St. Paul's Cheeky Monkey deli puts the sandwich front and center

Deli succeeds gracefully as an everyday kind of place

Cheeky Monkey's meat-heavy menu doesn't provide many vegetarian options, just a couple of vegetable sandwiches and one that pairs bananas with Nutella or peanut butter. The salads—shrimp on mixed greens, and bacon, egg, and cheese on arugula—seemed like afterthoughts compared to, say, the turkey pot pie, with its chunks of moist meat, buttery mushrooms and peas, and inventive biscuit-like crust made from savory scone dough. McArthur says the kitchen uses some naturally raised meats and he hopes to add more, along with local and organic produce, in the coming months. With everything on Cheeky Monkey's menu costing $10 or less, I don't think most customers would mind a slight increase in exchange for more sustainable ingredients.

As an overall concept, Cheeky Monkey seems as cloneable as Jimmy John's. To turn first-time customers into regulars, my main recommendation would be for the kitchen to ramp up the flavors in a few of its dishes, especially in the little crock of pickles—dill spears, and thin bread-and-butter discs—that tasted like so many salty cucumbers. (At least they only cost 75 cents.) While several sandwiches could compel repeat visits, many of the other offerings fell into the category of decent-but-not-memorable. Desserts, for example, are affordably priced, between $2 and $4, but while I liked the chocolate pudding and both the carrot and key lime cupcakes, the mascarpone rice pudding with sour cherries was the only one that really stuck with me. (I gave up on the flourless chocolate cake after just a few bites, which really isn't like me.) I think with a little refinement, the sweets could become as not-to-be-skipped as those at, say, Gigi's, where it feels practically tragic to pass up a slice of hummingbird cake or a chocolate-chip cookie.

The portable pot roast: Cheeky Monkey serves it with horseradish, arugula, and pickled red onions
Jana Freiband
The portable pot roast: Cheeky Monkey serves it with horseradish, arugula, and pickled red onions

Location Info

Map

Cheeky Monkey

525 Selby Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Details

CHEEKY MONKEY
525 Selby Ave., St. Paul
651.224.6066; cheekymonkeydeli.comentrées $5-$10; sides $1-$4

Still, it's nice to see deli fare capable of drawing nearby construction workers yet being served with a graceful touch. Between the cute cast-iron crocks full of slow-cooked meats and the pretty glass urns dispensing lemon and cucumber waters, Cheeky Monkey exudes a Martha Stewart-like everyday grace. In this context, at least, the humble sandwich deserves to be considered prime-time eats. 

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