Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown: Dunkin' Donuts Vs. Starbucks

The hyper-importance of breakfast as regards overall physical wellness has been largely discredited, but the first meal of the day is still crucial from a psychological perspective. From a strictly corporeal angle, the totality of your day's calorie and nutrient intake matters more than the composition of any individual feedin', but breakfast remains your psyche's best shot at starting the day off on the less-repulsive foot.

I like to make myself a decent breakfast for the same reason I like to make my bed: Because it means two deeds get done properly before I set about another day of fucking up everything in sight. Sometimes the egg-heating and sheet-straightening momentum carries over for a bit, and I make it all the way to noon without losing my phone or eating three beef-and-cream donuts, but even when everything falls to hell as soon as I leave the house, the rest of the day can't take away my early-morning achievement badges.

It's very easy to make a reasonable breakfast. It takes four minutes, 70 cents, and zero talents to scramble a couple of eggs onto an English muffin. But I understand that not everyone has my exact combination of leisure and ambition. If you've got kids, say, or a hangover, your situation could be compromised to the point where you need to seek your eggs elsewhere.

Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks have new breakfast sandwiches available for people who don't make their beds. I'll tell you all about them, and then you can decide whether either one fits into your idea of the good life.

Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown: Dunkin' Donuts Vs. Starbucks

Dunkin' Donuts' Chicken Apple Sausage Breakfast Sandwich

This is a weird one. It starts off humbly enough on an undercooked English muffin and features the obligatory slice of flavorless orange cheese, but both the sausage and egg components are departures from what I've come to expect from New England's most overrated culinary institution (Dunkin' Donuts coffee is awful, and most of the food is mediocre).

The fried-egg disk was light and fluffy, and the yolk-like element was reassuringly misshapen and off-center—I get suspicious when there's a perfect sphere of Crayola-yellow protein in the middle of a fast-food egg patty. I'm not saying this egg was freshly hatched and cooked to order, but I don't think it's overly naïve to assume it had contact with a hen at some point in 2014. So thumbs up to the egg.

The sausage was a more complicated affair. First off, it came in split-link form rather than the traditional patty; it looked like a butterflied hot dog. That's all right, though it did throw off muffin coverage and bite consistency to a certain extent. It was indeed sweet, as promised by the marketing copy, though I'd never have guessed the flavor crystals floating in the loosely packed casing were apple bits. Overall, I'd call the sausage a success, though, because I'm an easy grader, and because it wasn't greasy or otherwise distasteful. My sandwich was undone by the nearly raw English muffin, but if you happen upon a donutician with a better feel for the oven, you could do worse for $3.79.

Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown: Dunkin' Donuts Vs. Starbucks

Starbucks' Slow-Roasted Ham and Swiss Breakfast Sandwich.

I'm not sure why this mouthful of words omits the critical information that this sandwich is served on a croissant roll. I realize that's a dangerously European word to put on a ham-sandwich billboard, but at least it means something concrete, unlike "slow-roasted" (in this context), and it's not as if Starbucks is squeamish about making us talk funny. Anyhow, damn good bun on this sandwich. It's buttery and flaky, with enough salt to balance the sweetness, and is marred only by a bit more grease than strictly necessary.

The ham was disappointing. It wasn't slimy, which is usually enough to guarantee a pleasant ham experience, but this was just a tiny pile (maybe an ounce and a quarter) of thinly sliced pink meat that lacked any sort of smoky or otherwise hammy character— it may as well have been turkey or some other damn thing. The egg disk wasn't very good, either. It was too thin and rubbery, and the color scheme was disconcerting: yellow on top and white underneath.

The endeavor was salvaged by some of the best fast-food cheese I've come across. The melted Swiss was rich and tangy, and a nice counterpoint to the croissant bun. It's tough to recommend a $4.45 breakfast sandwich with weak eggs and meat, but the very good bread and cheese make Starbucks the winner this time. (Please start making your own breakfast.)

WINNER: STARBUCKS

Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain.

Image by Sam Woolley.

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