6. Old-fashioned glazed donut
In the case of this tasty little treat, I’d like to congratulate Starbucks for taking a classic and leaving it be rather than gussying it up with needless artisanal bullshit. This is a basic-ass buttermilk donut, and it tastes exactly as it should: fluffy, chewy, and gently drizzled with a thin layer of glazed topping. If I was the type of person who sat around Starbucks and stared into the distance with a coffee in one hand and a pastry in the other, this would be in heavy rotation for the latter half of that equation.
5. Iced lemon pound cake
Though it suffers ever so slightly from high flavor variance between one bite and the next, the tandem of moist, finely textured cake and rich lemon icing makes this pound cake the outright winner of Starbucks pastry excellence. You’re only fooling yourself if you think this is a sensible breakfast option for daily consumption, but you wouldn’t be wrong in choosing this over the ephemeral options that will inevitably come and go over the years. Also, this is a sensible breakfast option.
4. Spinach & feta wrap
The carnivore in me wanted to hate this on principle, but there’s a lot to like about the best meat-free breakfast option available at Starbucks. The egg whites and feta are excellent complements to one another, the spinach exists more for an herbaceous flavor than a veggie texture, and the whole-wheat wrap is a durable-enough container to keep it all in without exploding in your hand. A corner or two suffered from mild freezer burn, but that’s a minor quibble with what turned out to be the most unexpected pleasure on the whole menu.
3. Spicy chorizo, Monterey Jack & egg breakfast sandwich
Starbucks is a few years late to the Sriracha craze, but this flagship vehicle for the popular hot sauce is as good as it gets. From the herbed potato bread -- a welcome upgrade from floury bread that can torpedo the other breakfast sandwiches -- to the spicy-and-sweet chorizo that cooks up perfectly in the convection oven, this is as good as it gets for an early morning meal that’s not a carb explosion with a sugar crash waiting around the corner.
2. Italian-style ham & spicy salami panini
With a combo of lunch meats made infamous by Subway’s Italian BMT, expectations were not high for an item that could have tasted like hot dog burps in sandwich form. Much to our surprise, Starbucks really knocked it out of the park by coating some cold cuts with melty provolone, olive tapenade, and a dose of pickled peppers that are just the right mix of sweet and sour. The pepper mix reminded me of my favorite topping at Portland and Brooklyn’s Bunk, which is a compliment of the highest order for the sandwich savvy. Plus -- and this is big -- it’s a lot tidier and road-friendly than the drippy piles of grease you’d find at Big Sandwich Chain.
1. Chicken artichoke panini
The previous panini left me shrugging, but all is forgiven now that we know this sandwich exists. Rather than leaning on a salty sauce or some melted cheese to do the heavy lifting, the medley of ingredients -- a zesty pesto sauce melted over tender chicken breast and juicy artichoke hearts -- is damn near perfect. If this came in Hot Pocket form, I would invest in an industrial freezer chest just to keep a lifetime supply on hand. Conversely, the idea of a tapas bar selling this sandwich for $15 is totally within reason. Come to think of it, there’s probably a tapas bar in your city that’s nestled between a Starbucks and a yoga studio, and it’s my duty as a journalist to inform you that you needn’t travel any further than your local Starbucks to treat yourself to a fancy-ass sandwich like this one. Hell, you probably don’t even have to get out of your car. God bless America!
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Pete Cottell resisted the idea of Starbucks for years, but now that he knows it has fancy sandwiches he can't stay away from the place. Follow his pastry-fueled misadventures: @vanifestdestiny.