Every few months I stumble across a restaurant that I get really excited about. I normally muster the resolve to allow a kitchen a grace period to season itself and get the wrinkles ironed out before I try it for the first time. That however, was not the case with the newly opened Cheeky Monkey Deli in St. Paul. My premature visit was likely caused by the fact that they opened in the old Zander Café space (one of my former favorite restaurants) on Selby Ave in St. Paul (one of my favorite restaurant neighborhoods). Regardless, the location was right and the house-made concept was more then motivating, so I made it over there just as quickly as I could.
The vibe in the place is outstanding with an eclectic mix of traditional and modern furnishings that seems to work really well in my opinion. The dining room is as warm and welcoming as their large stone fireplace, and the floor plan screams "neighborhood hangout." A huge chalkboard displays the immense selection of sandwiches (cold, hot and pressed), salads, soups, sides, hot pots and plates. Everything looked delicious and after what seemed like the longest decision ever, I landed on the Meatloaf Sandwich.
Normally this menu item seems like a safe play, but the Cheeky Monkey really updated this classic by constructing it with bacon, spicy mustard, cheddar cheese and pickled chilies. Let me just say that my sandwich world could now easily be ruled by the bacon, cheddar and chili triumvirate. The combination was amazing offering salt, heat and a creamy finish to every bite. The thin slices of comforting meatloaf were sparse, but offered softness to the texture spectrum while the spicy/tangy mustard completed one of the most dynamic sandwiches I've tasted in quite some time.
Sandwich Rating: Killer. The bacon, cheddar and chili combination far surpasses the bacon and chocolate or maple syrup crazes born in the bloated bellies of MN State Fair attendees. The sandwich was not only imaginative and tasteful, but also well executed, making it one of the more pleasurable lunch experiences in recent memory.
Epic Sandwich copyright 2009 by Teddy Hobbins