West Egg Cafe
1100 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta GA 30318 (Map); 404-872-3973; westeggcafe.com
Cooking Method: Flat-top
Short Order: Industrial-chic corner spot is best known for killer breakfast, but does an exceptional burger, too
Want Fries with That? Yes, but order them as a shareable side to get more bang for your buck
Price: Burger, $8; PB&J Burger, $9.25
As a degree-carrying English major and unabashed literanerd, I was probably predisposed to like a place that takes its name from The Great Gatsby. As a serious breakfast fan, I definitely appreciate the all-day availability of pancakes, omelets, and build-your-own biscuits. But for your friendly neighborhood AHT correspondent, it was the moment I first bit into the beefy-meets-creamy-meets-melty-meets-salty-meets-sweet-meets-squishy PB&J Burger that I truly fell in love with West Egg Cafe.
It's been named the city's best breakfast joint, and that early-riser menu creates a niche that helps it stand out in the same mixed-use complex as hotspots like Yeah! Burger, Ormsby's, Abattoir, and JCT Kitchen. But Westsiders have discovered West Egg's lunch and dinner offerings as well...and there's even a hip bar, coffeehouse, and bakery counter—with those famous Coca-Cola cupcakes!—for getting all manner of buzz on at almost any hour.
The regular menu features two burgers, both employing twin quarter-pound patties tucked between a superb H&F Bread Co. bun. The simply-named Burger ($8) adds two slices of American cheese and housemade pickles, with the addition of some lettuce being the main factor distinguishing it visually from Bocado's famed double-stack just down the street... which, of course, itself bears a striking resemblance to Holeman & Finch's much-hyped burger across town.
While West Egg's version doesn't quite live up to those world-class iterations, it is a very good burger in its own right. As with many double-stacks, these patties are fairly thin and on the smallish side, so forget the pink interior that so many of us (me included) geek out about. Nope, you won't be asked for your preference, instead automatically getting the kitchen's default doneness, which I'd peg at right around well done. Even still, mine was plenty juicy and very good, if underseasoned. That said, "very good" is different from "spectacular," and the Burger seemed like it needed something more: maybe a simple swipe of mayo or a dab of some chef-crafted sauce to add that one missing component and perhaps put this burger in the same class as the city's other bucket-listers.
I'll submit that the PB&J Burger ($9.25) is already there, although I'd be willing to wager that most ATLiens don't know about it. While I've enjoyed both peanut butter and jelly as surprisingly-good burger toppings (though, thankfully, not on the same burger), West Egg goes a bit off-book with the initials, subbing in pimiento cheese, bacon, and tomato jam.
Each component works beautifully on its own: the rich pimiento cheese oozing everywhere, the crisp and salty bacon offering a vital textural contrast, and the tomato jam proving itself to be the real superstar. Sweeter than you'd expect, it pulls the whole package together and is actually the thing that makes you sit up and take notice of the PB&J. When the couple at the next table over asked if it was as good as it looked, I couldn't recommend it highly enough. It's even better than the sum of its parts and is one I'll be remembering fondly for a while.
West Egg takes a less-is-more approach to sides that fits its lighter soup-and-sandwich vibe. A field greens salad or cup of soup is the standard accompaniment, with both the black bean chili and beef-and-barley soup heartily cutting through the early October chill. Fries can be swapped in for an extra $1.50, but I'd argue that getting the much-larger bowl for $4 and making them a shareable for everyone in your party is the better call. They're crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside, and expertly seasoned.
I love the noisy atmosphere of West Egg Cafe. I love the heavy-duty industrial decor. I love the vintage photo booth and the Coca-Cola cupcakes and the Wednesday night burger special that changes monthly and the fact that I feel a little bit cooler for having spent some time there. But unquestionably, what I love most is the PB&J Burger. That, and the classic-lit tie-in. Any excuse to make that English degree seem like a worthwhile investment.