The Tenzing Norgay means you no harm. It is but a humble breakfast sandwich, at a humble price ($4.75), served by a humble Hyde Park sandwich shop on 57th Street named Z&H MarketCafe. The chorizo-egg torta at Rick Bayless' Xoco, no less modest, would like you to at least notice it; the bread is as squashed as the wheat holding the Tenzing Norgay, but notice those knuckles of house-made sausage, well-oiled by slices of avocado, mingling with a sharp splash of tomatillo.
For breakfast, it's loud-ish. The volume goes to 4.
But that kind of quietude is also welcome at 8 a.m. Harder to reconcile, at Z&H and Xoco, is the lack of attention the restaurants' breakfasts receive. Z&H opened its first location on 47th Street, in Kenwood, in 2008; this second spot, about 8 months old, with a welcoming silver garage door front that rolls up when the weather's nice, would be painfully overhyped by now if it were found north of Roosevelt Road.
The daily silence that greets Xoco's fantastic breakfast is more of a mystery, considering the lines that tend to form a couple of hours later for lunch. Both, though, are criminally underrated in the a.m.: Xoco's ham and cheese bread pudding ($3.50), and its grilled French toast sprinkled with bacon, are beyond undervalued; same for Z&H's croissant piled with La Quercia prosciutto and cream cheese, or its seitan sandwich bundled with egg and cranberry chipotle.
The best breakfast sandwiches at Z&H, though, are the Tenzing Norgay (named for the Nepalese climber who assisted Edmund Hillary on Mount Everest) and the Nodalbingia (a region of medieval Saxony). Both are grilled and feature scrambled organic eggs from Milo's Poultry Farm in Wisconsin. The Tenzing overflows with thin slices of ham and muenster. The Nodalbingia ($3.75) wears its egg bigger, sitting on slices of challah, with Gruyere and roasted tomato.
As for the two breakfast tortas at Xoco — the chorizo and egg ($7.50), which finds room for chopped onions, a little dried jack cheese and a rounded Mexican flatbread called telera, is the boldest (and most gut-busting). The open-faced breakfast torta ($4.50), which doesn't quite resemble a sandwich, is all smoke and depth. A poached egg nuzzles into a halved bolillo bun, beneath a spread of roasted tomato serrano sauce and crumbly queso fresco cheese. Then it's pulled from a wood-grill oven, curls of scent popping off like a fresh-baked pie on "Tom and Jerry."
Xoco: 449 N. Clark St., 312-334-3688; Z&H MarketCafe: 1323 E. 57th St., 773-538-7372
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