But one thing a menu can’t do without is a breakfast sandwich. Instead of the classic kaiser roll with egg, bacon, and cheese flipped from innumerable griddles in convenience stores and cafes, we have a modern revamping. At The Elk (128 Charles St, 212-933-4780), a bright and busy spot on secluded Charles Street not far from the river, a cage-free egg is deposited on a potato panino roll with ham, cheddar, roasted tomato, and kale, too — doubtlessly fulfilling your daily antioxidant requirements. The yolk bursts almost immediately, proving that today’s coffee bar breakfast sandwiches are best eaten with a knife and fork.
At Toby’s Estate (44 Charles St, 646-590-1924), a Brooklyn roaster with a branch competitively located right across the street from Dominic Ansel Kitchen on 7th Avenue South, the scrambled egg toast ($9.95) features a free-form omelet on an avocado-smeared toast with a colorful sprinkling of crushed red pepper, which provides a nice morning kick in the pants. With a larger menu than most coffee bars, the 11th Street Café (327 West 11th Street, 212-924-3804) revels in its obscure location on a side street that sweeps down to the Hudson River piers. The menu has become increasingly more ambitious, including a salmon toast ($12) that places slices of smoke fish on a pair of runny fried eggs with crème fraiche squiggled on top. Don’t even try to eat it while walking.
It almost seems a bit retrograde, but Grounded Organic Coffee and Tea House (28 Jane St, 212-647-0943) reconfigures its daybreak sandwich as a "breakfast wrap" stuffed with eggs, cheddar, and crumbled sausage, finishing it in the warm embrace of the panini press. The place is spacious, and feels like a garage rumpus room. The best part is the price ($5.25). Of course, no discussion of the evolution of the breakfast sandwich in the West Village is complete without mention of High Street on Hudson (637 Hudson St, 917-388-3944). In the morning it functions as a coffee bar with plenty of off-the-wall breakfast sandwich choices. The best is a re-do of the classic egg on a roll: The Bodega ($13) places a neatly folded ovum on a square, flat biscuit, with sage sausage, farmhouse cheddar, and a spicy mayo dressing that oozes at the edges. And yes, you have to eat it with a knife and fork.