Oh, Cecil's. The possessive form of a name that mixes madness with desire; a name that now will bounce around my broken heart forever like a superball Krazy-glued with razor blades. In my delirium, I thought I remembered hearing that Cecil's baked their own turkey. Alas, it turns out that all the sandwiches, from the plain-Jane sliced turkey to the Monte Cohen (smoked turkey and white turkey, Swiss, and dressing on excellent grilled white egg bread, $5.95), are made with deli turkey cured off-site. And let me tell you, once you get used to the real thing, you can't even swallow that stuff. It just tastes brined and pallid. I consoled myself with some nice pickles and a pair of delicate little knishes ($2.25), more pastry than potato, and as I sat there I got progressively drunker with woe, pounding back shots of it straight up.

And then, like so many drunks, I found myself at the Uptown Bar and Grill. Grain Belt Premiums were ringed round me as I tried to wash down all that woe while awaiting my hot open-faced turkey sandwich ($6.85). When it came, I nearly wept with gratitude. Five slices of white meat turkey, thick and meaty and imperfectly carved--and that turkey was merely Pleasure Island in the Bay of Happiness, banked on one side by a mountain of moist, buttery mashed potatoes, supported on the other by a generous, glittering swath of cranberry sauce, bolstered by some beguilingly salty and buttery stuffing, the whole enormous ensemble cloaked with a satiny gravy flecked with sage and thyme and enveloped in a soft, cushy blanket of wheat bread. Whimper. Drool. Whimper.

Now this was a dimension I hadn't anticipated: Being able to reprise the actual experience of a raucous Thanksgiving with friends, the leftovers beerily set upon as the night lengthened. Yes, quibblers could point out that the gravy lacked depth--but hey, it was a good plate of food fit for two and costing less than a movie, which is close enough to a miracle in my book. (At the Uptown, turkey comes in any of the following ways: hot on a platter with soup, salad, or coleslaw, $7.25; in a turkey melt with Swiss cheese, $5.75; in a club sandwich, $5.95; in a pita with black olives, sunflower seeds, and cheddar, $6.55; or on a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, $5.25.)

Location Info

Map

Shelly's Woodroast

6501 Wayzeta Blvd.
St. Louis Park, MN 55426

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis Park

Buon Giorno Express

335 University Ave. E.
St. Paul, MN 55101

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Cecils Delicatessen and Restaurant

651 Cleveland Ave. S.
St. Paul, MN 55116

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: Highland Park

Peter's Grill

114 S. 8th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

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My faith in humanity restored, I slept well that night, resting in preparation for the last turkey venue on my list: Peter's Grill. Going strong since 1914, Peter's is the sort of art-deco lunch counter where they serve pork chops on toast, and elderly regulars press a few coins into their server's hand with profound gratitude and the air of passing on a grave secret. I ordered, read the paper, and then it arrived--exactly what I had been looking for. A few slices of turkey, carefully placed on mayonnaise-smeared store-bought bread, cut diagonally to form two soft triangles, set in the middle of a modest china plate, lettuce peeking out from the edges, potato chips rounding out the plate.

At first bite, I nearly swooned off my counter stool. Immediately I was whisked back to my childhood post-Thanksgivings, hiding out in Aunt Esther's den, sitting on the hide-a-bed with the crocheted cover, the décor all wood and burned orange (not unlike the Lincoln Del, actually), my brother and I flipping the channel dial around and around, the click-click-click as we pushed past non-cartoon to non-cartoon to yet another non-cartoon. Sometimes we'd stop and watch Mr. Clean or the scrubbing bubbles, in the vain hope that those partly animated spots would grow into full-length cartoons, but they never did. Dissolute evenings would pass as we tried to get into the kitchen where the backup candy was stored (candy in the candy bowl was too well supervised), munched on pickles, and eventually witnessed the second siege upon the turkey, which yielded sandwiches. Sandwiches just like those at Peter's Grill: homey, modest, pure. Sandwiches with white meat that is the tiniest bit dry so it catches for a moment in your throat like a half-recalled memory, sandwiches that are available--just like at home--in white meat ($5.55) or dark meat ($4.95) versions, on tender wheat or firm white bread.

Seated at the Peter's counter, watching the waitresses zip around in their soothing nurselike uniforms, a big plate of decent fries ($1.50 with a sandwich, $2.25 on their own) and a big, sweet, lumpy slice of apple pie ($2.85) at my elbows, I was finally blues-free. Maybe it was some subtle effect of the moss, pewter, and maple color scheme, or maybe it was finding my perfect leftover simulation sandwich. Or maybe I was just sick to death of turkey, after six restaurants' worth in three days. And isn't that the whole point of leftovers?

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