Bunk Sandwiches’ Tommy Habetz: How His Favorite Sandwich Came to Be

By Alisa Sloan, Foodable Contributor

The sandwich starts with the bacon. It’s from Daily’s in Montana — really thick but not too chewy, and hardwood-smoked but not too smoky — important qualities, since the sandwich has “aggressive bacon.” This is chef Tommy Habetz’s favorite sandwich, made at his Bunk Sandwiches restaurants: the simply named “Bacon Egg & Cheese.”

Basic as it sounds, it’s a spectacular way to spend your breakfast calories. The standard preparation is with an over-easy egg, but if you’re not a fan of runny yolks, you can get them over-medium or scrambled. You can even double-up, but on a personal note, I wouldn’t attempt this unless you don’t have anywhere to go later. It’s a big sandwich.

And finally, there’s the “controversial” roll.

“It’s not a very ‘west coast’ thing to have poppy seeds on a roll,” says Habetz, “but this is the roll I grew up with in Connecticut… just a fancier version. If you’ve been around New York, you know it.” There’s a hard crust, snappy poppy seeds, a dusting of flour on the bottom, and “people are really, really into it… or they’re not,” he says.  “Anybody who grew up with this roll will be into it, since [in Portland] you can’t really get this sort of New York breakfast sandwich.” 

Despite the possibility of splitting his diners into pro-roll/anti-roll factions, Habetz wanted that east coast deli style. “When we first started doing Bunk, I was searching for the perfect roll and couldn’t find it,” he says. Then one morning, Greg Mistell from Fleur de Lis bakery brought a ciabatta roll into his shop. Habetz liked it, but told him what he really wanted was a poppyseed hard roll. And being from Detroit, Mistell knew exactly what Tommy was talking about. So he came back two days later with samples. The crew at Bunk was exhausted by the time he showed up. It had been a long day at the restaurant, but they made a sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese on it. And then they had “the moment,” says Habetz, “We took a bite and we were like, ‘Yes! It’s all worth it’.”

According to Habetz, if you grew up eating Kaiser rolls, the Bacon Egg & Cheese will resonate for you. “My dad used to send me out to the bakery to get a dozen hard rolls and rye bread,” he says, “so this sandwich really brings me back home. It hits me on a purely gut level, and that is super satisfying to me.” 

Getting Saucy.

If you want to have it Tommy’s way, then HP Sauce is your condiment of choice. “When we ran the Gotham Tavern, it was at the time the gastropub movement was happening in Great Britain, and I was really into that. So I had a British importer deliver us jugs of HP.” As he glances over to a table laden with assorted hot sauce bottles, he adds, “I do love condiments. We don’t have nearly enough.” He starts to reminisce about a restaurant in New Orleans with an entire wall dedicated to hot sauces, and the condiment bar—all set out in giant pumps—at Kenny Rogers Roasters. “There was barbecue, ketchup, mustard, ranch… it was the mecca of condiments!” But on his own sandwich, he adds HP for tanginess, and Portland’s favorite Secret Aardvark sauce for heat.