On the Sunny Side Up: Inside the Upcoming I Egg You Storefront
May 8, 2023 @ 12:00pm
Scott Drewno brings a chef’s touch to elegant fried-egg sandwiches.
Scott Drewno hates sad hotel buffet eggs, has no time for shoddily prepared diner eggs. The chef is boggled by why someone would mistreat the perfect ingredient, turning it into unappealing, unpalatable slop. With love and a little technique, eggs are an epiphany: ovular blank canvases ready to be transformed in nearly countless ways, truly the ultimate breakfast food.
Drewno is determined to give the egg its due at I Egg You, the pandemic-born weekend popup inside the shuttered CHIKO on Barracks Row. The eatery is powered by Drewno — former executive chef of The Source and a James Beard Award semifinalist — and his business partner Danny Lee, another James Beard Award semifinalist who founded beloved Korean restaurant Mandu. They collaborate as The Fried Rice Collective, the restaurant group responsible for the wildly popular Chinese–Korean fast-casual chainlet CHIKO and the much-decorated modern Korean restaurant Anju.
I Egg You has a simple vision: to serve up memorable fried-egg sandwiches, but with a few cheffy touches. Originally, Drewno envisioned using homemade sourdough for his handheld breakfast ’wiches. Then Lee introduced him to the milk bread made at Shilla Bakery, a Korean bakery with four locations in Northern Virginia and two in Maryland. Drewno instantly realized the fluffy white bread — think of it as richer, slightly sturdier Wonder Bread with a whisper of sweetness — would be the ideal foundation. Bonus: They would be supporting a local business, which is why they also decided to source sausage from Logan’s Sausage and use Ivy City Smokehouse’s lox.
Unnaturally orange American cheese is not part of the equation at I Egg You, which relies on fontina instead.
“It’s the perfect melty cheese and it has a nutty richness that provides a depth of flavor,” Drewno explains.
Though eggs were originally sourced from a regional purveyor, the farm shut down, so they now come from several suppliers. Due to the bird flu that hit flocks at the beginning of last year, killing nearly 58 million birds, at the time of writing the price of eggs was more than double than when the eatery opened.
“It’s a challenge that we’ll work through and rebound from,” Drewno says. “Things like this happen to us all the time. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
Rather than simply griddling the eggs sunny-side up, they’re fried in brown butter, creating a crispy golden crust on the bottom.
“It’s the anti-French way,” Drewno jokes. “These are not soft-scrambled eggs.”
The core sandwich comes with a ready-to-pop sunny side-up egg and fontina, with the option to add bacon or confit sausage, as well as bonus boosters such as avocado, Old Bay-laced mayo, house hot sauce and candied jalapeños based on a recipe Drewno learned from beloved local cookbook author Cathy Barrow. The menu also features a BLT; toast slathered with whipped cream cheese and apricot pepper jelly (another recipe inspired by Barrow); and a bagel-inspired toast with cream cheese, lox, daubs of whipped deviled eggs, chopped egg whites, capers and red onion slivers.
Every weekend, the eatery sells 250 to 300 sandwiches to take-out and delivery customers, many clamoring for the popup to go brick and mortar. This spring, those customers will get their wish when an expanded version of I Egg You opens in a permanent home at 517 8th Street in Southeast, next door to Matchbox. The breakfast options will grow, a new lunch menu of sandwiches and salads will be added and there will be a full bar serving seemingly every brunch-y cocktail imaginable, including micheladas, Irish coffee, bellinis and Pimm’s Cups. At night, it will become an event space.
This won’t be the last restaurant you see from The Fried Rice Collective. It’s just the beginning.
“I worked for somebody else for 16 years of my life,” says Drewno, nodding to his tenure working for Wolfgang Puck. “I feel a little bit like a caged animal. I have a bunch of concepts and ideas I want to do.”
Whatever The Fried Rice Collective hatches next, it’s sure to be egg-ceptional.
I Egg You: 423 8th St. SE, DC; ieggyou.com // @ieggyou
Check out our short list of more egg-cellent sandos to crack open your day.
Say hello to The Mayor — packed with scrambled eggs, bacon boasting sweet heat and melted American and cheddar — or go bold with the two-patty burger with an optional-but-obviously-necessary fried egg. 3420 Connecticut Ave. NW + 1921 8th St. NW, DC; crackedeggery.com // @crackedeggery
View this post on Instagram
Sunday Morning Bakehouse
Presented on a buttery pillow of a brioche bun slathered with aioli, the indulgent breakfast ’wich features a mound of scrambled eggs, toothsome slabs of bacon and a capelet of Swiss cheese. 11869 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD; sundaymorningbakehouse.com // @sundaymorningbakehouse
View this post on Instagram
For a Levantine-minded kickstart, get the Urfa-thing bagel with scrambled eggs, kashkaval cheese and zingy green tatbili relish, or a za’atar croissant slit open to contain a fried egg, swipe of labneh and smoked peppers. 1524 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; yellowthecafe.com // @yellowthecafe
View this post on Instagram
Want to discover more of D.C.’s diverse and delicious food scene? Join the District Fray community for exclusive access to culinary experiences citywide. Become a member and support local journalism today.