This Long Islander brought the BEC to Tampa, and people are going nuts


Karin Araya, 34, spent 20 years of his life on Long Island eating bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches on a hard roll nearly every day — always ordering a BECSPK from his local delis.

Then, he and his family moved to Florida three years ago.

He was in for a culinary culture shock, especially when it came to breakfast. Between jobs, he’d search the entire Greater Tampa area for a BEC that tasted just like at home, yet to no avail.

“There’s even a few delis here that are New York delis, but for some reason it’s just not the authentic sandwich,” he said. “I didn’t think it was so hard to do what we do in New York.”

So he took matters into his own hands. On Jan. 20, Araya’s first Bacon Egg’N Cheese food truck set up shop in Brandon, Fla., 15 to 20 minutes from Tampa.

Demand was so high that he opened another on May 20 in downtown Tampa.

“The reactions [from customers] have just been overwhelming,” he said. “Because you could see in their eyes how much they missed this sandwich, and how important it is to the Tri-State culture. 

“When they found out about us they just went bananas.”

He’s closing in on 6,000 sandwiches sold.

How it happened

If you go: The Tampa truck (left) can be found at 411 North Florida Avenue, and the Brandon truck is located at 3410 South Kings Avenue. (courtesy photos)

The Lynbrook High School graduate who later bought a house in Islip has always been a foodie, paying careful attention to his favorite dishes and constructing them in his head, and in his kitchen.

Indeed, upon high school graduation, he was either going to become an electrician or go to culinary school. He chose electrician, which paid off well for him.

But he and his wife Paulina had a plan for her to be a stay at home mother. That proved to be impossible in New York on one salary. That’s why they moved to Tampa, where he kept doing electrical work.

“But I always dreamed of opening a café or something,” he said.

Paulina probably heard enough of his complaining about the breakfast sandwiches in Florida, which, to be fair, is one of 48 states — with a nod to New Jersey — that can’t properly pull off a BEC.

“She brought up the idea and within a month I was making phone calls,” he said. “If you get something in my head, an idea that makes sense to me, I will move mountains to try to make it work.”

There was one problem.

“If I couldn’t find a way to get the bread from New York, it wasn’t going to work,” he told Paulina, because the proper hard roll for a BEC is everything and you can’t find it in Florida.

So he hit the phones and solved that problem over the course of a few weeks, working out a deal with a New York bakery. And though the bread costs the same as it would locally, the shipping costs are steep.

“That’s why our prices are a little higher than on Long Island,” he said. But only by a buck or two. It’s $8 for a BEC in Brandon, and $10 in downtown Tampa, where he pays a much higher rent.

“It’s been rare that someone brings up the price,” he said.

With the bread issue resolved, he worked on his cooking technique, built the food truck, got his permits and set up shop at 3410 South Kings Ave. in Brandon, all within just a few months.

He called the truck Bacon Egg’N Cheese. Here’s a family photo from the ribbon-cutting:

Karin, his wife Araya and their boys, 3 and 5, at the first Bacon Egg’N Cheese food truck, which they opened in Brandon, Fla., in January. They call it “the little truck,” with the larger on in Tampa. (courtesy)

Wait, there’s more

There’s no science to making a good bacon, egg and cheese, Araya said.

“It’s just putting the right ingredients together, and the right amount,” he explained. “You can’t just overload a sandwich and get it authentic. You have to get the very right amount of everything.”

Yes, the trucks offer the Long Island basics: the BEC, the sausage, egg and cheese and The Hungryman, but to cater to all the New Jersey transplants, he’s got a Taylor Ham (AKA Pork Roll) on the menu.

“We also did include more bodega sandwiches like the chopped cheese,” he said, “which was born in East Harlem back in the 90s and became very popular down here.”

Since he and his wife have Chilean roots, they’ve added some flair from Chile as well.

“Chilean food is nothing too popular, but I did want people to try the steak sandwiches, with avocado, tomato and house mayo and some of them are like a ham or steak cheese melt. We try to keep it simple, and ingredients that will attract people who aren’t familiar with it,” he said.

But back to the matter at hand. How does Araya rank his own BECSPK?

“I’m not the type to judge my own food, but I know for a fact that we are spot-on with the flavor and with everything around it,” he said. “The Google reviews say it all.”

Indeed they do.

Take this one from a reviewer called Xero Redux:

“Former NYer living in Tampa almost 15 years. You’ll find plenty of NY-style offerings here, but rarely do they hit the mark. These sandwiches smell and taste like authentic NYC breakfast sandwiches and this is coming from someone who used to eat one pretty much every morning before getting on the subway and heading to work. I was hesitant to write a glowing review because knowing the locals, we will have lines wrapping around that tiny food trailer in no time …”

The Floridians are still trying to figure out what the buzz is about, however.

“Floridians that have tried it, love it,” he said, but those that have only heard about the BECs have taken to Facebook to call them “super basic,” Araya pointed out, sharing a Facebook debate between Long Islanders, Jersey folks and native Floridians.

That’s where we found this, which says its all:

— all photos come courtesy of Bacon Egg’N Cheese. Follow the journey on Instagram:

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