Semiotics of the Monte Cristo: Cozy Corner

There's a lot going on in a Monte Cristo

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By David Hammond

I was ready to go to Forest Park's newly opened Scratch Kitchen (7445 Madison, Forest Park) last week for lunch, but it's only open for dinner, which left me scratching my head. A burger and sandwich place that doesn't open until 4PM?! Sheesh. (Note: I believe they're going to extend their hours after their soft opening).

So, I went to Cozy Corner and had a Monte Cristo, which is ham and swiss cheese on French toast.

As I munched my Monte, I reflected upon the semiotics of the archetypal sandwich, that is, the Platonic vision of Sandwich. Though the sandwich is historically the result of culinary experimentation by the leisure class (e.g., the Earl of Sandwich, who needed a quick bite as he played cards with fellow noble wastrels), the now traditional sandwich signifies the working man's lunch, something you eat with your hands during the busy workday.

Think of any regular old sandwich shop, and my guess is that it's not open for dinner (Scratch Kitchen currently being a major anomaly). That's because people usually eat sandwiches during the 30-60 minutes vouchsafed by their employers for that purpose. The sandwich is a signifier of life-on-the-run, the gotta-grab-a-bite-and-go Western culture.

That noon at Cozy Corner, I, Western workingman, held in my hands the sign of all that stuff, pondering the complexity of this particular creation and all that it signifies. This eponymous sandwich is itself a metaphor of its literary namesake, the betrayed and finally triumphant Count of Monte Cristo. As you may recall from the Dumas novel, the innocent young sailor of humble origins transforms himself into a dashing nobleman. So, in the Monte Cristo sandwich, do we see the simple working man's fare, the humble ham and cheese, dressed out in fancy French toast finery, warmed and metamorphosed into a multi-layered almost-confection, perhaps even requiring a knife and fork, and looking so fine and sophisticated. Even the name is fancy-pants, proud and preening as compared to lunch counter peers, Sloppy Joe, Dagwood, and Patty Melt.

So my point here (and I do have one) is that there's a lot going on in a Monte Cristo.



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Posted: February 16th, 2013 11:54 AM

Thanks for the answer, David. I'm constantly in search of the "best" food Oak Park has to offer, and I tend to find it in the most unexpected places, or sometimes not.

Not a fan of Cozy from OP  

Posted: February 13th, 2013 9:05 AM

No thanks! Last time at Cozy Corner: 12 + yrs ago. I took my father(himself a 30+ yr veteran in the restaurant business) there for dinner. After returning his meal which was burned beyond recognition (ordered as Medium) the chef returned a bleeding raw piece of meat on the plate to our table. I brought this to the attn of the owner who replied "well that's what happens when you return food". Left there and never looked back.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 13th, 2013 7:24 AM

Fair question, Foodie. I'd say that the sandwich at Cozy Corner was more thought-provoking than taste-satisfying. With some shame I admit that I prefer the Bennigan's version of the Monte Cristo, which is the whole sandwich, dipped in breading and fried. Now that is a special sandwich.


Posted: February 13th, 2013 2:05 AM

So, signifiers and signifieds aside, is it any good? Or is your experience colored by the fact that you were gutted that Scratch Kitchen wasn't open and that the monte was unexpectedly tasty. Basically I'm saying, will I be eating a great sandwich if I'm going with the expectation that I'm going to eat a great sandwich?

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