Starbucks' Newest Breakfast Item Is Its Least Practical Yet

The new Potato, Cheddar & Chive Bakes are great on paper but (literally) fall apart on execution.

In its journey to becoming America's number-two fast food chain, Starbucks has spent roughly the past 15 years firmly differentiating itself from competitors. Sure, it might be the only chain in America that comes within arm's length of McDonald's unit volume and annual sales, but it's artisanal, dammit, and its menu must always maintain an air of sophistication that justifies its high prices. Take the new menu item debuting this week, for example. Anyone else would call it a breakfast casserole—but Starbucks calls it Potato, Cheddar & Chive Bakes and sells two small cubes for $5.75.

Starbucks’ new breakfast menu item, explained

According to Starbucks, the new vegetarian Bakes "combine cage-free eggs, diced potatoes, cheddar cheese, spinach and a touch of chives for a comforting, high-protein breakfast on-the-go."

"Bakes" make a lot of sense for Starbucks, really. Every other fast food breakfast menu makes prominent use of potato, from McDonald's Hash Browns to Wendy's seasoned breakfast potatoes, and the public has a proven taste for spuds during every daypart. While Starbucks already offers plenty of eggy options all day long (including the Egg Bites, formerly known as Sous Vide Egg Bites), the Potato, Cheddar & Chive Bakes are ideal for the weirdly high number of Americans who remain slightly freaked out by eggs. Bakes have all the protein benefits of eggs, tucked discreetly behind a comforting veneer of cubed potato to mask any eggy flavor or texture. Perfect, right?


How do Starbucks’ new Potato, Cheddar & Chive Bakes taste?

Either in spite of or because of my enduring love of casserole, I found a lot to nitpick here. The serving size of two Bakes, each about as big as a Starbucks Egg Bite (they use the same tray), implies a certain easy, on-the-go functionality: just pop 'em in your mouth and keep going with your day! But because they're made with sizable cubes of potato, everything binding those cubes is rather loose and falls apart around the potato chunks. The exterior is indeed baked to a golden brown, but this browning occurred long before each square was placed in my local Starbucks' on-site oven, at which point the reheating process turned once-crisp golden edges into a tough, unyielding surface impossible to slice through with the side of a fork, or even bite into without flinging potato everywhere. Who would think to grab a knife when this allegedly on-the-go snack is only served with a fork? You wouldn't even have enough space to slice it up in its tiny tray, anyway.


With each forkful I tried to dig out of the bakes, the fused egg and cheese stuck stubbornly together on the bottom of the tray and tore cleanly away from my utensil, leaving me with only undressed cubes of potato. With nearly every bite, I had to pin down the bake with my hand just to get anything of substance on the fork. This left my fingers greasy and starchy. On-the-go fuel shouldn't leave you thinking, "Oh, I could never eat this in the car." It would be all over your lap.

The taste of the cheddar is occasionally detectable in the bakes, but any roasty flavor that would have come from the golden exterior has long been extinguished. They mostly taste bland and inoffensive, and are immensely improved with the addition of sriracha. Then again, adding drippy condiments to the bakes renders them even less portable and all the more hazardous to your workwear.


I'm all for mild, utility-driven protein delivery systems, but still, with each bite I was left waiting to taste something. The Egg Bites on the Starbucks menu pack much more flavor, and even without the added heft of potato, their compact density always leaves me feeling full (they have more calories and fat than the Bakes, too). Also, Egg Bites can be easily forked up from their tray and don't have a consistency that can crumble, splash, or drip—a true on-the-go breakfast. As far as protein-focused busy-person meals go, Starbucks got it right the first time with those.

Still, the brand must think it's on to something with its new Potato, Cheddar & Chive Bakes. Maybe their broad inoffensiveness will make them a big hit. Maybe the supplier will make the necessary recipe tweaks to improve the bakes' portability—but I doubt it. Once any food hits the Starbucks menu, it tends to crystallize there, remaining forever the same, exactly consistent no matter where you are in the country. How else do you think the chain became McDonald's closest rival?