The BEST Classic Breakfast Sandwiches in South Carolina

Breakfast comes in many different shapes and sizes, but to many, the king of them all is the breakfast sandwich: an iconic, American combination of eggs, cheese and usually meat of some sort (typically pork based) on some form of bread (usually a bagel, roll or biscuit). ”To this day, the breakfast sandwich is easily the most popular carry out breakfast in the metropolitan area….though now it has a double wrapping of wax paper and tinfoil.”

All-American though it may seem today, the breakfast sandwich probably originated with factory workers in 19th century England. On the way to the daily grind, downtrodden workers would speedily drink a cup of coffee or tea at a street vendor’s stand and then grab a breakfast sandwich as they made their way to the factory. They were originally called “bap” sandwiches, named for the soft roll used to hold the egg and meat fillings together. Sometimes bacon or sausage, but a simple slathering of sausage grease was not uncommon.

As the Industrial Revolution came into swing, the breakfast sandwich made its way across the Atlantic. It became extremely popular as the morning grab-and-go meal for textile mill workers in New England and factory workers, laborers and clerks in the largest northern cities such as New York City, Newark and Philadelphia.

The American breakfast sandwich had an additional ingredient, cheese, and that became an integral component. Food historians think the cheese addition was an attempt to mask the taste of less-than-fresh eggs. Whatever the reason, cheese was here to stay and a classic breakfast sandwich can never be without it.

New York City and New Jersey became the breakfast sandwich capital of the country where any mom and pop diner, luncheonette, grill, bodega or food cart could produce an egg and cheese (and in most cases a meat) between bread and wrapped in wax paper. To this day, the breakfast sandwich is easily the most popular carry out breakfast in the metropolitan area….though now it has a double wrapping of wax paper and tinfoil.

After WWII, Americans became obsessed with all things fast and convenient, and throughout the 1950’s and 60’s the breakfast sandwich grew in popularity. But the real catalyst for bringing the breakfast sandwich into the culinary mainstream was the fast food industry. In 1969, the Jack-in-the-Box chain introduced an egg, cheese and meat concoction on an English muffin, but it was only after the Egg McMuffin made its debut at McDonalds in 1972 that the breakfast sandwich soared in popularity.

In 1971, an advertising executive and McDonald franchise, Herb Paterson, invented the Egg McMuffin when trying to create a version of eggs benedict that didn’t require Hollandaise sauce. He found that a broken yolk egg, fried and formed in a Teflon ring, topped with Canadian bacon and cheese and served open face on a toasted buttered English muffin did the trick.

The Egg McMuffin premiered in Santa Barbara, California, at a McDonald’s owned by Herb and his son Dave. The sandwich was an instant success with his customers, and spurred by the sales, he introduced it to the McDonald’s chairman, Ray Kroc. Kroc loved the sandwich but with one caveat. He placed the egg, cheese and Canadian bacon between two halves of an English muffin….and thus a star was born. The Egg McMuffin proved so popular an item that McDonalds created more breakfast offerings and by 1977 was doing a full breakfast. Breakfast became so popular at McDonald’s, and the Egg McMuffin so enduring, that in 2015 the chain instituted a breakfast-all-day policy.

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A breakfast sandwich is one of my favorite foods. The taste of everything breakfast-related crammed into one bite is a breakfast lover’s delight. So if you feel the same way, get ready to find out about the best breakfast sandwiches in South Carolina.

Before we start, let me explain a few guidelines. Our search was to find renditions of the classic breakfast sandwich. The sandwich must contain egg, cheese and bread, with meat being optional. An egg and meat sandwich might be a great sandwich, but this journey was to find the best classic breakfast sandwiches, as defined by culinary history and tradition. ”Our search was to find renditions of the classic breakfast sandwich.”

A classic breakfast sandwich must be a hand-held creation. This has always been a convenient, utilitarian sandwich. Of course this eliminates innumerable delicious and well assembled choices, but that misses the point. This search is for the best classic breakfast sandwich, no more no less. Though they are analogous to the breakfast sandwich, no breakfast tacos or burritos are included….as always, that’s for another day.

Now you might be thinking that all breakfast sandwiches are created equal. That’s understandable because we are talking about a four ingredient or less dish. But you couldn’t be more wrong! Several months ago I travelled the entire state and found marked differences in eggs, cheese and especially in the bread/bagel/roll/biscuit choices. Some of the eggs looked like they had been run over by a tractor trailer. And some of the bread was terrible. (I won’t mention names).

There are many ways a well-intentioned breakfast sandwich can go wrong. Aforementioned improperly cooked eggs, sloppy composition and unbalanced ratios. But when done right, a breakfast sandwich can be a thing of beauty and harmony. ”Now you might be thinking that all breakfast sandwiches are created equal. That’s understandable because we are talking about a four ingredient or less dish. But you couldn’t be more wrong!”

As usual, this list is in no particular order or rank. In the end, all lists are subjective, but we have travelled far and wide and the list is the result of that journey. As this was just a search for the classic breakfast sandwich, no other menu items were tried. In certain instances, two sandwiches were tasted when I had a travel companion.

Now let’s get to the list of the best breakfasts between bread in South Carolina!

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Java Java

Independently owned coffee shop using locally sourced coffee beans from King Bean Coffee Roasters in Charleston.

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The Sandwiches:

1. “The Classic” – Choice of bacon, sausage, ham, cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, tomato, herbed flatbread. Solidly constructed breakfast sandwich. Addition of tomato added some tang to our ham choice.

2.“The Palmetto” – Homemade vegetable cream cheese, sausage, cheddar cheese, egg, herbed flatbread. Perfectly balanced sandwich with a cream cheese surprise.

375 Gardners Circle
John’s Island, SC
(843) 243-0222

Sweet Dough

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Independently owned cafe/bakery specializing in donuts.

The Sandwich:

Bacon, egg, cheese, croissant. All the classic ingredients with a beautiful buttery croissant.

400 N. Dobys Bridge Rd.
Fort Mill, SC
(803) 548-0440

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Corner Bagel Bakery Deli

Casual, family owned.

The Sandwich:

Sausage, egg, and cheese on a garlic bagel. The classic breakfast sandwich is simple but the bread is very important. No complaints with the bagel.

715 B East Greenville St.
Anderson, SC
(864) 231-9400

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Lost Dog Cafe

Cozy cafe serving breakfast all day. Relaxed beach vibe. Dog friendly. Beer, wine and Bloody Marys.

The Sandwich:

Ham, egg and cheese on an everything bagel. Quality bagel from Normandy Farms. Perfectly cooked meat. All you want in a classic.

106 West Huron Ave.
Folly Beach, SC
(843) 588-9669

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Mixson Market

Eclectic, eccentric market with quality provisions from the Lowcountry and beyond. Gourmet coffee, artisanal sandwiches, craft beer and wine.

The Sandwiches:   

1 – “Breakfast Sandwich” – Fried eggs, aged cheddar, arugula, Srirachi Mayo, Ciabatta roll. Less can be more in this classic breakfast sandwich with no meat but a few modern twists. Tangy, sweet, spicy mayo adds to the bite. Quality roll.

2 – “Bagel Sandwich” – Eggs, aged cheddar, bacon, avocado, sesame bagel. 

Harmony. All you could want.

4401 McCarthy St
North Charleston, SC
(843) 471-2850

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Eastside Bagel

Eastside bagels are steamed bagels. They are not boiled and are baked on one side after steaming. They have a fluffy cake like texture after steaming. I’m not a big fan of a steamed bagel but this is a personal choice and you might be a fan or become one. Be that as it may, the sandwiches were well-built and in the classic mold.

The Sandwiches: 

1 – “Urban Sombrero” – Sliced ham, scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, and jalapenos on everything bagel. All the right things with the added kick.

2 – ”The Screech Powers” –  Fried Bologna, scrambled egg, american cheese on a plain bagel. The fried bologna brings me back to middle school lunches, but in a good way. Nice change up.

8-D Line Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 732-4672

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Sunrise Bistro

Location also in Mt. Pleasant and John’s Island.

The Sandwiches:  

1 – Egg, cheese, bacon with 2 slices of french toast. Sandwich between French Toast is a sweet spin.

2 – “Mornin” – eggs, cheddar, sausage herbed bread. Perfectly cooked over-easy egg and nice dense bread.

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110 Miles Jamison
Summerville, SC
(843) 225-6201

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The Village Cafe

Casual place serving breakfast, lunch. Beer, wine selections. Serving in-house made gelato (Italian ice cream)

The Sandwich:

Bacon, egg, cheddar on a plain bagel. An admirable classic sandwich on a nice chewy bagel.

110 Coach Light Way
Aiken, SC
(803) 640-0247

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Johnny’s Hot Dogs

Small concession stand serving a lot more than hot dogs

The Sandwiches: 

1 – Sausage, egg, american cheese on toasted cinnamon raisin bread. A runny yolk and cinnamon raisin bread. What’s not to like!

2 – Taylor pork roll, egg, cheese on everything bagel. Brings me back to my Jersey days. More about pork roll later.

883 Ben Sawyer Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC

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Upcountry Provisions

Upcounty has SIX breakfast sandwiches! These sandwiches are arguably the most creative in the state. My only regret, that I couldn’t sample more. In-house daily baking, a big plus. Can’t wait to get back to Travelers Rest.

The Sandwiches:

1. “UP Classic” – Bacon, egg, provolone, chipolte aioli, white focaccia. Freshly baked in-house bread, sharp provolone and a slathering of flavorful spicy chipotle mayo. Whew!

2. “NEW TR” – Ham, egg, red onion, cucumber, cheddar, honey mustard white focaccia. Simply put: this is a happy handful.

6809 State Park Rd.
Travellers Rest, SC
(864) 834-8433

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Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

We have lauded Callie’s biscuits before – I have yet to find better. Alternate locations in Atlanta and Charlotte.

The Sandwiches:

1 – Sausage, fried egg, fiery pimento cheese on (what else) a buttermilk biscuit. Marvelous biscuit makes for a solid foundation. Fiery pimento cheese is the sleeper.

2 – Bacon, scrambled egg, american cheese on a cheese and chive biscuit. Once again the biscuit leads the way with the fluffy egg fitting in nicely.

476 1/2 King Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 737-5159

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Page’s Okra Grill

Casual southern home cooking. Cocktails.

The Sandwiches:

1 – Scrambled eggs, cheddar, ham steak on toasted country white. Ham steak is the star. “Get out of the way,” it’s telling the eggs and cheese. “This is my show.”

2 – “TJ’s Hot Mess” – southern fried chicken, made from fresh biscuit, scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, and pickled jalapenos smothered with country sausage gravy.

I know what you’re thinking. How can a sandwich smothered in gravy be hand held? No problem…. just have a lot of napkins handy. Once in a while, you have to bend the rules. A classic with fried chicken….no way I’m passing that up.

302 Coleman Blvd
Mt Pleasant, SC
(843) 881- 3333

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Hen and the Goat

An upscale deli and cafe on James Island.

The Sandwich:

Pork Belly, eggs over easy, swiss cheese on a kaiser roll. Pork belly is on the lunch menu but the folks at Hen and the Goat were so accommodating and allowed it on a breakfast sandwich. Crunchy, crackling, meltingly soft. Perfection. The menu choices for breakfast sandwiches are bacon, sausage and Taylor ham (more about that a little later). They also have five cheese selections; very few places give that many choices. This is one I have to come back to so that I can come up with more creations.

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869 Folly Rd
(843) 410-1385

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Watusi Cafe

Casual coffee shop offering breakfast, salad, sandwiches. Big patio.

The Sandwich:

“The Big Watusi” – Two scrambled eggs,sausage, bacon, cheddar on a toasted french baguette. Two meats in one sandwich….your intrepid traveller was in hog heaven. Loved the crunchy baguette.

71 Pope Avenue
Hilton Head, SC
(843) 686-5200

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Island Bagel

The most respected bagel

The Sandwich: “Jersey” – Fried egg, yellow american, Taylor Ham on a plain bagel.

The Quinntessential Jersey breakfast sandwich. A well-built, winning sandwich. A banging bagel with an iconic meat. In my opinion, the best bagels in South Carolina. These are work intensive, New York style, right up there with the best of the breed up north. Also a Bluffton location

841 William Hilton Parkway
Hilton Head, SC
(843) 686-3353

Taylor Ham Tidbits

Now I’m going to digress a little. What actually is Taylor Ham? Hopefully this is not double speak but Taylor Ham is always pork roll but not all pork roll is Taylor Ham. What? Let me explain. First a little history.

In 1856, John Taylor of Hamilton Square (near Trenton), New Jersey, created a pork-based processed meat which he marketed as Taylor’s prepared Ham. In 1870, George Washington Case created a similar product on his farm in Belle Mead, New Jersey. He minced, smoked and cured pork and packaged it in a cylindrical shape, thus the name ‘pork roll.’

Taylor was forced to change the name after the Pure Food at Drug Act of 1906 was passed since the product did not meet the new legal definition of “ham.” The product was now marketed as Taylor Pork Roll and Trenton Pork Roll, which continues to this day. Taylor and Case are still at the head of the class and located in Trenton, NJ.

It seems like some people in New Jersey never got the message. Over 110 years later, people in North Jersey call pork roll Taylor Ham, even though it might be Case’s or another brand. People in South Jersey call it pork roll and in Central Jersey….well, either or both!

Is this important? Well, if you are from New Jersey (I’m guilty) or live in New Jersey, then it is. Jersey is the pork roll capital of the world. There are duelling pork roll festivals in the state. Why do I even bring this up? Well, over the years I have had many breakfast sandwiches that list Taylor ham, and when I enquired, they were actually using Case pork roll or another brand but thought all pork roll was Taylor ham.

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After all this, you might be asking, “What is pork roll?” From what I said before, we know that it’s pork based. Just think bologna, Spam and Canadian bacon. Or, better yet, try some at Island bagel, Hen and the Goat or Johnny’s Hot Dogs.

Bonus Seven Pack

When we can travel freely again, able to hit the road and explore, you will surely get hungry. Here is a compact list of 7 of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had outside of South Carolina.

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Daily Provisions

The Sandwich: 

Bacon, egg, white American cheese on a poppyseed roll. A perfectly constructed example of the classic bodega, deli, mom and pop, luncheonette etc. NYC breakfast sandwich. But hold on, this bacon is thick cut Berkshire pork with a perfectly round over-easy egg and American cheese melted ‘just so’ on a house poppy seed roll. Nirvana!

103 E 19th Street
New York, NY

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Chez Ma Tante

The Sandwich:

Sausage, eggs, gruyere cheese, aioli, Basque pickled peppers on a soft roll. A glorious, greasy assemblage of fluffy eggs, juicy house-made sausage and melted gruyere. A garnish of Basque pickled peppers make a valiant (but futile) effort to cut the fat, but who cares.

90 Calyer Street
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 389-3606

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Frank’s Deli and Restaurant

The Sandwich: Pork roll, egg, yellow American on a roll. Simple, but sublime, and just think….you might run into “the Boss” – yes, Bruce Springsteen is a customer!

1406 Main Street
Asbury Park, NJ
(732) 775-6682

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Summit Diner

The Sandwich:

Taylor pork roll, egg, cheese, hard roll. If you ever visit New Jersey (the diner capital of the world) this is your go-to diner. This barrel roofed beauty has been at this location since 1939. The classic is a production. The meat and egg cook on the grill while the cheese is placed on the roll and placed in a broiler. The result is a crunchy roll, perfectly melted cheese and, like the diner, a classic.

1 Union Place
Summit, NJ
(908) 277-3256

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John’s Roast Pork

The Sandwich:

Steak, eggs, provolone on a sesame roll. An iconic roast pork and cheese steak joint that serves a Philly version of the breakfast sandwich. A little tip: if you’re in Philly and want a cheesesteak that’s better than John’s, Geno’s or Pat’s, cross the river and get one at Donkey’s Place in Camden, NJ.

14 Snyder Ave.
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 463-1951

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Biscuit Love

The Sandwich:

“Easy Nasty” – Fried boneless chicken thigh, runny fried egg, aged cheddar, sausage gravy, buttermilk biscuit. Just be careful when you bite….it may end up all over you. Plan ahead, bring extra napkins.

316 11th Ave. S.
Nashville, TN
(615) 490-9584

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The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

The most respected bagel

The Sandwich:

Cured ham, cheddar, over easy egg, apple mustard, rosemary butter on sourdough.

Apple mustard and rosemary butter put a whole different spin on the classic.

799 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 872-9230

I hope you enjoyed our search. It’s hard not to appreciate the simple combination of egg, cheese, meat and bread. What a splendid mixture of protein, fat and comfort. For now, my work is done. But I hope you will seek out these wonderful, delicious, South Carolina breakfast sandwiches. Good eating!

Blair Witkowski
Author: Blair Witkowski

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