Hi Helen, a West Seattle breakfast sandwich pop-up, was born like many others in 2020. Sarah Decelle, the woman behind Hi Helen (named for an inside joke with her siblings), was working for an events company when the pandemic took hold in March. She was furloughed and eventually laid off — and initially, she used her time to write a business plan for a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“I was making menus and came to the conclusion that it’s not going to just happen, I have to build a following and reputation,” Decelle said during a recent phone call.
Instead of searching for real estate, she honed her recipes and on Oct. 3 posted her first pop-up, ultimately selling 16 sandwiches, “several to friends and family,” she says.
Decelle chose breakfast sandwiches because of her love for them. “It’s not that Seattle doesn’t have breakfast sandwiches, it totally does,” she says. She just wanted something more.
She grew up on the Jersey Shore and says all throughout middle and high school, breakfast sandwiches were an everyday occurrence.
“We’d have our old haunt we’d go to and literally sit underneath a sign that said ‘no loitering’ eating our sandwiches and drinking Snapple,” she says.
After college she moved to New York City, and her weekends were fueled by a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich from her neighborhood bodega.
Hi Helen sandwiches start with a poppy seed roll that Decelle bakes fresh, and come topped with melty white American cheese, scrambled eggs and your choice of bacon or sausage with chipotle mayo or a long-cooked garlic kale with horseradish mayo. There’s also always something sweet on offer — anything from chocolate chip cookies or a slice of cake to incredible oatmeal cream pies.
At first, Decelle was popping up every other Saturday; during the second pop-up, she doubled her orders. Soon after, she started selling out at 60 sandwiches every Saturday.
Preorders go live the Tuesday before the pop-up and you can select your time slot for pickup, but don’t delay. The earliest pickup time the Saturday of my Hi Helen experience was 2 p.m. Considering I’m usually up by 6 a.m., this seemed almost absurd to me, but if I’m going to eat an egg sandwich in the afternoon (after probably already eating eggs once?), it’s going to be a Hi Helen sandwich. One bite brought me back to my last New York City visit; a wonderfully squishy bun, ooey-gooey cheese and a kick from that chipotle mayo.
Decelle is eyeing a kitchen space that will allow her to expand on pop-up days, eventually increase the amount of sandwiches and maybe even hire a second person to help out. In the meantime, follow Hi Helen on Instagram (instagram.com/hi_helen_seattle) for dates and ordering information for the next pop-up.
If the idea of a great breakfast sandwich excites you as much as it does me, here are three others I’ve loved lately.
Post Alley Pizza
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; 1123 Post Ave., Seattle; 206-382-8475; postalley.pizza
Ruel and Andrew Gregory started turning pizza dough into sesame-seed-topped English muffins in late summer, selling them only Saturday mornings beginning at 10 a.m. The menu specifics change weekly, but there’s always bacon and sausage plus a veg option or one of the muffins slathered simply with butter and cinnamon sugar. I recommend grabbing a sausage sandwich — griddled crispy and topped with an over-medium egg and a slice of good old American cheese — plus a cup of Elm Roasters coffee and, if it’s sunny, taking a stroll through the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park. If you can wait, grab a log at Pocket Beach and watch the boat traffic come and go while savoring the sandwich.
Noon-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; pickup at Ben Paris in the State Hotel, 130 Pike St., Seattle; baonseattle.com
Baon is a love letter from Ben Paris sous chef Ethan Leung and his partner Geri Leung to the Filipino food of their youth, and they’ve been popping up at Ben Paris since early August. Recently they added a weekend brunch, including a very good breakfast sandwich with an over-easy egg, cheese and longanisa sausage on a slightly sweet pandesal bun. The egg stayed perfectly intact even on the drive home, the longanisa loose and wonderfully juicy. The sandwich is served with crispy fried potatoes, perfectly salted and creamy on the inside. Order in advance and select your time slot for pickup at Ben Paris, located inside the State Hotel in downtown Seattle.
Check sunnyupseattle.com for truck location and schedule
This food truck has been serving up breakfast sandwiches since fall 2017, usually parking Thursday-Sunday everywhere from Columbia City and West Seattle to Shoreline and Edmonds. All the sandwiches are named after famous women; grab a Mia Ham or a Patstrami Cline plus crispy hash brown patties, Greek yogurt with granola, or cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes. I had the Ruth Bacon Ginsburg, slathered with a tomato jam that was so amazing I wished for an extra cup of it to dip my crispy harissa salt-spiked hash brown in it. You can order in advance, or just walk up to the truck and order there. Hours are usually until around 2 p.m., but I would suggest getting there earlier than later.