A classic never goes out of style, whether it’s “The Wizard of Oz,” the 1957 Corvette or the Monte Cristo sandwich. It’s a rich and hefty interpretation of the French croque-monsieur, but has nothing to do with another French classic, “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas.
The Monte Cristo was first served under that name in this country in the late 1940s, debuting on restaurant menus in Southern California, say food historians. It’s made of ham, turkey or chicken, and Gruyere cheese stacked on white bread dipped in egg batter and sautéed in butter or deep-fried till it’s crisp and dark, then topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of jam for dipping.
You can find the Monte Cristo locally, but before we get to that, we’d been hearing about Disneyland’s version of the Monte Cristo for decades, and how in 1967 it was added to the menu of the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square and sold for $1.85. We tracked it down during a recent visit, finding it also at the more informal Cafe Orleans, where it’s been a hit since 2012. It’s $19 there and $27 at the upscale Blue Bayou, but that edition comes with a “fruit skewer” and a choice of salad or gumbo. Not enough reason for a happy dance.
On the Cafe Orleans patio, we cut through the deep-fried (in canola oil) potato-bread shell and into the fragrant middle and shared it, dipping pieces into raspberry compote until there was nothing left. It’s our new favorite sandwich, after the muffuletta at Pennisi’s Deli (1237 J St., Sacramento, 916-448-5610, www.pennisisdeli.com). If you’re among the projected 17 million-plus thrill-seekers who will visit Disneyland this year, be smart and join the other 126,000 diners who will order the four-star signature dish.
Closer to home, versions of the Monte Cristo are at the Village Bistro ($11.25), 7984 California Ave., Old Fair Oaks Village, 916-966-6384, www.village-bistro.com; Early Toast Mimosa House ($9) with two locations: 2023 Vine St., El Dorado Hills, 916-934-0965, and 761 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville, 916- 784-1313 (www.earlytoastnuggetplaza.com for both); and the Black Oak ($11.59), 320 Orange Drive, Vacaville, (707) 448-1311, www.blackoakrestaurant.com.
If the Monte Cristo isn’t for you, try these:
▪ Cafe Plan B is the casual cousin of the more formal Plan B French restaurant in Arden Town Center, and has lots o’ good stuff on its lunchtime menu. One star is the sandwich of creamy Brie and caramelized apple with peppery arugula on a chewy roll from the estimable Acme bakery ($10.45). Get it at 1226 20th St., Sacramento, 916-447-3300, www.cafeplanb.com.
▪ McCormick & Schmick’s seafood house offers its crispy chunks of beer-battered cod two ways, as a sandwich and as fish ’n’ chips, both with house-cut french fries spritzed with malt vinegar and dashed with Old Bay seasoning. The sandwich version is a brioche bun full of fish topped with malt vinegar aioli; pile on some coleslaw ($11.25). Get it at the Fountains center, 1194 Roseville Parkway, Roseville, 916-960-4875, www.mccormickandschmicks.com.
▪ The Cuban sandwich is iconic in South Florida, a grill-pressed specialty of citrus-marinated and slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickle chips ($8). Get it at Sol Cubano, 5734 Watt Ave., Sacramento, 916-332-2883, www.facebook.com/Sol-Cubano-Restaurant.
▪ Oh, about that muffuletta at Pennisi’s: The original was conceived in 1906 in New Orleans and has been sold at the Sacramento deli for decades. Salami, mortadella, Danish ham and provolone are stacked on a Dutch crunch roll and heaped with muffuletta spread – a piquant mix of chopped olives, peppers, cauliflower, carrot, celery, mushroom, artichoke, onion and garlic in olive oil. Now we’re really hungry.