Rosemary Black of the Daily News sizes up breakfast combos.
Wake up and smell the breakfast combos. The coffee-enhanced fast-food meals can make getting out of bed a little less painful – and a little less expensive, too. With two new “artisan” breakfast sandwiches making their debut Monday, Starbucks is joining Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s in a pitch for the consumer’s breakfast dollar: the other two chains have offered a.m. combos for a while. So are they worth it? And just how bad, or good, are they?
We got a sneak preview of the new Starbucks sandwiches, and also sampled the morning fare at Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s. Here’s our take on how the combos taste and if they actually are a bargain. (Prices vary slightly from store to store.)
Starbucks Artisan Bacon Sandwich (comes with coffee for $3.95, 380 calories): It’s called “artisan” because it’s on a ciabatta-style country roll, and it’s actually pretty good. The roll was crunchy and fresh, the bacon was cooked just right and the Parmesan and Gouda-flavored frittata was soft and creamy. As for the coffee, well, you either love or hate Starbucks coffee. You actually do save money here: a tall coffee a la carte will set you back $1.75, but when you order it as a combo you save more than $1.
Starbucks Artisan Ham Sandwich (comes with coffee for $3.95, 370 calories): A similar sandwich but made with Black Forest ham, and Cheddar instead of Gouda. The roll was crisp and crunchy, the frittata nicely balanced and not overly firm. Here, too, you save $1 if you order the combo.
Dunkin Donuts Waffle Breakfast Sandwich ($3.99 with a medium coffee, 390 calories): This newcomer to the Dunkin Donuts breakfast menu is touted as the first fast food breakfast sandwich made with waffles. The waffles have a faint maple flavor that doesn’t quite resonate with the egg and meat filling. The eggs held between the two waffles are just so-so, and the waffles could be a little more crisp. The bacon was good, however, and Dunkin Donuts coffee is excellent. You’ll save well over a dollar if you order the combo since a medium coffee is over $2 and the a la carte waffle sandwich is slightly more than $3.
Dunkin Donuts Egg White Flatbread ($4.28 with a medium coffee, 290 calories): This item is good for the weight conscious, though the flatbread was on the dry side and the reduced-fat cheese wasn’t as tangy and rich as full-fat cheese. Adding more veggies would do wonders here but all in all, this sandwich is not a bad way to start the day. Here, too, you’ll save more than $1 with the combo as the a la carte sandwich runs about $3.20.
McDonald’s Bacon, Egg and Cheese McGriddle ($4.13 as a combo with hash browns and coffee or OJ, 570 calories for the meal; sandwich alone is $2.79 and 420 calories): The sweet-salty concoction is surprisingly small for 420 calories: a little round, soft bun that’s already injected with some sort of maple-tasting sweetener holds a small square of firm, tasteless egg, a strip of limp bacon and a slice of American cheese plastered to the egg. The accompanying hash browns are an oval-shaped wedge that’s acceptable but definitely not as good as McDonald’s french fries. (Hint: Serve with catsup.) This is unquestionably one of the heartiest breakfast combos out there, though it still weighs in with nearly 200 calories less than the McDonald’s burrito. If you order the combo rather than the sandwich, hash browns and coffee, you’ll save 90 cents.
McDonald’s McSkillet Burrito with Sausage ($4.49 as a combo with hash browns and either coffee or OJ; 760 calories): It’s hard to justify consuming so many calories just on breakfast. This one’s not for the faint of heart, nor is it all that tasty. A soft flour tortilla holds a filling of scrambled egg, potato chunks, a few minute flecks of bell peppers, tossed with a halved sausage patty, American cheese and a hot sauce that’s just a little too acidic first thing in the morning. You’ll save money, though: the special costs $1.10 less than if you buy all three items – burrito, coffee, hash browns – individually.