My Favorite Travel Food: Croque Monsieur et Moi

After a morning of sightseeing, visiting museums or walking miles around a city, I enjoy stopping for lunch. It’s a simple pleasure that I don’t like to miss. The location, ambiance and a seat by the window or on the patio are main ingredients for a pleasurable experience. It’s a chance to think about where I’ve been and where I want to go next. Of course, it’s also about the food.

"Croque Monsieur at deYoung Museum cafe in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco"Although I’m an avid follower of several food and travel blogs that highlight exotic dishes from around the world with mouth-watering photographs, my culinary experiences are fairly simple. And I do tend to order familiar foods that I know I like. In the case of Croque Monsieur, I may be addicted.

Croque Monsieur (which roughly translates to “crunchy mister”) is a sandwich that I crave served in bistros and cafés. There are many variations of the sandwich, but it’s basically toasted ham, cheese (usually Gruyere or Swiss) and a sauce (either mornay or béchamel) and may be baked or broiled. I’m more often than not likely to order it over any other lunchtime entrée, whether I’m in France or the United States. I’ll always look at a restaurant’s menu, but my choice is usually made before I walk into the place.

On a recent afternoon in New York I had Croque Monsieur at Matisse, a café at 924 Second Avenue, while seated by the windows watching the busy traffic outside. I love this very international part of Midtown East called Turtle Bay near the United National headquarters. I could hear French being spoken by several customers.

Café de la Presse at 352 Grant Street in San Francisco served a very good Croque Monsieur. The friendly service and my table with a view of the Bush and Grant Street entrance to Chinatown made it an especially nice lunch.

But I don’t always go to places that have Croque Monsieur on the menu. Here are a few recent experiences.

Another café that I like in New York for lunch is Terramare at 22 East 65th Street on the Upper East Side. There I had a turkey panini and a bowl of lentil soup. It was perfect comfort food for a cold and rainy day.

Katz’s Deli at 205 East Houston on New York’s Lower East Side, established in 1888 by a Russian immigrant family, is famous for its massive sandwiches, soups and personality. I had the best pastrami on rye I’ve ever had, but it was way more food than I needed or could finish.

After lunch, I’m off exploring again while keeping an eye open for a place to indulge in dessert.

The Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is a peaceful and beautiful place for enjoying Green Tea Cheesecake and Jasmine Tea.

Working up an appetite walking around on New York’s Upper East Side, I stopped at Caffe Grazie at 26 East 84th Street for Italian bread pudding and coffee.

Following an afternoon at San Francisco’s Union Square, I visited the historic Westin St. Francis on Powell Street for a treat at Caruso’s, right off the lobby. I enjoyed the pleasant service and conversation of the nice gentleman in the photo and the delicious chocolate mousse dessert with orange filling.

What could be a more basic dessert option than cookies? But the cookies at Levain Bakery at 167 West 74th St in New York are quite extraordinary at 6 ounces each and made with a few secret ingredients. The Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie is a big favorite there and the one that I tried. Delicious!

So I’ve made my confession about my addiction to Croque Monsieur and shared a few other simple pleasures. What about you? Do you have a food confession?

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33 thoughts on “My Favorite Travel Food: Croque Monsieur et Moi

  1. Turkey's For Life

    I like the look of the massive sandwich in Katz Deli! 🙂 I’m the same as you. Whenever we go into our favourite cafe bar in Fethiye, I sit and study the menu and then out of my mouth comes, ‘Seafood pasta, please.’ It’s almost uncontrollable. Every time.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Nice that you understand! I’m thinking about trying something new on my next visit to a bistro — we’ll see how that works out. 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Matt, you may be in luck. Just for fun, I did a little research and came up with this place:

      Le Cafe De Paris
      5170 Dr Phillips Blvd
      Orlando, FL 32819
      (407) 293-2326

      If you try it, let me know how you like it!

  2. Laurel

    After reading this, I’m really hungry now! One of my favorite parts of traveling is discovering new restaurants and it looks like you’re great at finding them. I love the Croque Monsieur with seafood – delicious!

  3. Jan Ross

    I love your post and all the wonderful food pictures. One of the best experiences when I travel is sampling wonderful food. I had some of the best food EVER on our wine-tasting river cruise with AmaWaterways last year. Everything was fresh and local – they took on fresh ingredients at every stop. Wonderful, wonderful food!

  4. Dave

    That arugula salad looks quite enticing – at least I think thats arrugula! Looking forward to hooking up in May for the Napa wine tour – one of my sister’s friends, a journalist will also be joining us. I’ll get you more details in the coming weeks as we get closer.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Angela! I have those times too when you just can’t stop, I think that makes it an extra special treat when you do have time.

  5. Andrea

    Yum! Croque Monsieur is one of my favourite traditional sandwiches and it’s so hard to find a great one out of Paris – great list of places to find nice ones in the States

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for mentioning the Croque Madame! I’ve never had it. Seems a little over the top to me with the egg, but maybe I’ll give it a try.

  6. Nancie

    I’m glad I just had lunch 🙂

    I love Croque Monsieur and am looking forward to having one or two this summer when I’m in Halifax. I know of a couple of restaurants that serve a good one…..hopefully they are still open.

  7. jade

    Ah, I love love love lunch-time. It may be my favorite part of the day. I loved your tour around great foods that you really enjoy and the parts of the cities they are in. I would love to try that sandwich in Paris!

  8. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    I’ve never had this type of sandwich before, but it sounds like something I would LOVE! And tasty food is one of our indulgences as well…. there’s nothing better than finding a cute cafe to relax at for a mid-day meal. 🙂

  9. Jillian

    Hmm food obsessions? I’m often known to order some sort of southwest chicken salad. I don’t know why because it’s not half as good as your sandwiches look! Thanks for the croque monsieur tour!

  10. Annie

    I am hooked on Croque Monsieur – it was the movie, “It’s Complicated” that got me! Saw it (and so many more yummy foods/great cafes/amazing homes) in the movie and had to figure out how to make it. I am SO glad that I did!! It’s amazing and a staple sandwich in our house (kind of like the BLT).
    Can’t wait to head over to San Fran to hit up some of your recommendations!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Annie. I’ve heard from several people that “It’s Complicated” was their introduction to Croque Monsieur. A wonderful discovery, I think!

  11. Pingback: Sweeney in Paris: Her Favorite Things - Traveling with Sweeney

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