread
Cost: $5 or less for breakfast
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