Location: Battleground Deli, Manalapan, NJ
Okay, major backstory required here. If you’ve read my blogs before or have followed me on Snapchat or Twitter, you probably know that there’s a long history between the infamous Battleground Deli and I. Dating back to my high school days, Battleground Deli was the premier location in Manalapan, NJ for breakfast sandwiches. And given it’s location one traffic light away from the entrance to Manalapan High School, it was a common meet up spot for students before, during, and after school.
Shortly after graduation, Battleground Deli closed without notice. Devastating to some, I sought alternative locations for my breakfast fix, namely All-American Deli, a more than sufficient replacement. In the years since, rumors have circulated about Battleground Deli reopening their doors on many occasions. Banners were put up multiple times announcing the grand re-opening, none of which materialized. The business itself announced a possible re-opening for October 10, 2011! Almost 2 years ago exactly, Spring 2016 was the target re-opening. You can see for yourself; that was a lie. I was excited, only to be tremendously letdown once again. I wasn’t completely sold, but I pretty much bought in.
“They’ve been teasing re-openings for years though which is annoying.
This may be the real deal though.”
For the better part of a decade they’ve spewed lie after lie, and it seemed like I was the only one holding them accountable, telling them to go fuck themselves any chance I got (aka any time I drove by). In November of 2016, the doors finally reopened after years of deceit. I had mixed emotions. It was a long time coming, but I couldn’t simply forget about the false sense of hope they deployed. Or maybe I just didn’t want to.
“Will I ever walk into Battleground Deli again? I don’t know.”
“In summation, should I decide to make the return to Battleground Deli, they better bring the heat. But for now, fuck that place. Fuck Battleground Deli until further notice.”
In the year plus since, I have not stepped foot into Battleground Deli, but I’ve acknowledged that my protest may not be in fairness because the current owners have done nothing wrong; in fact, they’ve done what nobody else could do since BGDeli closed years ago. My antics and harsh words have always been directed at the liars who hung up banners for re-openings that never were. My passion for the Bacon Egg & Cheese has never wavered. And I’ve wrestled with the decision for months as to whether or not to go back. Today, I decided to put the past aside and give Battleground Deli a go. Because of all we’ve been through, they’d have to wow me to earn back my respect.
I prefer my BEC on a bagel so long that the bagels are good. A good bagel enhances the sandwich a much greater deal than a standard roll does. But Battleground Deli is one of few places where I order on a roll, so I went with the old reliable. Sometimes I’ll order with extra egg or cheddar cheese or well done bacon, but I needed their standard sandwich today; no funny business. If they can’t get me with their regular sammy, they won’t get a chance for speciality orders. I made sure to keep my sunglasses on as I did not want to be seen. The last thing I wanted was to be recognized as the guy who trashes the business any chance he gets. I wanted as typical an experience as any other customer. Glasses on, head down. “Bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll.” Under $5. Good start.
As I prepped to unwrap my sandwich, so many emotions rushed through my veins. I was nervous as hell as this was a big moment; I’d pitched my tent on the anti-Battleground Deli hill for a long time. I was confused because admittedly there was a sizable part of me that wanted the sandwich to suck so that I can say I was right all along and that I could continue hating Battleground Deli. I was hopeful because I was starving, and I wanted nothing more than a delicious BEC to satisfy me. But then I realized that maybe I was overthinking it all. And so I focused in on the task at hand, unwrapped the paper-lined foil, and opened the sandwich to get a closer look.
The runny yolk stood out right away. The eggs were damn near perfect. If anything I like them a little messier, but when you get super runny yolk you run the risk of the sandwich being too much work to keep together. If you like your yolks runny, you should be able to understand that. Give me runny yolk all day as long as we can stay in that sweet spot that Battleground Deli did. The bacon was lopsided but appeared to be well-cooked. It was. The roll felt and looked fresh, and clearly it had absorbed some of the yolk which I had no complaints about. And that was before I took a bite. I did have to search for the cheese briefly to make sure it was actually there, which it was. In terms of presentation, it was a little sloppy (see: bacon), but the runny yolk supersedes almost any shortcoming.
Visually strong, something would have to go terribly wrong for me to completely dismiss this BEC. I was pleased to find that the taste matched the aesthetics bite for bite. Critiques? Not many. I guess maybe a little more cheese would have helped. And the lopsidedness left me with few bites of both bacon and runny yolk. A more well put together sandwich could have fixed that, but when it comes to breakfast sandwiches, there’s no perfect algorithm nor do I want a cookie cutter sandwich. Overall I had very few complaints about it. My brother’s sandwich had no runny yolk at all, but I can’t base my score on a sandwich that I did not have.
The pressure was on for Battleground Deli though they didn’t know it. I asked to be wowed, and I was not disappointed. Battleground Deli put forth an A-game effort this morning, and they’ve earned a new customer in the process. Time passes. People change. For the time being, the protest is over. It was a fantastic breakfast sandwich that I look forward to enjoying again. But they’ll always be on thin ice. One slip up and I’ll turn my back on them so fast they won’t even know what grand reopening they’re planning next.
Official Score: 9.2 out of 10.