The Fried Egg Sandwich at Max's Wine Dive ranks among my top five Houston restaurant sandwiches.
Well, I should qualify that statement: my slightly altered version of Max's FES is one of my favorite sandwiches. The original FES contains bacon, which I sub out for avocado. Not that I have anything against bacon or pork products in general (see my recent love letter to roast suckling pig), but I find that its inclusion with an egg sandwich tends to make the whole concoction a tad too salty. I prefer the milder green creaminess of avocado here.
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I love the FES so much that I've even tried to make it at home, albeit with less fancy ingredients. The result is always disappointingly off the mark. The components to a good egg sandwich seem straightforward (eggs, toasted bread, cheese, lettuce, tomato), but the cooks at Max's are savvy enough to know that it's the tiny touches that transform a pedestrian breakfast sandwich into an obsession-inducing FES.
In the FES, three eggs are pan-fried in butter, then laced with truffle oil, giving them a complex, almost earthy, fatty flavor not found in your standard fried egg. Slices of gruyere are melted over the eggs, followed by a layering of Bibb lettuce and tomatoes done gently as not to prematurely break the yolks. Two thick slices of ciabatta thickly spread with a truffle aioli (and, in my case, smashed avocado) house the aforementioned interior ingredients, and the whole thing is grill-pressed again until the bread glows brown with butter.
Max's serves the FES impaled with a knife for those still convinced sandwiches must be halved (a holdover, I suspect, from childhood PB&Js). But I would advise at least initially refraining from cutting your FES. On a perfect night, your first or second bite will break a yolk that will then drip down the length of your sandwich, infusing the entire inside with savory yellow fluid. This dish easily competes with other more "sophisticated" entrees. Its type of sandwich that will always overshadow the decent fries that accompany it, and it should never be relegated to lunch or, God forbid, breakfast.
It's also the type of sandwich whose elevated price tag causes you to think simultaneously, "only that for $14" and "that only for $14." But you still return and pay and enjoy again and again.