You're downtown, it's midnight, you've had a few and surge pricing is delaying your trip home. What do you do? Go for sandwiches.
Late-night food has long been a tough find on the Sarasota dining scene, but that doesn't mean you're totally bereft of options. For years, one of Sarasota's best restaurants, Melange, has stayed open into the wee hours, 2 a.m. on the weekends, and right next door, The Monkey Business, a Melange-affiliated sandwich specialist, serves bread-bound comestibles all the way till 2:30 a.m., in a space that fronts Pangea Alchemy Lounge, one of the city's premier cocktail destinations.
Customers can in fact devour Monkey Business' sandwiches inside Pangea, or they can plop down at one of the small eatery's eight narrow tables. The walls are painted red and blue, with big cracks that reveal brick underneath. White stick figures dance on and dangle from the seams. Above, the ceiling is all black. In front, wide windows offer excellent Main Street straggler-watching. Monkey Business is mostly empty except for me this evening, but conversation from Pangea travels up front. The stereo serves up a sampling of tunes from "War Ina Babylon" to Anderson .Paak.
As the music plays, customers waltz back into Pangea or order to-go sandwiches from the counter. "I know how to make a fast sandwich, bro," tonight's sandwich mastermind promises one customer, who's reminiscing about a trip through Thailand and Vietnam, where he ate some primo bánh mìs. The answer from the sandwich artist: "Heck yeah."
All of the Biz's sandwiches cost $8, with a side of chips thrown in for good measure. You can build your own, picking from a variety of breads, proteins, cheeses, condiments, veggies and what have you, but I've never had luck with pick-your-own combos. Somehow I end up with either way too many ingredients or not enough. I'm happy to sit back and let the Monkey staff pick for me. The restaurant's "signature" selections include a turkey sandwich, an Italian item, a take on a Reuben, a vegetarian option and that bánh mì.
The bánh mì lacks pâté, but it remains a winner, with a big pile of moist, shredded pork, crunchy cucumber rounds, pickled carrots, cilantro and more. It offers the bánh mì's inimitable mix of sweet and savory, with herbal and acidic flourishes. The bread is toasty and crunchy on the outside, and overall the sandwich has a nice heft without being dauntingly huge. I only intended to eat half of it, but here I am, all full, and the basket in which the sandwich arrived is all empty. I've also scarfed all the potato chips—which come either just salty or "spiced" with a dose of sugar and heat.
The "Greuben" sandwich, meanwhile, dispenses with the traditional Reuben's sauerkraut and dressing and subs in green goddess-drenched slaw and switches corned beef for pastrami. The meat is succulent and fatty and a smear of spicy mustard adds a little oomph, but the real star here is the surprisingly rye-forward bread.
The night's moving along. You're leaning a bit more toward the sober side of the equation. Fortified with bread and meat and fried goods, it would be a good time to call it a night. Or... maybe not? After all, Pangea's right back there. Maybe just one more? And then how about another sandwich? Uber can wait.
The Monkey Business is located at 1564 Main St., Sarasota. It is open 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily. Call (941) 870-5555 or visit 1564monkeybusiness.com for more info.