New York City is known for a lot of things. Broadway, Times Square, The Statue of Liberty, being crowded, never sleeping, shitty airports, pizza, cheesecake (still we do not understand this one), hot dogs, and bagels, for example, are some of the reasons tourists flock here. But for those who live here there’s an NYC tradition just as important as those listed above, the egg sandwich breakfast. It’s as integral to many New Yorkers’ morning routines as coffee, barely making the subway, and avoiding dog poop on the street. It’s just part of our mornings. Paris has the croissant, London’s got the full English, and we’re proud to say we’ve got the egg sandwich.
But unlike other NYC traditions, up until recently our beloved fried egg on a roll has flown under the radar. There are no long lines of tourists waiting outside a deli to try “the original egg sandwich,” there’s no heated debate about which deli has said “original egg sandwich,” and no tourist has ever flown halfway around the world just to sample this breakfast delicacy. While it’s great that the egg sandwich has remained a local favorite, Sarah Schneider and Demetri Makoulis thought it deserved more recognition, and that’s why they opened Egg Shop last August. Ever since it’s been packed with New Yorkers looking for an upgrade on the breakfast classic, and there’s no sign of it slowing down any time soon.
We stopped into Egg Shop last week to chat with Sarah and Demetri and to try their incredible burrata filled with egg yolk, which yes, we know, is just about the most genius thing you could ever imagine.
S: Phoenix, AZ
Mimosa or Bloody Mary?
S: That really depends on the hangover
Poached, fried, or scrambled eggs?
S: All of the above
Best meal you’ve had in NYC in 2015:
S: Kiki’s Greek food
D: Easter at my parent’s place
S: The Eagles with my dad
D: Method Man
Where can I find you on a Friday night?
S: On my couch with a glass of wine
D: On the couch with Sarah or with the homies
S: Fish tacos
First thought when you woke up this morning:
S: I wish the sun were shining!
D: What time is it?
So first things first. Tell me about how you guys met.
S: I was drinking a margarita to go at “The Hat” in the LES and Demetri was there with some friends. His friend approached my girlfriend and I forcer her to give her number to him so that I could meet Demetri. We met again over the summer and took a trip to the Hamptons with a group of friends. We came back from the trip and have been together ever since. It will be 9 years in September!
D: We met in the Lower East Side at El Sombrero. I was out with a couple of buddies doing a little daydrink-and-ride on our BMX bikes and we’d always start at Sombrero because they served margaritas to go with abandon. When we rolled up that day, Sarah was sitting outside with her roommate, and I went to go get the drinks. My friend started talking to them and before I cam back they were gone, but he had gotten their number and became friendly with them. Later that summer, we went out to his beach house and Sarah came along. I guess fate sort of took care of the rest because that was 2006!
Where did the idea for Egg Shop come from? I’m assuming you both love eggs, but how does a love for eggs become a brick and mortar restaurant?
S: The idea for Egg Shop came out of necessity! How was I living in NYC and unable to find a place dedicated to the egg sandwich? The egg sandwich is about as New York as it gets but nobody was giving it the attention it deserved! As I grew up and started to care about what I was eating, I wanted to eat organic, healthy ingredients, which the typical deli egg sandwich doesn’t deliver. I had been talking about Egg Shop for about 4 years when I was finally introduced to our now partner and executive chef, Nick Korbee. He was able to interpret my dream and add to it with his own unique spin on the egg sandwich.
D: That’s 100% Sarah. She told me her idea and I loved it, but I was sure someone had tried it or it existed elsewhere. When I couldn’t find any other egg sandwich-centric restaurants, I asked our friend and now partner, Florian, to give me a crash course in restaurant economics and, with his help, I immersed myself in creating hypothetical financial models and budgets. I had some experience raising capital for film which makes investing in restaurants look like U.S. treasuries, so I figured we could pull together what we needed to get off the ground. The toughest part was finding a talented chef that understood and could translate our vision, and then finding the real estate. Well, we met our incredible chef and partner Nick and fell in love with our space as soon as we saw it, and, for better or worse, we were off to the races.
Sarah, you’re from California. What’s the first thing you guys do and the first thing you guys eat when you go visit?
S: I run to The Brigantine in Coronado for fish tacos and clam chowder or head to Santanas for a burrito!
D: I joke that I feel like a diplomat when I arrive in San Diego, because we land, get picked up and get whisked over to the brig for fish tacos and chowder, like immediately upon arrival. I guarantee you Sarah said the same exact thing.
What’s it like working together? What aspects of the business do each of you work on?
S: Working together has been fascinating. You really learn what gifts the other has. Demetri has been instrumental in the financial side of Egg Shop. Business plans, raising money, all the sexy stuff. I’m at the shop every day managing. I think It’s great working together in this capacity. We’re not side by side all day long, but we’re both working towards the same goal, and that’s to make Egg Shop be the best it can be!
D: Personally, I love it. We are such different personalities in aspects that our differences are major complements. But we’re also fundamentally very similar particularly in our competitive nature and our drive to accomplish, which are major assets. Above all else, and this apples to our partners, Nick and Florian, there’s a trust and language between us that’s effortless. It doesn’t hurt that Sarah and I have been together for almost 9 years, Florian has been a part of our lived even longer, and once we met Nick it’s as though we’ve all been together for the better part of a decade. It’s extremely rare and gratifying. As for what I do, I see myself as a utility player, but primarily I’m big picture strategy.
Egg Shop has been busy from the moment your doors opened. Why do you think you’ve been so successful so quickly?
S: Everyone loves an egg sandwich, and this was the first spot in NYC dedicated to it! It was missing in the market place. I truly believe people care about what they eat, and they appreciate that we use organic eggs.
D: Good concept, good location, good vibe, good timing, amazing food.
What’s been the biggest struggle in getting Egg Shop to where it is now?
S: We’re learning an entirely new business. This is our first time opening and operating a restaurant. We have amazing support from the people around us, but it can be overwhelming. I think learning to cope with the day to day issues and stress has been the most challenging part.
D: Little things like, ohhh, figuring out how to own and operate a restaurant in NYC lol. I’m kind of kidding, but also serious. This is a totally differen business model than either of us had experienced, so understanding this and learning how to thrive within it was an uphill climb.
And what’s a moment when you’ve thought “Okay, it was all worth it”?
S: When we got a shout out from Vogue! No, seriously thought, the first weekend we opened there were lines around the block. We were in utter disbelief, but it reiterated we had something exciting on our hands.
D: Naively enough, when we stood in our completed space, I was in awe of the journey we embarked on and how far we came to just reach the starting line. It was incredibly rewarding to have done this with Sarah, and in that moment I think we experienced something that few couples get to experience.
While I’m a firm advocate for always putting an egg on it, some people might say that the egg thing is just a trend. Do you ever worry that people might just get sick of eggs?
S: People have been eating eggs since the beginning of time. I don’t understand when people say it’s a “trend”. If anything we’re excited that the egg is being used outside of just breakfast meals. The egg is the most versatile ingredient around. It’s not going anywhere!
D: People may be talking about eggs more these days, and the noise may get louder or die out, but at day’s end it’s still an egg. I can’t even process the statement “people might just get sick of egg.” It’s like an oxymoron to me.
Egg Shop has a really cool and relaxed vibe, and now that I’ve met you two I can see why! How would you each describe your personal styles?
S: I have my Cali roots mixed with 15 years of working in the denim business in NYC. Jeans and a T-shirt go a long way in my book but I do love to mix things up. A girlfriend of mine once described my style as “Modern 80s”! I think she was referring to my love of a good leather jacket.
D: Sarah’s going to hate me for this, but anything vintage Polo. It’s definitely evolving now that I’m a grown up boy, but my heart will always be tied to teddy bear sweaters and the like.
Tell me something about the other that most people don’t know:
S: “D” is fluent in Greek and that’s pretty sexy.
D: Sarah was a child model in JC Penney catalogues, fashioning horrid sweater that likely lowered the self-esteem of kids forced to wear them.
What’s next for you guys and for Egg Shop?
S: “D” and I are getting married in Tulum next February, so there is lots of planning happening! Egg Shop will be 1 year old 8/17/15 which is pretty unbelievable and we’re looking for the perfect place for Egg Shop number 2!
D: Continuing to think carefully about the most sensible and most prudent next step, because it’s an important one.
What’s something you wish you had known before you opened your own business?
S: Nothing. I would not have gone through with it!
D: That anything can go wrong, does go wrong, and you just have to figure out a way not to freak out each time it does.
Describe your dream food day if calories didn’t exist and you could teleport anywhere at any moment.
S: Mexican food all day every day!
D: I’d be in my family’s small town of Naoussa in Greece. Like the summers of my childhood when my parents would ship me there for the summer, we’d have a lamb on a spit cooking for hours and a banquet of homemade foods and local wines. It’s a farming and wine-growing region, so pretty much everything was fresh, down to the poor little lamb…
Egg Shop is located at 151 Elizabeth Street. They’re open every day for breakfast/brunch/lunch and dinner.
If you’ve been for brunch already, please, please return for dinner because it’s the only time you can get that yolk-filled burrata, among other things.