In an impassioned editorial, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells calls for the preservation of the perfectly imperfect bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich — an item which, despite being somewhat less universally known than the BLT, still deserves its own acronym: the BEC.
The beauty of the BEC, which can have a few different varieties, but reaches its pinnacle (in Wells’ opinion) with “bacon, scrambled eggs, and cheese on a roll,” is not in its individual components, but its ubiquity. And what makes the sandwich essentially New York (“New Yorky”) is not its ingredients, but the way it is purchased and consumed: quickly.
That’s why, despite this being a city where any restaurant can try for success, the upcoming Chelsea restaurant dedicated to the breakfast sandwich —called BEC, in fact — will not be able to elevate the essential sandwich.
“No doubt the brioche will be golden and soft, and the feta will have its briny charms,” Wells writes. “BEC’s sandwiches may turn out to be terrific across the board. But they will not be a substitute in any way for the classic, unreconstructed version.”
Rather, they will miss the point, as all New Yorkers can simultaneously care greatly for the true ideal of the BEC, and yet care nothing for whence it comes.
“Ask a New Yorker where this morning’s ham, cheese and three scrambled eggs on a toasted roll came from, and the answer will be ‘that cart outside my office’ or ‘that bagel shop by the subway’ or ‘that bodega with boxes of Tide stacked in the window.’”
No matter what great chefs do to the BEC, its power will always remain its anonymity, the critic argues. Try as they might to attach their name to the humble breakfast sandwich, none will succeed, because no one in New York needs to explain the BEC. It just is.