Special Report

Fast Food Chains With the Best Breakfast Menus

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Panera Bread

Strictly speaking, Panera isn’t a fast-food restaurant — it’s what the food service industry calls a fast-casual chain. In fact, it is given credit for having pioneered the concept, and according to the latest figures available it’s the leading example of the genre by a comfortable margin. Though it projects a classier, calmer image than, say, McDonald’s or Taco Bell, however, it is often included in rankings along with places like that — and it has made a serious commitment to breakfast. There are ten different breakfast sandwiches and wraps (the former on various kinds of bread), as well as two baked egg soufflés, plus servings of steel-cut oatmeal with strawberries and pecans and Greek yogurt with mixed berries.

Shake Shack

Unfortunately, Shake Shack in general isn’t open for breakfast, but a few select locations are — among them the Shacks in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, the Delta terminal at JFK, and Washington D.C.’s Union Station, as well as the location that started it all, in midtown Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. If you happen upon one of these, the choices are few and straightforward — sausage, egg, and cheese; bacon, egg, and cheese; or just egg and cheese — but this is Shake Shack, so the eggs are cage-free and the meats are from Niman Ranch. And there’s the chain’s custom coffee blend from Stumptown as an accompaniment.

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Sonic

Breakfast burritos in four variations — including the Ultimate Meat & Cheese Breakfast Burrito (bacon, sausage, potato tots, scrambled eggs, and cheddar) — are the big thing here. Filling out the menu, which is served all day, are breakfast sandwiches on Texas toast, French toast sticks, and Cinnabon Cinnasnacks with cream cheese frosting.

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Starbucks

The world’s largest coffee shop chain typically offers a selection of bagels, but really hits the breakfast big time with its array of breakfast sandwiches and wraps. Among these are a spinach, feta, and cage-free egg white wrap, a chicken sausage and bacon biscuit with country-style gravy and spiced honey butter, and a hickory-smoked ham, Swiss, and egg sandwich on a croissant. Add in classic and blueberry oatmeal and sous-vide egg bites in three variations and of course that endless parade of coffee- and tea-based beverages.

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Subway

People are sometimes surprised to learn that breakfast is served at this sandwich-and-salad operation — the largest fast food chain in the world, with about 43,000 units around the globe (McDonald’s is in second place, with a mere 37,200). Not all locations do the morning meal, but it’s worth looking for one that does. The variations on the breakfast sandwich here involve unusual folded-over, slightly spongy squares of flatbread, enclosing egg and cheese; bacon, egg, and cheese; Black Forest ham, egg, and cheese; or (thin-sliced) steak, egg, and cheese.

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