The Washington Post

Chef-driven breakfast sandwiches at Burger Tap & Shake

The messy Five Buck Chuck sausage sandwich at Burger Tap & Shake is not safe for car travel. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Who has time for a decent breakfast when your Blackberry buzzes and whines more than a 2-year-old?

It’s no wonder the District treats sit-down breakfasts like Dan Synder treats head coaches: mostly irrevelant to the daily management of your life.

So I took considerable interest in Jeff Tunks’ decision to start breakfast this week at Burger Tap & Shake, the Foggy Bottom establishment that would appear to have no reason in the world to drag its poor employees out of bed before sunrise to prep breakfast for a thankless populace. Tunks must have an agenda, I thought, and my first bite of the chef’s Five Buck Chuck breakfast “burger” provided a clue: The chef apparently wants to prove how good a morning sandwich can be.

The breakfast menu is short and manageable at BTS: To comply with its restaurant’s theme, Tunks has designed his sandwiches to resemble gourmet burgers. They’re served on house-made buns, light and airy and slightly crusty from a brief encounter with a hot griddle. The Five Buck Chuck pork sausage, sourced from Fells Point Wholesale Meats, is meaty enough to pass for a Hell Burger, and the egg atop it releases small rivulets of runny yolk onto the American cheese, and, if you’re lucky, into the open crevices of that patty.

Did I mention that the sausage patty is grilled? It has honest-to-God char on it. Who knew that OJ and char made such a good combination in the morning? (Well, Jim Shahin, but he doesn’t count.)

What might be most startling about Tunks’s breakfast burgers is their volume. They are to the Sausage McMuffin what the Willis Tower is to, say, a French crepe. After years, perhaps decades, of consuming flattened sandwiches served on commercial muffins with texture of industrial-grade rubber, you may find yourself inexplicably giddy over Tunks’s fresh morning burgers.

As the name implies, my Five Buck Chuck cost $5 (plus $1 for each additional topping such as onion straws, should you want any), which is probably more than twice what you’ll pay at the Golden Arches for a sandwich. Most of the morning burgers, whether the turkey sausage-based Skinny High Thigh or the chorizo-driven El Camino, will run you the same price.

Perhaps that’s too much for your recessionary budget? Fair enough, but allow me to suggest that the simple pleasure of eating a real-chef driven sandwich while sitting in a real chair — and not a driver’s seat — provides more value than anything on Mickey D’s Dollar Menu.

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.


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